Reviews

Lumia 930: The Last Flagship Windows Phone from Nokia

Windows Phone is not exactly the heavyweight in the mobile industry as Windows is on desktops. Microsoft has played a catch-up game to iOS and Android, with activation figures stumbling in the recent quarter, shrinking from 4.6% to 4.3% in the US. Windows Phone is not without its fans, however, particularly in the enterprise markets where IT departments need remote management, BitLocker encryption and app approval. Surface and Surface Pro, are of course, gaining ground in the enterprise market as viable laptop replacements, too.

For those coming from the Android and iOS camp, Windows Phone would be either a refreshing reimagining of the smartphone or an alien concept altogether. There is, of course, the use of Live Tiles, which puts content front-and-center of one’s home screen experience. The Lumia 930 also features the PureView camera, which promises excellent image quality, offering crisp focus and excellent image reproduction in most lighting conditions. The unavailability of many apps on the Windows Phone marketplace could be a big concern, however.

Today we take a look at the Nokia Lumia 930 — called the Icon in some markets — which is possibly the last flagship in the Lumia line that will bear Nokia’s branding. Recall that Microsoft recently acquired Nokia’s mobile devices and services division and will integrate the Lumia line under the Microsoft branding. This means succeeding flagships will be branded “Microsoft Lumia.”

Released in April and available in most markets as of July 2014, we got our hands on the Lumia 930 care of Nokia’s media representatives in Manila. The result was a generally positive flagship experience, coming from one more used to a mid-range Android device as a daily driver and for development purposes.

Specifications

The Lumia 930’s specs are nothing to write (or phone) home about, with its last-generation Snapdragon 800 chipset running a quad-core Krait 400 CPU clocked at 2.2 GHz. Video is taken care of by an Adreno 330 GPU, outputting a full HD 1,080×1,920 pixels onto a 5-inch AMOLED display featuring a crisp 441 ppi display density.

The Lumia 930 comes with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. In terms of raw specs, you could probably compare this to last year’s Nexus 5, although given the difference in OS, you will feel some real-world performance differences.

Battery is a non-removable 2,420 Li-Polymer pack, which is decent enough to give a full day’s moderate use. Qi wireless charging enables powering up even while unplugged, provided you have a compatible power mat (or dashboard accessory, as with some vehicles).

The Lumia 930 is bundled with a USB-type charging wall plug with detachable cable, as well as manuals. If you’re using a mini SIM or microSIM, you will need to replace it with a nano SIM or cut it down to size to fit the phone’s SIM tray. This should not be a problem for those already using the iPhone 5 and newer.

Some specs:

  • Dimensions: 137 x 71 x 9.8 mm, 94.7 cc
  • Weight: 167 g
  • Screen type: AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
  • Screen size: 1080 x 1920 pixels, 5.0 inches (~441 ppi pixel density)
  • Touchscreen: Corning Gorilla Glass 3, ClearBlack display
  • Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8974 Snapdragon 800
  • CPU/GPU: Quad-core 2.2 GHz Krait 400 / Adreno 330
  • Memory: 2G RAM
  • Storage: 32GB internal
  • Connectivity: HSDPA, 42.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps; LTE, Cat4, 50 Mbps UL, 150 Mbps DL, Bluetooth 4.0 A2DP, NFC
  • Port: microUSB v2.0
  • Main Camera: 20 MP, 4992 х 3744 pixels, Carl Zeiss optics, optical image stabilization, autofocus, dual-LED flash, 1/2.5” sensor size, 1.12 µm pixel size, PureView technology, dual capture, geo-tagging, face detection, panorama
  • Front Camera: 1.2 megapixel, 720p

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Hardware Design and Build Quality

Industrial design is where Nokia shines, and the Lumia 930 subscribes to this design philosophy, as well. The 930 deviates from most recent Lumia smartphones save for the 925, with its brushed aluminum frame. Coupled with a curved Gorilla Glass 3 touchscreen and matte-finished polycarbonate back plate, the 930 is decidedly a Lumia, but with a bit of inspiration from other brands like HTC and Apple. The aluminum frame certainly helps improve durability and adds some heft to the device. It’s likely to be susceptible to dings and bumps, compared with plastic, though.

The hardware buttons are all aligned at the right side of the 930, starting with the volume buttons, sleep/wake button and camera shutter. The pull-out SIM tray is located at the top. A 3.5 mm audio jack sits right in the middle of the phone’s upper frame, while the microUSB charging and sync port is at the bottom. The bezel includes back-lit capacitive keys for Back, Start and Search.

The 930’s rear plate is actually removable, although this is only meant for replacing the cover with another color. There are no user-removable parts. The phone lacks microSD card expansion, forcing users to make do with the 32GB storage and cloud offerings like Microsoft’s own OneDrive.

Being a 5-incher, the phone might pose some difficulty with one-handed use. Even the placement of the Back capacitive button can sometimes be a hindrance, especially for someone used to it being more accessible to the thumb, like with some Android devices. The touchscreen does offer high-sensitivity, however — it can register multiple touches from fingernails or gloved fingertips.

Software and User Interface

The Lumia 930 is the first ever Windows Phone device to ship with 8.1, the latest consumer release of Microsoft’s mobile OS. Being so, it comes with Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant derived from the popular Halo series of games. WP8.1 also comes with the ability to create folders on the Start screen, and limit app usage to the Apps Center — something that IT departments might appreciate.

Live Tiles are a refreshing deviation from the usual Android and iOS interface heavy with icons and widgets. Again, content is front-and-center with Windows Phone, and you can see updates at a glance right from the Start screen. A notable feature on Windows Phone is the heavy integration with Microsoft services like Xbox for games and music, OneDrive for automatic backups and storage, as well as Skype for instant messaging. A useful built-in feature is social network integration right within the People app, which shows the latest updates from amongst your contacts without having to launch the dedicated Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn apps.

Windows Phone 8.1 also features Groups, which are user-set lists of contacts for sending messages and sharing updates. Rooms offer more functionality, and are meant for use among Windows Phone users, which can be useful for families or colleagues. Microsoft has certainly thought of collaboration and social connectivity in this update.

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Performance

Even with previous-generation specs — at least relative to phones from other platforms — the Lumia 930 offers buttery smooth performance and one would rarely experience lags in real-world usage, even when playing resource-intensive games like Asphaplt 8: Airborne, Halo: Spartan Assault and Call of Duty 2015.

In terms of benchmark, AnTuTu total score is 26,105, which is comparable with previous-gen Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One. This might not necessarily be a bad thing in real-world performance, however. As with any Windows Phone user would know, the platform is usually optimized for smooth performance regardless of hardware spec, which means even entry level devices still hold up well, with the OS tweaked for reduced performance.

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Smarthone photographers would appreciate the image quality from the Nokia PureView camera. The Nokia Camera app offers interesting features, like picture re-framing and Live Images — which capture photos as one-second transitioning images a la magical photo frames from the Harry Potter movies.

User Experience and Power

Using the Nokia Lumia 930 is a joy, thanks to the fast access to information right from the Start screen, down to the People app, where you can keep track of friends and their social media updates. Windows Phone’s app ecosystem leaves something to be desired, however. While many of the major and popular apps on other platforms have made their way to the Windows Phone Store, some have yet to make an appearance. Some examples are local mobile banking services, which can be a big inconvenience when you need to do some transactions while on-the-move. Even popular apps like Pocket are not available as native WP8.1 offerings. Google has likewise steered clear of actively building its apps for this platform.

You can take this two ways. First, with the lack of too many apps that are considered junk and repetitive, the apps that are available on the Windows Phone platform will likely be the ones that will aid in productivity rather than kill it. On the other hand, if you rely heavily on apps like mobile banking services, then you might want to look elsewhere.

The crisp high-resolution screen is pleasing to the eye, however, especially with its deep blacks (due to Nokia’s ClearBlack technology). The phone automatically adjusts to a high-contrast mode in bright sunlight, so legibility remains even whilst outdoors.

Sample Photos

 

Value and Conclusion

Windows Phone is known for its snappy performance across a wide array of devices, and WP8.1 on the flagship Nokia Lumia 930 provides a smooth, lag-free smartphone experience even on slightly dated hardware. However, the relative lack of applications might be a deal-breaker for those who rely on apps for content, productivity and entertainment.

The Lumia retails from $600 to $650 SIM-free, depending on market. At this price, the device is within the same range as premium smartphones like the Google Nexus 6, Samsung Galaxy S5 and the entry-level iPhone 6, which could make it a hard sell for non Windows Phone purists. Perhaps the recently-launched Lumia 830 (review coming up), a top-line mid-range device that sells for about two thirds of the 930’s price would be the device to hit the sweet spot. For those who want the best that Windows Phone has to offer, the Nokia Lumia 930 is the phone to have.

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  • NOLATechy

    I still don’t understand why Microsoft would limit the sale of the Lumia Icon to just one carrier, especially one that doesn’t care about selling it. Verizon has yet to release the Cyan firmware update for the Icon and no other carrier can carry the Icon or the 930 because of the exclusivity deal with Verizon. These two phones, which are the BEST windows phones Microsoft offers, are, for all intensive purposes, DEAD IN THE WATER, since Verizon has now “retired” the Icon. We American’s are now without a high-end “flagship” Windows Phone that doesn’t have a 6 inch screen. What is Microsoft thinking?!

  • AMRooke

    This device was released months ago, and unfortunately was manufactured with a display that is not capable of Glance functionality, which prior Lumias had (so it’s not really a flagship). My family and I have been looking forward to upgrading our L920s, and had hoped for the McLaren, but it was scrapped several months ago. MS/Nokia really needs to get a flagship out there soon.