Nokia Lumia 1020, You Had Me at Hello!!

Well maybe not hello…I’m not a huge fan of Nokia and Windows 8 would be great if they had some apps, let’s just get this out the way right now! However lots has change with this new Nokia Lumia 1020. Let’s flashback a few years.

Today, we can look back and make sense of the growing pains between the two tech companies, Nokia and Windows.  Windows Phone 7 marked the re-invention of Windows in the mobile space.  Windows Phone 8 has [arguably] brought Microsoft to parity with Cupertino (Apple) and Mountain View (Google) as far as OS functionality goes.  And so Nokia and Microsoft should be sitting pretty, right?  Well, not quite.  The absences of mainstream applications, alongside poor developer presence, have bogged the WP platform down for what’s going on two years now.  And while that’s changing gradually, the marketplace still has the worst attributes of Google’s Play store with very few of the strengths of either Play or the insurmountable Apple App Store.  There is something like 200,000 apps now on the Windows Phone Marketplace.  You actually want to download somewhere around 30 – 50 of them.  The rest are shit.  More on that in a bit, though.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Hardwarenokia-1020-review-1

The Lumia 1020 has a lot in common with its other flagship Lumia brethren.  The innards are most certainly the same as what you’d find in the 920 (AT&T), 925 (T-Mo), and 928 (VRZ).  That’s not a bad thing, however.  All of the aforementioned phones run like butter.  This is most certainly due to the OS generally being less taxing than your average android release.  There’s never stutter.  Few, if any, delays rear their ugly heads.  This phone works as well as any of the modern-day Lumias running WP8.  The biggest difference here is the camera.  And that’s why people will buy this phone.

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The Carl Zeiss Pureview camera with a whopping 41 Megapixels4-1Forty-One.  It’s a big number.  And it counts for something.  Try picking up your current smartphone, snapping a few good pics and zooming in after the fact.  Done yet?  Yep, your photos suck.  They’re grainy, poorly processed (with the notable exception that is iPhone) and don’t give a lot of flexibility once the photo is taken.  The 1020’s camera, on the other hand, takes a different approach.  It’s not all processing.  Instead of counting on all of the software optimization they could muster (there’s still a gargantuan amount of processing going on), Nokia’s newest product throws more than three times the number of pixels at the issue than its closest competitors (the new Experia phone and the Galaxy S4).  This affords a lot of after-the-fact cropping and adjusting that would inherently lead to a much poorer photo on any other phone.  This camera is more than just a bit unbelievable.  It’s the reason to buy this phone over most others.

I snap random images that I find provoking and any number of others of my asshat group of friends.  This camera makes me want to do more of that.  It’s not quite a Lytro, but there’s still far more customization after the shot is taken than is possible with any others.  Digital zoom is also actually USABLE.  It doesn’t degrade image quality nearly as much as with other phones.  So there’s that.

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Outside of the camera, nothing’s really new here.  The design is an amalgam of the original 920 and the 928.  It’s beautiful and seems far more compact than either.  There’s a noise cancelling mic, SIM card slot and headphone jack atop the phone.  On the bottom sit one large speaker and the mini USB port. As per the norm with these Lumia phones, the volume rocker and standby button are located on the right side of the phone.  One more note regarding the hardware design – That fancy camera comes with a fancy bulge on the back of the phone.  It doesn’t sit flat.  I actually don’t mind this, though.  Given the Amber update to Windows Phone 8 that’s found on the 1020 and other recent additions to the line, there’s a quick peek display reflecting notifications and the time of day that’s everpresent on the lock screen.  The angle at which the phone lays kind of makes sense when taking these new display features into account.  All in all, the hardware is a win.  A resounding win.

Nokia Lumia 1020 OS

This leaves the OS.  Personally, I love Windows Phone 8.  I find the customizable live tiles to be absolutely brilliant and have come to rely on a number of applications to utilize them as a means of really bringing out a sense of uniqueness to my device.  iOS 7 and the iPhone 5s are around the corner and are incredibly tempting, but I think I’m hooked on WP8.  I don’t want another set of 4×5 grid icons staring me in the face every time I unlock my phone, whether by biometrics or by a slide to unlock.  That’s so 2007.

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The biggest issue with Windows Phone 8, the lack of quality, high-brow apps in the ecosystem, is slowly being remedied.  Stephen Elop actually went on record a couple of months back indicating that any outstanding A-list apps not on Windows Phone today will be there by early 2014 at the latest.  And that’s encouraging.  Additionally, Nokia’s own dev teams (no longer bogged down by work on Meego or an antiquated Symbian platform) have taken this opportunity to shine.  Make no mistake. Nokia’s applications on WP8 are a force to be reckoned with.  Here Maps, Here Drive+, Here City Lens, Nokia Music…  These are all BRILLIANTLY executed apps.  Easily on par with any of their counterparts on iOS or Android and handily beating the crap out of anything on the WP Marketplace.  Nokia knows what they’re doing.

They’re setting a bar.

Sure, all of the aforementioned apps have been out for all of the WP8 Lumia phones.  The Lumia 1020’s camera software, however, is brand spanking new.  And it’s awesome.  Nokia Cinemagraph and Nokia Smart Cam are apps designed to offer gimmicky spins on video and photos.  They’re well designed, but I don’t really care about that.  Nokia Pro Cam, however, is the software jelly to that 41 megapixel peanut butter.  It’s a brilliant app full of customizations offering the degree of granularity a real photo enthusiast might demand out of a camera of this caliber.

So that’s it.  We can go on and on about the ridiculous camera, optical image stabilization, hardware design and the Windows Phone Marketplace.  The real question here is how much you care about a camera.  If you’re a parent, this is a no-brainer.  Your kid deserves this caliber of chronicling.  Frankly There will always be an iPhone.  And there are more android phones out there than you can actually count.  Seriously.  Windows Phone is a different take on an aging dynamic.  And it’s worth a try.  Who knows?  After you take that first photo, you may never look back..

To sweeten the pot AT&T has dropped the price for the Nokia Lumia 1020 from $299 to $199. This was a huge sticking point for some consumers, now it’s at the same price with iPhone’s and Samsung’s.

Is the $199 price point and 41 megapixels enough to not make you care about apps?

  • JMillion

    Nice review about the phone. I’d love to see u added some sample shots with the phone though =)

    • Dang it. This is what happens when you write post while sleepy. I’ll post them tonight!! LMAO

      • JMillion

        lol i was like oh man where the pix haha. gotcha. yea it happens.