What is the Nokia Lumia 930?

The Nokia Lumia 930, also known as the Lumia Icon in the US, is a 5-inch Windows _phone_ 8.1 smartphone that’s the first handset to launch since Microsoft’s buyout of Nokia’s mobile division. The successor to the Lumia 925, it’s available on contracts from £30 a month, so it’s competing with the iPhone 5S and top-tier Android phones like the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2.

It's a step up in almost every department on the 925 and with Windows _phone_ 8.1, the latest version of Microsoft’s slowly improving mobile operating system, it's the closest we’ve come to a Windows phone that can compete with the best Android phones and iPhones.

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Nokia Lumia 930: Design

Overall, the Lumia 930 is well constructed smartphone that feels built to last. It isn't, however, the trailblazer that previous Nokia phones were. Indeed, if anything this design is a small backward step compared to the Lumia 925.

Nokia has gone big and bright with the Nokia Lumia 930, swapping the predominantly metal design as seen on the 925 for a metal frame and polycarbonate matte back that comes in bright orange and green. You can go for more conservative black or white, which is going to be exclusive to Phones4U, but Nokia’s pushing the more eye-catching hues that certainly give the Lumia 930 a unique look.

SEE ALSO: Best Mobile Phones 2014 Round-up
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The other, less successful, way it stands out compared to rivals is the squarer, chunkier body. At 9.8mm thick, the Lumia 930 is significantly thicker than the Samsung Galaxy S5 (8.1mm), and its square edges make it feel chunkier than the curved frame of HTC One M8 (9.35mm), too.

Consequently, the Lumia 930 is one of the less comfortable phones to hold we've reviewed, even if the slightly raised back rests nicely in the palm. The 930 also weighs 167g, making it heavier than the M8 (160g) and the Samsung Galaxy S5 (145g), though the weight difference is less problematic than the rather boxy body.

The button and port layout is fairly conventional. The headphone jack is on the top edge; the microUSB charging port at the bottom below the physical touch keys; and the volume rocker on the right edge, along with the on/off button and a dedicated camera button. The nanoSIM card slot is well disguised next to the headphone jack, where a fingernail instead of pin is suitable to open up the tray.

Like the 925, there’s no expandable memory, which is going to disappoint many given Android alternatives routinely have them, though of course the iPhone doesn't have one, either.

SEE ALSO: Best Android Mobile Phones 2014: Round-up

Nokia Lumia 930: Screen

The Lumia 930 follows the big phone trend by jumping from the 4.5-inch screen in the 925 to a larger 5-inch Full HD AMOLED display. It has an impressive 441 pixels per inch (ppi) pixel density and is toughened up with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Of course, AMOLED screens are famous for their deep, inky blacks, so it's little surprise the Lumia 930 has Nokia's 'ClearBlack' label.

Those deeper blacks are immediately obvious when you glimpse at the Live Tile user interface. It’s an extremely bright screen as well and like the 925, the contrast and vibrant colours really impress. Colours can have a habit of a looking a tad oversaturated, as is common with AMOLED displays, and some early users have reported a purple tint on white pages, but neither issue is hugely detrimental.

Nokia also includes a comprehensive set of display settings where you can can adjust the screen’s colour profile to standard, vivid or cool. There’s also the option to tinker with colour temperature, tint and colour saturation in the advanced settings and see how the adjustments look in a series of images before they are applied. Additionally, you can also adjust brightness, switch on a sunlight readability mode or reduce screen brightness when the Battery Saver mode is active.  

If we are being really picky, the display doesn’t quite match the LG G3 or the Samsung Galaxy S5. The Quad HD screen on the G3 has a ludicrously sharp 534 ppi spread across a larger 5.5-inch screen, while the work Samsung has done fine-tuning the S5’s Super AMOLED really shines through, but even so the Lumia 930's screen is very good.

Nokia Lumia 930: Software

The Lumia 930 joins the Nokia Lumia 625 and Lumia 630 in running on Windows phone 8.1, the latest update to Microsoft’s mobile operating system that it hopes will help them gain lost ground on iOS and Android. It brings some features already available on rival platforms and a few other promising software tweaks, though it feels as if Microsoft is still lagging behind in a few important areas.

It doesn’t take long to see how things have changed. Microsoft has added more tile sizes, including much smaller square icons, which lets you squeeze on more of your frequently used apps, and there's a third column to fit them into. It’s not a dramatic design overhaul but it does mean you have quick access to more of your apps, and you can still swipe left to see the alphabetized list that you can search through.

Where it does take some inspiration from Google’s operating system is the inclusion of a drop-down notification bar or 'Action Center' that can be accessed by swiping down from the top of the screen. For anyone who has tried to move from Android to Windows phone this was one of the most frustrating differences, so it’s great that Microsoft has responded. Additionally, there’s also a set of toggles to turn on and off internet connections, flight mode, rotation lock and the ability to jump into all settings — all small, but very welcome, additions.

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The Lumia 930 (left), running Windows phone 8.1, and the Lumia 1020 (right) running Windows phone 8
 
Among the other notable changes is the new keyboard, which now supports Word Flow. This is essentially gesture typing, so you can swipe letters to type out words and hopefully get your messages and searches out quicker. It’s something we’ve already seen on Android phones and it’s not for everybody, but it can definitely help speed-up typing for most people and is another barrier lifted for those thinking of switching from Android to Windows Phone.

Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Voice Search, is also included, although it’s currently not showing up on UK models until later this year. It can be accessed if you change your location to the US, though as we found in our Siri vs Google Now vs Cortana trial, it’s not quite ready for us over in the UK.

All these changes are good ones, and Windows phone remains a very pleasant operating system on a day-to-day basis, but the one challenge remains: apps.

Nokia Lumia 930: Apps

Like all Windows phone phones, there are a series of core apps that are ever-present, such as the Xbox-influenced Games, OneDrive, Skype and the Bing-powered News, Weather and Sports apps.There’s 32GB of storage to store them along with the rest of your content, but a lack of expandable storage or a larger 64GB option is an issue worth considering.

Nokia offers its own collection of software to broaden the Windows phone experience with some new additions landing for the Lumia 930.

There’s the Nokia Storyteller app, which works in the similar way to HTC’s Zoe feature by collating photos and presenting them in a timeline. You can also see the most common places pictures have been taken, view favourite locations, add captions and manually include locations. It’s nothing particularly revolutionary, but it’s a nice way to organize photos and videos on your phone.

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Nokia Beamer, which builds on the previous Photo Beamer app, is a way of sharing whatever is on your screen or mirroring to another web browser like a laptop or a tablet. This is done either by sending a link by email, SMS and social networks or by going to the Nokia Beamer website and scanning a QR code with your Lumia 930 to mirror the screen. It only works with static content, so videos obviously will not run and you can simply double tap on the phone screen to send something new. It’s a fun app and very easy to use, though we’d love to see video mirroring explored in the future.

Elsewhere, there’s Nokia HERE Drive, HERE Maps and the free Nokia MixRadio music app where you can listen to automatically created radio playlists, take them offline and get suggested radio stations. Nokia HERE Drive is the most notable among these as it allows you download maps for use offline — useful when abroad or in low signal areas.

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But the problem that has really plagued Windows phone as an operating system has been what lurks in the Windows Store, or rather what doesn't. There’s no concrete figure on how many apps exist in the Windows Store, but clearly it’s not as fully stocked as the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Things are improving — a check of the top apps on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store show most of the top line apps are now accounted for — but when you delve into categories like gaming you'll find popular and games like Candy Crush Saga, Simpsons Tapped Out and Monument Valley are nowhere to be seen. This might not bother you, but their absence is symptomatic of wider problems.

One of those is simply how hard it is to find the best apps in the Windows Store. The new pre-installed App Social app preinstalled tries to make app discovery easier experience, and in a way it’s a more refined experience than the Windows Store, but it can't solve the problem when an app you want isn't actually there.

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Nokia Lumia 930: Performance

One thing you don’t really have to worry about is the Lumia 930 feeling at all sluggish. Whether that’s swiping around the UI or launching applications, the 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM and Adreno 330 GPU powering the 930 means it’s well equipped. It’s not bang up-to-date with the latest Snapdragon 801 CPUs currently found inside the Xperia Z2 and the HTC One M8, but you'll struggle to notice the difference in use.

The Windows Store is not exactly brimming with demanding games and our test game Real Racing 3 is currently not available, but we did manage to try out Asphalt 8: Airborne, Score! World Goals and Halo: Spartan Assault without any hitches with games launching nice and briskly. One issue we did notice is that running those more demanding games causes the lower half of the back to get a little warm and takes some time to cool down after a gaming session, but it's nothing to get alarmed about.

We don't have access to the same benchmark tests we use on Android smartphones to make comparisons, so we ran the WP Bench benchmark and the Lumia 930 scores a 505.48 compared to the Lumia 1020’s 225.12, showing that the 930 is a serious step-up from the arguably the best-known (if not best-selling) Windows phone handset to date.

Nokia Lumia 930: Camera

Nokia has been making a big push with smartphone camera technology since introducing its ‘PureView’ camera technology. It first turned up in the Symbian-running Nokia 808 before making its way into smartphones like the Lumia 1020, and as a flagship phone it's no surprise that it's included in the Lumia 930.

On paper the Lumia 930 matches the Lumia 1520’s camera. It has the same 20-megapixel resolution, half that of the 41-megapixel Lumia 1020, an f/2.4 aperture lens, 1/2.5-inch image sensor and a dual LED flash. While the Lumia 925 had a wider maximum aperture (f/2.0), the 930's sensor is larger and the 925 only shot at 8.7-megapixels. This should help when taking advantage of PureView's detail enhancing trickery.

Like the LG G3, there’s also optical image stabilization to reduce blur and keep things steady, unlike the S5 which relies on digital image stabilization and is not as effective at ironing out those shaky moments. There's no HDR mode, though, which is a serious omission given how useful a feature it can be.

Optical stabilization is also in tow for the 1080p Full HD video recording, while up front is a 1.2-megapixel camera capable of shooting a maximum 720p HD, which is more than suitable for Skype video calls.
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Camera App
Unlike the Lumia 1020, there’s just one camera app you need to worry about for taking pictures. It's relatively straightforward to use until you want to delve into the generous manual settings.

In the top left hand corner is the camera roll and over on the right are three circular icons letting you switch between camera, video recording and the smart mode, which unlike the 1020 is now built into the main camera app. Here is where you can shoot in burst mode to shoot 10 frames in quick succession and adjust those images with blur effects, for instance, although you'll usually see in a drop in image quality in this mode.



You are going to shoot most of your photos with the main camera mode and you have the option to press the screen or the dedicated camera button to take a shot. Above the main camera options are settings to apply a timer, add framing grids, capture high and low resolution copies of the image and turn on the Living Images feature. This essentially gives photos in your camera roll a HTC Zoe-style effect that’s not all that useful.  

There’s also some nice tutorials to explain some of the key camera features and show the impact adjusting elements like shutter speed or the refocus on images.

Image Quality & Performance
If you don’t want to tinker around too much, it’s still possible to take good quality photos, though getting those great shots doesn't always happen on the first go. The 20-megapixel camera actually takes two images, a 5-megapixel and 16-megapixel image, giving you something that’s Facebook or Twitter-friendly and the other that should give you more detailed images you can access when you are connected to PC.

The problem with this is that, like the Lumia 1020, the extra processing time means the camera is a little sluggish. It means you can one moment shoot fantastic shots and others produce blurry or over exposed images at times — the kind of experience we'd sooner avoid on an expensive flagship smartphone.

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The camera really excels for close-ups and portrait shots, delivering sharp, detailed images. It even produces a slight bokeh (blurred background) effect in this shot. The colours are very accurate, too.

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But scenic shots from a distance are more of a challenge. As the image below shot in automatic mode shows, colours aren't all that punchy and the lack of an HDR mode really shows here. The sky above the stadium is totally overexposed — a decent HDR mode would really help here.
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Low-light performance is what the majority of the Lumia 930’s camera tech is geared towards, but it’s a mixed bag of results. In controlled close-up environments, as the image and comparison with other leading smartphones above shows, it maintains great detail. It's not as bright and accurate as the 1020, but it's much better than the LG G3 and very similar to the Galaxy S5.

But the moment there's motion in the scene it really struggles, which is frustrating if you're trying to take a photo when on a night out. This is the kind of area where the HTC One M8 excels.

As for video, we shot footage in well lit conditions and optical stabilization takes some time to adjust. Reviewing the footage on a computer doesn’t deliver fantastically sharp Full HD footage, either. What does impress is the sound pick up. Nokia includes four directional microphones that really give you sense of where the noises and voices are picked up from in the scene. 

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We also played around with the new VideoTuner app Microsoft recently introduced to edit footage and basically have a bit more fun with your footage. You can trim footage, slow down the video and add music. Most of the adjusting involves swiping up and down on a bar and changes can be reset. Once you are done, you can save in small, medium, large video formats. Additionally, you can save in a Vine and Instagram-friendly format, though you still have to go into those apps to upload it.

Nokia Lumia 930: Battery Life

If you're a particularly heavy smartphone smartphone user, the Lumia 930 will probably disappoint you. Moving to a larger battery for a bigger smartphone is a no brainer, so it’s no surprise to see that there’s a 2,420mAh packed into the polycarbonate and metal body. But this is smaller than the 5-inch Galaxy S5 (2,800mAh) and the 5-inch HTC One M8 (2,600mAh). It's a non-removable battery, too, though it does support the QI wireless charging standard.

Using the Lumia 930 to listen music in the morning, browsing the web, downloading some apps and using the camera throughout the day, the Lumia 930 suffered a massive battery drop off and by 4pm was down to the 25% mark and was dead by 7pm. This was consistent in general testing over a few days. You can get a day’s use, but you will need to charge it every day, unlike the S5, the One M8 and the G3 which show more resolve and can go for longer. The camera seems like a particular culprit here, perhaps due to the amount of extra processing required for the PureView camera.

Like many Android phones, Nokia does include a Battery Saver application where you can see running apps and disable the ones sapping the most power. You can also apply the Battery Saver mode to conserve battery when it gets low, which will stop you from syncing data online to push battery life further and get you closer to more than a day’s use.

When the battery is dead, a 30-minute charge will kick things back up to around the 20% mark and can just over three hours to get back to full power charging from the mains.

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Nokia Lumia 930: Call Quality and Sound Quality

Call and speaker phone quality on the Nokia Lumia 930 is reasonable, but not outstanding. While the multi-microphone setup provides good noise cancellation to block out ambient noise at least and we suffered no issues of dropouts or signal issues, calls lacked a little clarity compared to other phones we've tested.

It’s at least a good showing from the lone loudspeaker. Despite being situated on the back of the phone, it still manages to produce loud, clear audio for music and video playback. It’s always going to be a tall order to match the warmth and richness in the front-facing HTC Boomsound speakers, but we were pleasantly surprised with what the Lumia 930 can muster up in this department.

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Should I buy the Nokia Lumia 930?

If you're a Windows phone devotee, the Nokia Lumia 930 is easy to recommend. It's not a perfect phone, but it's definitely the best Windows phone currently on sale. It's very fast and runs the latest version of Windows phone 8, which adds some nice extra features.

For everyone else, while it's an very accomplished phone, we're not totally convinced this is the phone that will convert people to Windows Phone. That's mainly down to the chunky design and underwhelming battery life, though the lack of HDR for the camera is another irritating aberration for a top-end phone.

The best things are the slick performance and the very good screen, and some of the changes to Windows phone also help if you're switching from Android to Windows Phone. As Nokia's first flagship under Microsoft ownership, the Lumia 930 is a very good starting point, but we're looking forward to even more.

Verdict

The Nokia Lumia 930 is another very good top-end Windows phone from Nokia, but we'd like it to last a longer and be less chunky.

Credit: Thanks to EE for providing us with the 4G nanoSIM to use in our Nokia Lumia 930 review