Is Nokia's 920 the most innovative smartphone?

Posted by Rob Enderle

Nokia's 920 Windows 8 Phone may be the best handset currently on the  market, at least in terms of features. 

The latest Nexus focused on a lower cost model, effectively taking it out of the running. And while the new iPhone 5 is very popular, it’s relatively small screen almost seems tiny in comparison to some of the latest Android devices like Samsung's Galaxy S III.

Essentially, to be a market leader, you have to demonstrate innovation so that others may follow you, which neither the latest Nexus or iPhone 5 is managing at the moment. From my perspective, the two phones that are vying for leadership right now are the Samsung Galaxy III S and the Nokia 920.  

The Galaxy SIII clearly leads in size and the power of its flash (which could likely kill vampires at a distance), but the Nokia leads with inductive charging, as well as the best camera on the market. I personally know of several car manufacturers that are planning on integrating inductive charging. In addition, I use my phone camera quite frequently, so both of these features, at least for my purposes, trump the Samsung’s size. Plus, the 920 sales performance has been strong enough to prompt Nokia’s shares to jump 30%. So the device definitely seems to be a hit.

I’ve had the Nokia 920 for about a week now, here are my impressions.

Beautiful Phone

This is a pretty phone, while it didn’t come in the color I initially wanted (blue). However, you do get a choice and the white, black and red versions are stunning. I ended up with white but I do receive favorable comments from people when they see me use the phone. It looks and feels like hand art and the curved back and sides fit my hand extremely well. Meanwhile, the display is very bright and seems to work outdoors better than most.   However, I do find the text often too small to read without glasses and, unfortunately, Windows 8 Phone doesn’t support expanding all text (like the subject line in an email where folks often put addresses or notes).


   

Sound Quality

I’ve finally gotten rid of all my MP3 players and use the phone for most of my music.  The Nokia handset boasts advanced listening features which only work if you are wearing a wired headset and not over Bluetooth. Unfortunately, I use a Bluetooth headset when driving. Yes, I think the sound is great but it seems a shame to have advanced Dolby features and not be able to actually use them. Then again, the sound quality out of the phone speaker itself is still impressive and reminds me of the AM/FM radios I had as a kid. Frankly, the only time I really use this speaker is for ring tones, but it does give me one heck of an impressive ring tone.

Bluetooth sound in the car is actually pretty impressive, but while pause and play work from the radio, skipping a track doesn’t and I’m hoping a coming patch will fix that. Nevertheless, it is kind of cool to be listening to some music on the phone and get in the car and have the music just continue, without plugging anything in.

Windows Phone 8

I’m a long time Windows Phone user and was a huge fan of Windows Phone 7.  This is a solid improvement over 7 though I’d still like a VPN (not supported) to be able to use Skype and Netflix when I’m out of the country (some countries block Skype but you can get around the block with a VPN and Netflix won’t work out of country without a VPN).  You’d also think Skype would come preloaded by now, but at least it is a free app. Finally, you have to use another free program called reinstalled to move your apps from one phone to the next.  This should be built in as well, and most of this is just annoying during the initial setup.    

Apps

The only app I’m missing is Aha Radio which ties in with my stereo system in the car, otherwise every app I use is on the phone. This platform offers an impressive variety right now and while it isn’t as big on paper as either iPhone or Android, those libraries are so big, you likely won't even know about most of the apps that are actually available. There is that one advantage to being smaller, namely, the ability to explore and find by browsing.   

Inductive Charging

I’m becoming a huge fan. Getting the micro-USB plug into most phones is a pain particularly when I’m tired and just want to go to bed. The number of times I’ve awakened to a dead phone because I didn’t push the plug in all the way is embarrassingly large as a result. With inductive charging, unique to the 920, you just set the phone down on the charger and walk away finding the phone fully charged when you wake up. It may seem like a little thing but it was a nightly annoyance to get that damned plug in the right way in a dark room and not having to do that is almost worth this phone alone.  

Pictures

This phone takes amazing pictures and if you’ve never used a Windows 7 or 8 phone you are missing the one button picture experience. Basically you pick up the phone, you don’t need to unlock it, hit the camera button, it brings up the camera, and then hit the button again to take a shot. It pushes the picture up to your SkyDrive and you can email or share it from the phone. When you get home, assuming you have the SkyDrive app on your PC, your pictures are waiting for you. To my knowledge this is the only camera phone you can get in this country with both mechanical image stabilization and high end (in this case Carl Zeiss) lenses. The result? Just incredible pictures and far fewer missed shots.  

Wrapping Up:   Just the Beginning of Better Together

It often seemed like the "better together" message that Microsoft has made for decades only really worked in some marketing guy’s head. But I’m now using a Surface Tablet on the road, a Windows 8 Workstation in the Office, the 920 Windows phone and damned if they don’t work together very nicely.  

Granted, there is some room for improvement, like automatically providing a similar personality across all three devices (right now you get commonality between tablet and PC but not the phone), or better syncing my passwords and ID for things like Skype and SkyDrive. But overall I’m impressed with the progress, as this is so much better than living in a Windows world used to be. So yes, I’m becoming a fan again.  

If Microsoft continues to make advancements like this, by the end of the decade, I doubt anyone will be able to touch them, even Apple.