Purported dearth of apps aside, it’s always been tough to recommend Windows phones. I’ve always found them to be overshadowed by Android and Apple competition like the Lumia 928, or too large to be practical, like the Lumia 1520.
Nokia’s newest creation, the Lumia Icon, makes a damn strong case to change that perception.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Lumia Icon is of course its appearance - it’s a bit pedestrian. That’s not a bad thing though! It’s unobtrusive and subtle, unlike the rest of the Nokia’s multicolor dreamcoat of phones. It’s quite a gentlemanly device, actually - it’s solid and seamless on the surface, like a good suit.
There are few soft curves here - the Icon is as rectangular as the bricks that make up the facade of a Catholic elementary school. It feels solid, down to the polycarbonate backplate. This comes at a price - weight. I’m not going to put the phone on a scale like this is some perverse tech version of a boxing weigh-in, but the Icon is heavier than a plastic smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy line. But I feel safe carrying the Icon without a case.
Nokia’s Icon is aesthetically clean, but I take issue with the physical button placement - everything is shoved on the right side of the phone (yes, I know that’s a Windows Phone staple now, but it doesn’t make it any less awkward). The volume buttons are where you’d expect the power button to be, and the power button is in the middle of the body.The highlight here is the separate camera button, which is, as always, a nice addition for those who take pictures horizontally (AKA the correct way).
The camera on the Icon is fantastic as well - sure, it’s not the 41 megapixel beast you get on its older brother, the Lumia 1020, but it does a nice job! Adjustable ISO, shutter speed, and white balance within the main camera application give you a level of control you don’t find on most smartphones, and the Icon’s 20 megapixel lens takes quite sharp photos and HD videos.
None of that means a thing without a properly display, and the Icon does not disappoint - it’s a 5 inch AMOLED display, good for 1080HD. The colors are brilliant and clear, and the Windows Mobile system itself looks fantastic in the standard black theme. Everything appears debonair and restrained, like a Keurig cappuccino machine.
All of this sits on the back of the Icon’s excellent 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 processor. Switching between application is quick and seamless, and even intensive games like Halo: Spartan Assault play like the Icon is a dedicated gaming handheld. So it all sounds...quite good, really. But like anything else, there are a few big drawbacks.
The biggest problem with the Lumia Icon is that it’s limited to Verizon, which means it’s only available to a third or so of the US market. The other big problem is that, while the Icon’s solid, sealed design is quite nice to look at, it also means that its storage capacity isn’t expandable. The standard 32 gigabytes isn’t a small amount of space, but without a way to increase the physical storage, it’s going to be difficult to store a multitude of music and high res photos.
Make no mistake though - this is without a doubt, the best Windows Phone you can get now. It’s different from the deluge of iPhones and Droids, but it’s worth considering if you want something outside the norm. Verizon has just dropped the price of the Lumia Icon to $99.99 with a two-year contract.