Nokia Lumia 1020 Smartphone Review

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.

  • Beautiful, high-quality design
  • Excellent camera performance
  • Crisp, sharp 4.5 AMOLED display
  • No faster than the Lumia 920
  • Still a premium price
  • Shutter lag (1-2 seconds between shots)
  • Incomplete app ecosystem

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