Wade’s Nokia Lumia 920: the hardware

, posted: 29-Jan-2013 08:00

Up to now I have tried to stay exclusively on the topic of Nokia Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8  but I have to address the white elephant patiently waiting over in the corner of the room; how does it all compare with the competition and with that I lead into some potentially controversial and opinionated areas of discussion.

As a (former) Android user the inflexibility and closed system of Apple just didn't make sense at all. I accepted that there are associated benefits of such an ecosystem in being able to control the hardware it allows for high levels of optimization. However the flipside of this is you get one chance a year to get excited about new hardware releases and then it is a 'one size fits all' mentality. Android on the other hand is living proof that everyone wants something different from a smart device.

You could say that Microsoft have taken a relatively unique approach in enabling its hardware partners to make competing hardware so we, consumers, have handset choices in a similar sense as Android users do, but by enforcing a minimum set of hardware requirements they are able to put some mechanism in place to ensure they have a way to control the end user experience.

This hardware/software control is probably one of the key benefits of the Apple ecosystem allowing for high levels of optimization. Below is the minimum hardware specification required by Microsoft:
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor
  • Minimum 512MB RAM for WVGA phones; minimum 1GB RAM for 720p / WXGA
  • Minimum 4GB flash memory
  • GPS and A-GNSS; GLONASS is supported if OEMs decide to include it
  • Support for micro-USB 2.0
  • 3.5mm stereo headphone jack with three-button detection support
  • Rear-facing AF camera with LED or Xenon flash, optional front-facing camera (both need to be VGA or better) and dedicated camera button
  • Accelerometer, proximity and ambient light sensors, as well as vibration motor (magnetometer and gyroscope are optional
  • 802.11b/g and Bluetooth (802.11n is optional)
  • DirectX graphics hardware support with hardware acceleration for Direct3D using programmable GPU
  • Multi-touch capacitive touch screen with minimum of four simultaneous points
From my research it would appear the hardware manufacturers have interpreted this into a low level and a high level series of offerings. In a very general sense (I am sure there will be some exceptions) the two streams of handset follow the below basic specs:
Entry LevelHigh Level
  • Dual Core 1GHz Processor
  • Dual Core 1.5GHz Processor
  • 800x480 pixel Display (WVGA)
  • 1280x768 pixel Display (WXGA)
  • 512mb Ram
  • 1GB Ram
  • 8GB Mass Memory
  • 16GB Mass Memory
  • 5MP Camera
  • 8MP Camera
What is very impressive with Windows Phone 8 is that the actual user experience between an entry level phone and a high level phone is very similar. In fact I would go as far to say that the average consumer would not be able to pick a discernible difference between a $400 handset and a $1000 handset as far as slickness of OS.

But don't take my word for it, next time you are out and about shopping, drop into a Telecom store and have a play with their range of Windows Phone 8 handsets. Not only will you notice very little if any difference in the "buttery" smoothness of the various handsets, you will also note that between the handsets there is a consistency in user experience regardless of handset manufacturers.

Basically any Windows Phone 8 user can pick up any Windows Phone 8 handset and feel completely at home. Android handset manufacturers take note, no OEM skins. So before we even discuss what makes the Windows Phone OS great we have:
  • Consistent user experience across all handsets
  • No OEM skins
  • Optimized software to hardware
  • All Windows Phone 8 handsets run the same OS (Not the same OS but with some features deactivated, Apple)
What is yet to be proven is the upgrade path for Windows Phone 8 and this could well make or break the OS but only time will tell. OS updates are probably the single biggest issue the Android ecosystem face and I do not expect to see a solution to this any time soon, the horse has bolted on that one.

Apple's updating process really has to be looked at as the benchmark. Sure it has hiccups but overall it is quick, painless and hassle free. With the knowledge of the successes and fails of the incumbent's updating processes and the frequency of the small Windows Phone 8 updates already received I have faith MS will get it right, they really have no other option, they have to make it succeed.

Another aspect of smart devices to consider is the larger ecosystem. While cross compatibility is a necessary evil for all players the integration offered can dictate your purchasing decisions. On one hand Apple's iPad offers a near identical user experience to an iPhone.

Android on the other hand can offer a varied outcome. While the individual apps will not necessarily differ you will always be aware of the mixed parentage of the devices.

Microsoft throws a curve ball here with two options, Windows RT and Windows 8. RT is basically a tablet OS with a Microsoft Office package included, the other full blown windows 8 OS that is able to run the RT tablet OS in parallel. A large number of the tablet apps are not available to Windows Phone 8 and vice versa. To me there appears to be a surprising lack of cohesion between the phone and tablet OS.

That said Microsoft has one huge advantage that neither of the other two camps can offer and that is tablet hybrids. These devices offer tablet and ultrabook versatility as well as Windows RT tablet mode and full x86 windows OS. Personally I am not sure on the longevity of RT, the cost differential between RT and win8 tablets is not significant and the win8 tablets just offer so much more bang for buck IMHO.

All players offer cloud based solutions to tie your phone/tablet/PC together and I have to admit I have very little experience with Apple's offerings other than originally setting up the wife's account for her phone and iPad. I am most familiar with Google's offerings and am using these in a commercial sense on a daily basis. Google offer a fairly extensive package offering a relatively basic productivity suite, instant chat, G+ social networking, Picasa and probably a few more I have forgotten.

We need to keep in mind that Google's revenue stream is largely populated by marketing and advertising, they want your information either directly or passively and it doesn't take long for the ecosystem to extract all sorts of information out of you as you go about your daily tasks.

As far as integrating and synchronising all this data between your desktop, tablet and phone it is probably safe to say that Google offer the most complete package bar none. Android and Google go hand in hand fitting like a glove. I have on a number of occasions started a chat conversation on my desktop, carried on via mobile then come back to the desktop all on the one thread, seamless.

Microsoft's offering is called SkyDrive, it is essentially a web based email, cloud document creation and storage package. As I am using a hybrid of Google and Microsoft I am not fully utilising SkyDrive, I am only using the document creation and cloud storage functionality. First impressions were that it is overly simple. The layout is simple, concise, devoid of pretty much anything including advertising. Its real claim to fame is the ability to create or edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote within the web browser.

Google doc's use a semi compatible but proprietary format so you lose functionality and formatting in the conversion process. There is no competition here, SkyDrive wins this round. Want to create an MS Excel spreadsheet on your iPad? No problem: log into SkyDrive through your web browser. Want to make a change later on, grab your Windows Phone 8 and edit/create documents on the fly within the mobile office suite. The spreadsheeting capabilities on the Nokia Lumia 920 are far more feature rich than Google's own system. Another win for SkyDrive is the simplicity in which you can open a document within the web browser of your PC and choose to either edit it within the web app or use the full power of MS Office (assuming it is installed on PC and is MS Office 2007+).

Where SkyDrive powers ahead of the competition is that you can open a doc via browser, edit it in MS Office and save direct to SkyDrive. Try doing this with Google Drive and it is just a disaster opening up the floor to all sorts of duplication issues as you have to download file, manually open document in MS Office, then save file locally, then upload back to Google Drive.  Google Docs is very good for very simple documents but it runs out of steam very quickly.

Another great feature of SkyDrive and Windows Phone 8 is the option to automatically upload your pictures from phone to cloud. I used Dropbox to achieve this on Android and it is a fantastic feature knowing that every picture you take is backed up. The news is not so good for us at the moment though as Microsoft have restricted the quality to a heavily compressed version of the original, only the USA gets the ability to upload at full resolution at this stage. Hopefully this will change and in the meantime the workaround is relatively simple: setting your phone to USA region seems to bypass this limitation.
  • SkyDrive offers simple concise UI, No adverts
  • Cloud based document creation using a basic version of the familiar MS Office Suite via web browser on virtually any device
  • Seamless integration with MS Office on both Phone and Windows Desktop
  • Windows phone 8 offers automatic uploading of photos to SkyDrive
For me the transition to Windows Phone 8 was relatively simple, I retained my Gmail account as my primary email/calendar/contacts, I still have Google Chat via a 3rd party app, I migrated my personal Google Docs to SkyDrive, use InSync on my desktop and by placing a copy of GDocs within the local SkyDrive folder I have a partial solution in being able to access work GDoc's via Skydrive via the web. I lost a some of the Google integration features like adding GPS co-ordinates to meeting requests etc but overall I am not hugely disadvantaged by using a windows phone compared to an Android phone to access the Google ecosystem. Nokia maps and navigation get the job done, Bing search and voice control both offer similar levels of functionality to their Google counterparts.

I often found that with my Samsung Galaxy S III I always found a need to play with it, be it checking battery life, current ram usage, all sorts of things, mainly because I could. There was always a challenge to update to any new firmware and a far fetched dream of getting the latest version of Android on the handset. Android seemed to consume large chunks of my free time. Occasionally the phone misbehaved so I spent time trying to find the problem and fix it, be it a rogue app or app update or firmware issue.

The Nokia is a somewhat boring phone by comparison, day in day out it just keeps working, never missing a beat, just consistently doing what it does, I don't feel the need to constantly monitor it or massage extra performance out of it, it just does what it is intended to do and blends into my life, I can't really ask for more.
About the author

My name is Wade, I am probably best described as a slightly demanding tech savvy consumer who is fast approaching an age where one needs to start planning one's mid-life crisis. I'm a family man with two extraordinary daughters, as well as a fabulous and understanding (most of the time!) wife, hobbies include home theatre and car audio. work in supply chain within the manufacturing sector. I have a vested interest in simplifying and enriching both my work and personal lives through technology. I live in a household filled with the usual plethora of Apple devices however my weapon of choice has become Android and the Google ecosystem. Windows Phone is a somewhat unchartered territory for me. Having no prior experience with Windows Phone or SkyDrive, I am very much looking forward to immersing myself into this ecosystem and understanding how it stacks up for my needs.


Other related posts:
Nakedmolerat’s Nokia Lumia 920 wrap up
Two months on with the Nokia Lumia 920
Wade’s Lumia 920 wireless charging and camera impressions






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Telecom New Zealand
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New Zealand


Telecom Tech is a different type of blog. We're sponsored by Telecom New Zealand, but most of the posts here are from every day users like you.

We choose tech savvy Geekzone users to "test drive" the new handsets from Telecom New Zealand.

The team will post firsthand reports on using these smartphones on New Zealand's smartphonenetwork. Make sure to keep an eye on this blog. Who knows who might be our next "test drivers"?

   

Catch up on previous Telecom Tech reviews - read about the Nokia Lumia 1020Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Nokia Lumia 800, Nokia Lumia 710 and HTC Sensation.





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