The Nokia Lumia 925 is an odd device – on the one hand, a bold design, on the other, debatable specs for a flagship phone.
Known as the “Catwalk” phone for a long time, this is the phone that some fans have been clamouring for: a Nokia Lumia that brings an aluminium design with the same innovative features.
However, it’s not all good news for the metal fans, as it’s still got a polycarbonate back as Nokia hasn’t worked out how to rock an all-aluminium chassis in the same way HTC managed with the One.
That’s not to say the design of this 4G-enabled phone isn’t impressive, as with the rounded aluminium edges you’d be hard pressed to notice that the back was made of plastic, albeit a premium version of that material – plus it will come in black, white and silver.
(By the way, well done Nokia for not giving the colours “magical” names. If it’s white, call it that).
The front of the phone will also still wow a few, as it’s using the same ClearBlack technology, coupled with an HD OLED screen, on a 4.5-inch display. Underneath the hood there’s a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset powering things along, as well as 1GB of RAM and an 8.7MP camera bolted on the back.
Some eagle-eyed readers will notice something about those specs: they’re identical to the Nokia Lumia 920, launched in September 2012. In the ensuing period HTC and Samsung have both launched 2GB, quad-core powered devices with much larger HD screens.
We can’t claim that they’re miles ahead in smartphone terms though; while the specs don’t compare at all, Nokia’s well-integrated use of Windows Phone 8 means its phones generally rocket along in day to day use, and battery power is conserved as a result.
That said, there’s no denying that the screen quality is a step down when viewed side by side with the likes of the One or Galaxy S4. It’s not a bad screen at all, as it’s bright and clear with decent colour reproduction, but the sharpness difference is noticeable when doing things like internet browsing.
Let’s talk about what the Nokia Lumia 925 is really about though: an upgraded camera with all new functionality. If you use Nokia’s Smart Camera technology as the default setting it allows you to take 10 photos at once and then allows you to do a number of cool things with said snaps.
Nokia calls this an ‘evolution’ of the camera technology on its phones, and it’s true as you no longer have to faff about with separate ‘lenses’ to enable functionality.
It’s a similar system as the one used by HTC in the One, where capturing a 3.6 second Zoe when taking your picture allows you to create action shots, change faces in case someone blinks, remove background objects and more.
In our quick test the Lumia 925, with its 10 photos to choose from, performed a little better at things like working out which object to remove, and was a lot better than the same functionality in the Galaxy S4, on top of being easier to manipulate images you take.
There is a caveat to all this awesome technology: the 925 is a little slow on processing. And when we say a little, we’re being kind. If you’re taking photos for your own pleasure and have time to mess about with them to get the perfect result, then the annoying time watching the little dots at the top of the screen (which pop up when the phone is working through a task) isn’t an issue.
But Nokia’s selling this phone as having great shots you can share with friends -and nobody wants to be the person saying they can take a really cool picture then waiting 15 seconds to even start editing.
The other bold claim made by Nokia is the “best lowlight images without using a flash” – again, taking on HTC with the One’s Ultrapixel power. We couldn’t test the two side-by-side, but there’s no doubt that this is going to be a closely fought war, with Nokia stating it will be putting marketing budget behind proving its own Lumia camera sensor can eclipse the One.
It reckons it can do this on a sensor that’s already been used on the 920 by adding in a sixth lens to the camera unit, helping to improve things like optical image stabilisation and general photo quality.
However it’s one of the only things that’s different between the two phones beyond the design, with everything else nearly identical or actually worse on the Nokia Lumia 925.
They both pack a 2,000mAh battery, a 4.5-inch screen (although the addition of OLED technology over LCD is a welcome one) the same processor and RAM. However, the Lumia 925 has half the internal memory, down to only 16GB – with no expansion in sight, this is going to be a real problem for a lot of users.
Wireless charging is also not included with this phone, something Nokia tells us is a bid to keep the weight of its new flagship phone right down. You can add that functionality back in through a protective case, but it still smacks of Nokia confusing its strategy given it’s poured so much effort into talking up the technology.
The diet that the Finnish brand has subjected its newest handset to is impressive though, as it’s now down to 139g over the 185g whopping weight of the predecessor.
It still feels weighty compared the 130g of the plastic Samsung Galaxy S4 (despite the closeness in weight), but we like heft and metal together, so we don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing – plus the battery doesn’t rattle around in the case any more, which we see as a win.
We haven’t touched on the combination of Nokia and Windows Phone 8 yet – and with that you get a high level of extras out of the box. Mix Radio, HERE and clever features like Cinemagraph are all add value, and are key differentiators for Nokia.
The Nokia Lumia 925 is a tricky beast to rate. Nokia tells us that this is a phone designed for the more technologically minded, the person that wants the latest and greatest handset from the brand.
However it seems that person would be disappointed by the Lumia 925, with its average specs and minimal upgrade from the 920 – at least when it comes to the internals.
But there’s no doubting that it’s going to be a market-leading cameraphone, and with things like the dedicated camera button (sounds obvious, but makes a huge difference) the 925 is definitely going to be a front runner for anyone that wants one of the most powerful portable cameras around.
Given a lot of the functionality will be coming to the older phones though it’s hard to guess whether the design update will be enough – but when you hold it in your hand and come to enjoy the combination of polycarbonate and plastic, we reckon it will be enough to sway a number of users.
Price is going to play a massive part here, and that could be where the Nokia Lumia 925 loses out to the competition. It will likely cost the same as the leading smartphones on and off contract, and if someone holds the HTC One and Nokia Lumia 925 together, they’re going to be hard-pressed to pick the latter unless they’re enamoured by Windows Phone’s Live Tiles.
We’re obviously going to reserve judgement here until we get the Nokia Lumia 925 in for review – word is this will be around the start of June, so it’s not too long to wait now.