You’ve seen the trendy action shots Nokia’s shouting about and heard talk of a slimmed down design but is the Lumia 925 a real upgrade over last year’s excellent Lumia 920? With metal in its build, wireless charging out the window (kind of) and extra camera tricks it seems Nokia isn’t afraid to tinker with its Windows Phone 8 flagship.
Read on to find out if the Lumia 925 has done enough to elevate Nokia to the highest ranks of smartphone superstardom - or if the additions and omissions will just leave you confused over which Lumia to go for.
Monochrome and metal
Gone are the bright colours that have signalled the Lumia gaggle so far – instead we’re looking at white, black and grey models with a new metal frame around the familiar polycarbonate body. To be honest, we think the old design looked sleeker and simpler, but the 925 still feels solid enough to hammer a nail in with.
Much lighter and thinner than the Lumia 920 at 139g and 8.5mm, we needn’t have been benchpressing so hard in preparation for this next Nokia flagship. And with the same superior specs and a 2000mAh battery, Nokia’s design and engineering teams deserve claps all round for squeezing everything into a smaller handset just six months after the launch of the Lumia 920.
You’ll accidentally press the power button a fair bit – then again, at least they’re all sizeable, sticky-out buttons compared to, say, the HTC One’s sleek volume rocker. There’s no microSD expansion, which is a shame, but you’ll find the microSIM slot and microUSB port up top. All in all, the Lumia 925 is easier to hold in the hand than the heavy 920 and looks the part of a 2013 flagship, although without perhaps quite as much flair as the HTC One.
I’ve screen you before
Deep blacks and sharp text are taken care of by the Lumia 925’s 4.5in 1280x768 screen. It’s not Full HD, but viewing angles are good and colours are vivid and punchy while remaining realistic – all of which means Windows Phone 8 looks fantastic. You can also adjust saturation and colour temperature with sliders to suit your own palette preferences. At 332ppi, unless you’re planning to load a bunch of 1080p rips onto the 925, it has enough pixels to cope with most of the pics, flicks and games you’ll watch and play.
We can even live with the black bars on movies (it’s a 15:9 screen), especially as our other niggles with the Lumia 920 have been sorted. Namely, the 925’s screen is brighter than the 920’s, making it better for outdoor use. Further screen improvements include Gorilla Glass 2 for extra protection and ‘Super Sensitive Touch’ for using it with gloves or fingernails. In practice that last feature is only a slight improvement over the touchscreens of the likes of the HTC One, but it could prove useful come winter.
Performance and battery
It may only be dual-core, but the 925’s 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor isn’t be troubled by multi-tasking or Windows Phone gaming – although the Lumia’s polycarbonate did start to heat up mid-NOVA 3 space shootout. The truth is that the 925 is never going to feel as blindingly fast as the likes of the Galaxy S4 or HTC One. Big game downloads over Wi-Fi were a little sluggish during testing, and Windows Phone 8 itself has meandering transitions that make this a mobile OS for those with time on their hands.
The Lumia 925 didn’t let us down on battery life, either, as the slightly bigger, 2000mAh battery is easily able to last a day of messaging, browsing and gaming. NFC is a nice addition to the specsheet and 4G is there if you want it. Storage could be a problem: whereas the 920 came in 32GB as standard, this 925 model will only be available exclusively through Vodafone at that size, with other networks settling for 16GB.
Also a little disappointing is the ditching of wireless charging. Luckily, Nokia is flogging wireless snap-on covers separately in black, white, red and yellow (for £25 or so) meaning you can place the 925 on a compatible Qi charger to rejuice. Just be warned: this next-gen charging tech is pretty slow.
Smart Cam, extra glass
With an extra lens element the 925’s working with slightly different camera hardware to the 920, but most of the exciting stuff is happening with the new Nokia Smart Camera software. This allows the 8.7MP rear cam to snap ten 5MP images that can then be played with to choose your best shot, remove objects, change faces and create action shots with multiple frames.
It’s a fun feature that coaxes you into editing your snaps more. Best Shot works like HTC’s Zoe feature, in that you feel safe you’ll get at least one decent shot from the bunch. Removing objects and swapping faces works well when the Lumia picks up movement and, well, faces. Our only niggle? The snaps thud down the screen in a shutterboard effect after each Smart Cam photo: a nice animation but it wastes precious seconds when you could be catching more of your subject.
The 925 takes sharp – marginally sharper than the 920 in some instances – and vibrant snaps although you may find the colours overly vivid. Photo tweaking options also abound in the main camera, with scenes, ISO settings and lenses like panorama to get to grips with. We also got similarly stellar low-light results as the Lumia 920. And as with the Lumia 920, 1080p video is detailed and smooth (although you’re locked into your zoom as soon as you start recording).
On the sidelines are Cinemagraph, which lets you animate sections of your images to quickly create GIFs, and the filter-happy Creative Studio app.
Nokia’s also kept the dedicated shutter button on the right hand edge of the 925, and that can be used to quick-launch either the main camera or Smart Cam apps when pressed. It’s worth noting this doesn’t work from the Glance Screen but does from the lockscreen. We don’t mind admitting that that slightly confused us a couple of times and resulted in missed shots.
What apps can I get in HERE?
Running Windows Phone 8, the Lumia 925’s OS might take a little getting used to for anyone coming from iOS or Android’s homescreen set-ups, with no quick access widgets or pull down notifications. The energetic Live Tiles can be customised, resized and added to by pinning apps to the Start screen, and you simply swipe left for the full app list.
Like the 920, this latest Lumia also includes a ton of useful built-in apps, including Spotify-rivalling (and now FM radio-packing) Xbox Music, the renamed and excellent sat-nav app HERE Drive beta, and HERE Maps, which includes downloadable maps, public transport layers and popular nearby attractions and restaurants with LiveSight.
Some of these features, plus Smart Camera, come thanks to the Lumia Amber software update, which Nokia tells us will be rolling out to all Lumia handsets in the next few weeks – so don’t let that alone dictate your 925 versus 920 buying decision.
The Windows Phone 8 Marketplace has a load more apps than it did when we first looked at the Lumia 920 – now it has big hitters such as Spotify, and banking apps from the likes of NatWest and RBS. There are now 145,000 apps in the store, and that number continues to grow.
Instagram will still be sorely missed by many (although it’s rumoured to drop on June 26th and some will happily make do with Hipstamatic/Oggl in the meantime), and there are still a fair few gaps other gaps – Google Maps, Sonos, Pocket, and home automation apps such as Hue and WeMo to name just a few of Stuff’s favourites. Put it this way – a Lumia still can’t run your app-controlled home the way an iPhone or Android can. But Microsoft is getting there.
Finally, sneaking onto the 925 recently is Glance Screen, which displays the time and battery level when your Lumia 925 is on standby with a double tap to wake it up. A nifty feature, it can be changed to a blurry eye-friendly red mode for bedtime, but can make you feel like you’re a step closer to everything on your phone than you really are.
With Smart Camera coming to the rest of the Lumia range sharpish, this headline feature is no reason to fork out for the top of the range Lumia 925. But the new lighter, easier to handle design certainly is. Not only that but six months on from our Lumia 920 review and the Windows Phone 8 store is now much stronger in terms of its app line-up, so many of those crucial gaps, which might once have made app addicts waver, are being taken care of.
Storage niggles aside and with the wireless charging cover as an option, the Lumia 925 takes its place as our new favourite Windows Phone 8 handset, nudging the Lumia 920 out of our Top Ten list of the best smartphones.