|Introduction and Specifications|
|Nokia's battle in the global smartphone race is an intriguing one, and those who follow technology have long wondered if the company's decision to hitch its wagon to Microsoft was a wise one. When Stephen Elop came in as CEO, Nokia was in a rare position: it could choose which platform it wanted to support for the foreseeable future. Of course, choosing Windows Phone was a polarizing choice. Android loyalists yearned to see Nokia hardware running Google's mobile OS, while early fans of Windows Phone were thrilled to have such a well-regarded hardware maker on-board.
Over the past couple of years, Windows Phone as a whole has struggled to gain mass acceptance. Meanwhile, iOS and Android have surged, and while BlackBerry has done little to prove that it's worthy of being amongst the mobile elite, it's looking more and more like a two-horse race. Since the Windows Phone OS alone probably isn't enough to sway many smartphone consumers to try a Lumia device, Nokia has resorted to differentiating itself on the hardware side.
In the case of the latest Lumia, the differentiation is obvious: the Lumia 1020 has a 41MP camera, and the most advanced software controls that you'll find on any mobile camera, period. Let's take a look at what's on offer in terms of its specifications...
The Lumia 1020 is easily one of the most impressive handsets on the market today. If photography is at the top of your wish list when it comes to selecting a new smartphone, it's hard to argue with this one. In fact, Apple already played this card with the iPhone 4S. When that phone shipped, one of its few major improvements was the camera sensor. The handset went on to sell millions upon millions, despite being hammered by the press for being too mild an update. It's obvious that consumers are utilizing cameras on phones, but can this particular gem convince loyal iPhone and Android users to switch? We'll evaluate precisely that in the pages ahead.
|Design and Build Quality|
|We've reviewed a multitude of Nokia Lumia devices over the years, and you don't have to have a Ph.D in design to realize that there's serious uniformity across the range. While the Lumia 1020 is bigger, bolder and more powerful than the Lumias that have come before it, it's still very much a Lumia. The smooth, curved back is still here, as are the flat, perforated ends. The PureMotion HD+ OLED display is here as well. In a lot of ways, the Lumia 1020 is an evolution of the Lumia 920. The processor speed is the same, the screen size is the same, and the battery size is the same.
But here's the difference: the rear. The Lumia 1020's standout feature is obviously the rear-facing 41MP camera, boasting optical image stabilization, a f/2.2 6-element lens, and a LED + Xenon flash combination. Those who have largely ignored smaller, featurephone platforms may not be aware of a Nokia handset branded the PureView 808, but that's actually an important phone to take inventory of when evaluating the Lumia 1020.
While the PureView 808, a Symbian-based featurephone, looked nothing like a Lumia, it did ship with a 41MP camera. That's right; in some ways, this is actually Nokia's second attempt to woo photographers with a phone. The difference, of course, is that the Lumia 1020 is a bona fide smartphone, with a legitimate smartphone operating system to better take advantage of all of those megapixels. The PureView 808 is over a year old at this stage, but it's clear that Nokia has learned a lot from that design.
The camera on the rear of the Lumia 1020 barely produces a bulge. While it's noticeable, it's hardly a deal-breaker. If you want to see a smartphone design that's notably changed by a camera, just take one peek at the Galaxy S4 Zoom. This phone is nothing of that caliber. We'll touch on the specifics of the imaging inclusions in a future page, but for now, it's worth noting that this phone will ship exclusively on AT&T in the United States, with three color options to choose from: white, yellow, and black. All of these boast a matte finish, as well as an anti-fingerprint coating that works well in practice.
For those familiar with the Lumia line, everything else is right where you'd think it would be. There's a micro-USB port on the bottom; a volume rocker, camera shutter button and power button along the right edge; a headphone jack (3.5mm) and microSIM tray along the top; and nothing at all along the left edge. It's slightly lighter than the Lumia 920, marginally thinner than the 920, and slightly wider than the 920. It's really close to being the same in terms of raw dimensions, but it feels different in the hand. It's the first Lumia to truly feel big, and it'll take some getting used to. As we've seen with phablets such as the Note, however, that's nothing that users can't overcome.
|Software and User Experience|
|When it comes to software, there isn't much new versus what we covered last November on the Lumia 920. Unlike Android, Microsoft keeps the Windows Phone build uniform across all devices and all partners. In other words, the software experience we saw on the Lumia 928, 920 and 925 is the same here (save for the Camera software).
Windows Phone 8 enables users to easily re-size tiles (though there's no option to file apps in user-defined folders), and you'll also get a couple of unique apps here. ESPN Hub, Wallet, myAT&T, YPMobile, and a host of HERE-based mapping products (City Lens, Drive+ Beta, Maps and Transit).
By and large, it's the WP8 users have come to know and respect. The issue, of course, is the same with every other Windows Phone review we've done: apps. There's simply a dearth of flagship apps on the Windows Phone platform, and many of the ports that are available aren't as polished and not updated as frequently as their iOS and Android counterparts.
Perhaps the most ironic issue in all of this is that Nokia has produced a phone with the market's most impressive camera, and the Windows Phone platform it relies upon doesn't have access to the world's most popular photo sharing app: Instagram.
Nokia and Microsoft both have put a huge amount of effort (and time, and money) into convincing app builders to produce their wares for Windows Phone, and while we're seeing progress, it's still far from being in the same category as iOS / Android. For instance, there's Evernote, ESPN, Skype, Kayak, Facebook, Twitter, etc., but there's no Instagram, np Google Maps, Gmail, Google Drive, or support for up-and-coming products like the Pebble smartwatch. And it extends beyond that. There's no SignEasy (an app that easily lets you initial documents and send back as a PDF), and a variety of financial institutions have shown no plans to bring their banking apps to WP8. Yes, Office is here, but Microsoft not only has plans to bring Office elsewhere, but Android and iOS both have plenty of software suites that perform just as well and are compatible with Office documents.
Nokia has recently confessed that the biggest gripe put forth by consumers is the lack of a fully-fleshed app market on Windows Phone, and has gone so far as to say that it's not a matter of "if" these apps will arrive, but "when." Of course, that doesn't help those who need to make a smartphone decision now. Will the Lumia 1020's hardware still be strong by the time the Windows Phone app store is? Probably not at the pace the market is advancing lately.
|Battery Life Testing and Camera Samples|
|The 41MP camera is the obvious star of the Lumia 1020, so it deserves a close look. (Be sure to check out our in-depth video / photo preview here.) There's optical image stabilization for keeping blur at a minimum, and the software that controls it is of the utmost importance. The Pro Camera lens app allows users to tweak white balance, ISO, exposure, etc. For those frustrated by limited tweaking options on other platforms, you'll love the manual options here.
What most average users won't realize is that the Lumia 1020 actually grabs two images for each shutter press: a 38MP image (or 34MP for wide-angle shots) as well as an oversampled 5MP image. In testing, the larger of the two took up nearly 11MB per image, while the smaller one usually hit at around 1.7MB. This is all important for two primary reasons. First, there's no way you could easily share a true 41MP image, or if you tried, you'd use a ton of data when not on WiFi. The 5MP image is great for sharing, while the 38MP image is great for taking home, popping in Photoshop, mastering, and then archiving in your cloud service of choice.
Technobabble aside, it really boils down to the output. We've already taken a deep dive into the photographic capabilities of the Lumia 1020 (which you can read here), so we'll just use this space to include a few more samples and a few final words. The bottom line is that the images from the Lumia 1020 are astonishing. The detail is unparalleled. Sure, interchangeable lens cameras and DSLRs offering higher fidelity and more flexibility, but the Lumia 1020 is a phone. In the phone universe, there's no better camera available. If you don't want to take our word for it, just click the thumbnails below to see higher-res samples, which are completely unedited.
Lumia 1020 Unedited Images
The downside, of course, is that this huge amount of detail requires a lot of processing. It takes between 1 and 2 seconds for the Lumia 1020 to process each snap, so those who are used to rapid-fire shots on their Android or iOS device will be put off by this. You simply cannot fire off successive shots with the Lumia 1020. You're forced to wait 1-2 seconds between shots, and in the heat of the moment, this is a very real annoyance. Be sure to take this into account; for some, it won't be a big deal. For others, a deal-breaker.
Battery life has historically been an area where Lumia phones haven't stood out. Typically, they've slotted themselves somewhere in the middle of the pack and the Lumia 1020 continues that trend. The 2,000mAh battery is slightly smaller than the 2,100mAh battery situated in the Galaxy S4, while larger than the 1,440mAh battery within the iPhone 5. Notably, it uses the same size battery as the Lumia 920, but we have to wonder if that was a wise decision. With the camera as the focal point, it's to be expected that users are going to be draining the battery in a more serious way. Between having the display on for longer periods (to size up shots) and firing off the 41MP camera, logic would suggest that Nokia should've squeezed a larger battery in here.
That said, we're guessing that Nokia would recommend that heavy camera users invest in the optional camera grip, which adds an external battery pack and a tripod mount. Unfortunately, it's a pricey $79 extra, so you may be better off investing in a universal USB battery pack that can recharge more than just a single model of phone.
In a normal day -- surfing the Web, making a few calls, sending 10 to 20 texts, checking in on Foursquare and just generally keeping tabs on the world -- we managed to squeeze around 12 hours out of the device. This is with quite a bit of screen and data usage, too. Average users should easily get a few more hours out of it. The battery isn't user-replaceable, so you'll need a USB port somewhere to charge it up if you start running low.
We also utilized WP Bench's Battery test, obviously to test the Nokia Lumia 1020's battery life, which keeps the screen on and loops a CPU intensive task in the background. Here, it squeezed out just over three hours, but notably, that's around an hour greater than the Lumia 920.
|Performance: Web Browsing|
Browsing the Web is certainly a key feature of any smartphone, so we also conducted some formal speed tests to see how well the Lumia 920 compares to some of today's hottest smartphones.Due to the limitations of Internet Explorer within WP8, we weren't able to run our full gauntlet of mobile speed tests as we usually do with Android handsets. That said, we want to make clear that the Web browsing experience with the Lumia 1020 is very good. Surfing was brisk and fluid, and we loved Microsoft's decision to place the address bar at the bottom of the screen, not top.
Considering performance metrics in the SunSpider test, our Lumia 1020 notched a 928.3ms, which smokes nearly every other smartphone we've tested to date, including the iPhone 5. IE10 doesn't necessarily feel like lightning when browsing -- it feels about on par with the iPhone 5 and most Android flagships -- but these numbers sure paint a rosy picture. We say "nearly," because the Lumia 920 technically registered a slightly faster score. It won out by a mere millisecond. Practically speaking, the two flagships are neck-and-neck.
BrowserMark has recently moved on to a newer generation of benchmarks, using a new scoring scale as well. As we build up a refreshed database of scores, we'll post the Lumia 1020's results below. Here, it doesn't perform nearly as well, and only barely bests the 1942 score registered last year by the Lumia 920. Of course, this is still a new slate of tools, so it'll be interesting to see how the metrics shift in the months ahead.
Network Performance -
AT&T's LTE support is also a plus for this device, but we certainly wish that Verizon Wireless would've received the phone as well.. For now, AT&T's LTE network hits fewer city areas that Verizon's does. However, AT&T's LTE network is more sparingly utilized right now, so speeds are impressive. We found ourselves hitting 20Mbps down and around 7.5Mbps up routinely. Both 3G and 4G performance (as well as Wi-Fi) was great on this phone, and we also loved the subtle notification bar message whenever a nearby Wi-Fi network was in range. This prevented us from having to barge into settings and refresh the list each time; a small thing, but a useful thing.
Below, we compared the Lumia 1020 with a handful of other phones in a variety of other browser-based benchmarks. All told, we're seeing something of a pattern here.
The Lumia 1020 matches up with the Lumia 920 quite well, scoring nearly identical marks across a variety of these tests. It just acts as further proof that the Lumia 1020, at least from a performance standpoint, can essentially be characterized as a Lumia 920 with double the RAM and a fantastic camera.
In addition to using the Lumia 1020 in a variety of everyday usage scenarios, we also conducted some formal performance testing to see how well the handset compares to other smartphones. WP Bench is a performance-oriented benchmarking application within the Windows Phone Marketplace. To date, it's one of the only effective ways to test the small-but-growing stable of WP handsets. We've compared CPU, Data and GPU benchmarks below with the Dell Venue Pro, Samsung Focus, Lumia 900, and Lumia 920.
Performance-wise, we've never seen a Windows Phone tear up the benchmarks like the Lumia 1020... except for the Lumia 920, which debuted last November. When compared to single-core offerings that employed Windows Phone 7 there's simply no comparison. The 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon is a good fit for the phone, and it helped to deliver WPBench scores that would have been completely impossible given the hardware limitations tied to the WP7 platform. Windows Phone as a mobile OS has always been silky smooth, even on last-gen hardware. But with a potent SoC, 2GB of RAM and a mobile OS that simply doesn't need a ton of resources, you'll be hard-pressed to overtax the Lumia 1020. Everything from sifting through apps to playing a complex game seemed to be no trouble at all for the device.
That said, we're looking at the scores here in something of a vacuum. The reality is that the phone scores either equal or slightly below the Lumia 920, which shipped in 2012. The same CPU is used in the Lumia 1020, with the only major addition being a move from 1GB to 2GB of RAM. In too many ways, this is just a Lumia 920 with a snazzy camera. Nokia didn't go through any real trouble to update the internals in any other major way. That said, at least the 1020's extra RAM will afford you more responsive handling in higher-end functions like HD video playback, gaming etc.
|Summary and Conclusion|
|Performance Summary: In terms of its performance, the Lumia 1020 offers little that wasn't already offered via the Lumia 920 or the 925. Its reasonably powerful Snapdragon dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and refined operating system allow it to operate smoothly. We also found web browsing to be quick, flipping between apps to be enjoyable, and the 1020's complex camera software is responsive. With that said, this smartphone still doesn't stand out when it comes to performance benchmarks. With the same CPU as the Lumia 920, all of the 1020's scores were basically the same as Nokia delivered on a phone that shipped in November of last year.
The bigger issue, of course, is that no Lumia is able to overcome Microsoft's ecosystem hurdle. Windows Phone, even 2+ years in, has yet to gain significant share, particularly in the lucrative North American segment. What this means is that app builders are largely focused on other platforms, and when resources are tight, most devs are going to allocate time, money and engineers to build products for the two ecosystems that have a more sizable user base (Android and iOS). Microsoft and Nokia are making progress here, but the fact of the matter is that Windows Phone still feels less than mature at times. Anyone who relies on Google at all (Drive, Gmail, Voice, Google+, etc.) may find the phone frustrating to use. Yes, third-party alternatives are available, but they aren't nearly as refined as the official builds available elsewhere.
On the hardware side, it's a different story. If you're willing to deal with the current limitations of using Windows Phone, you'll enjoy working and playing with this smartphone. The screen is beautiful, call quality is excellent, AT&T's LTE network is formidable (with a full build-out expected by the middle of next year), and the 1020's camera is best in class, hands-down and by a wide margin. If you value quality photography over pretty much everything else, there's really no other smartphone to consider. But you should be aware that procuring that camera sensor will force you into a fledgling ecosystem, and you won't be able to share these amazing photos on some of the world's most popular photo apps (unless you use one of those third-party options, which feels more like a stopgap than an actual solution). Moreover, the 1-2 second lag between capturing each photo could annoy those familiar with the rapid-fire systems on iPhone and select Android handsets.
Lumia 1020 with Optional Camera Grip Installed
The kicker to all of this is the price. At an MSRP of $299 with a 2-year contract (though you can find them for less), the Lumia 1020 is amongst the most expensive smartphones in AT&T's lineup. Can Nokia really convince people to not only switch ecosystems, but pay more to do it? At $300, it's tough to recommend this smartphone, unless that camera is very important to you. Despite it offering an outstanding camera, the harsh reality is that the sensor on the iPhone 5 and the latest Android superphones (Galaxy S4, HTC One, etc.) are more than fine for the purposes of most cameraphone users. For those who genuinely need high-fidelity images, many will invest in a separate camera.
Nokia is attempting to create a "best of both worlds" scenario with the 1020's phone + camera configuration, but what it has created is a niche device that'll likely only attract a smaller segment of potential buyers -- particularly at the current asking price (though street prices can and likely will soften). Those who have already invested in the Windows Phone ecosystem are looking at an excellent upgrade, but the Lumia 1020 still doesn't offer enough to sway Android and iOS users. Perhaps in a few months, at a lower price point, the value proposition will shift a bit in Nokia's favor.