Nokia Lumia Icon Review: Verizon's WP8 Flagship

Software & Camera

In addition to the aforementioned Nokia HERE Maps, Drive+, and Transit pre-installed on the Lumia Icon, there are the usual suspects, such as a calendar, clock, calculator, alarm, reminders, phonebook, to-do list, social network connections, weather, news, messaging, and a wallet app.

There’s also a slew of other handy stuff pre-installed. These include but are not limited to Office apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote), Xbox Live Hub, and Xbox Music, which you get in addition to a number of Nokia apps.

Nokia HERE Drive+

These include Nokia MixRadio; Nokia Beamer (which lets you show your phone’s screen on another display); and for the creative types, Nokia Camera, Cinemagraph, Creative Studio, and Storyteller (beta). Verizon also threw in its own My Verizon Mobile (for bill paying, etc.), Verizon ringtones, and VZ Navigator.

Nokia HERE Maps

Nokia MixRadio is similar to the likes of Pandora in that it's personalized streaming radio, but instead of playing "stations" based on a particular artist or style, the app creates mixes based on a number of your favorites. The free app automatically creates mixes for you with the Play Me feature, or you can check out mixes "crafted by our experts", such as "Most played classical" or "Dance party 2014". You can also find mixes in categories including "top mixes", "workout", "artists recommend", or special mixes such as "SXSW". 

Nokia MixRadio

One of the more attractive features of Nokia MixRadio is that you can save up to four mixes and download them to play offline, which is ideal for taking that music with you anywhere you can't get WiFi, such as a long commute.

The PureView camera is a major selling point of the Lumia Icon, and like the Lumia 1520, it boasts a stellar 20MP cam that’s built with 6-lens ZEISS optics and a backside-illuminated 1/2.5-inch sensor. It sports a dual LED flash and has a 26mm focal length with an aperture of up to f/2.4, an ISO range of 100-4000, and a 2x zoom.

The Nokia Camera app has numerous software features. In addition to optical image stabilization on the camera itself, there are three scene modes in the app (auto, sports, night), four preset white balance options, and adjustable flash settings. There’s a Smart Sequence feature that captures multiple shots in quick succession for action scenes, in-camera cropping and reframing capabilities, and a “bracketing” feature that will snap three pics at multiple exposures and stitch them together into one image.

It’s extraordinary how many camera settings you can manually set, and with realtive ease. First, you can let the flash roll with an auto setting or turn it on or off. You don’t have granular controls over white balance, but the four presets--cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent, and daylight--serve the role fairly well.

Nokia Camera app

The manual focus uses a thumb-friendly semicircle, and you can get in nice and tight to your subjects (the minimum focus range is 10cm) for depth-of-field effects. Or, you can opt to let it autofocus or slide it to “infinity”. Then, you can pick your preferred ISO setting and spin the shutter speed ring until you find the exposure you want (which is displayed as numbers instead of as a light meter). Unfortunately, you can’t choose your f-stop for some reason.


Camera samples: Unedited, but with reduced file sizes

We found that the optical image stabilization was superb. We shot some images in a rather low-light situation, and we manually adjusted the camera to give us a bright exposure; the white balance was set at “daylight”, and we wanted an ISO of 400 (at least). That left us with a shutter speed of 0.8 seconds, which usually means the image will be awfully blurry, particularly as you can’t really brace your body for stability when shooting with a smartphone the way you do with a DSLR. Here are the results:

Nokia Camera, low light, manual settings

L: Nokia Camera, low light, auto settings; R: Auto settings with no flash

If you want some easier, quick-and dirty pictures, you can just use the regular Camera app and snap a shot. If you like, you can toggle flash settings and switch up the automatic camera modes, ISO, exposure, white balance, and more, but it’s more clunky than the Nokia Camera app. From the Camera app, you can also activate Bing Vision (for barcodes, QR codes, and so on), Nokia Camera, and Nokia Cinemagraph.

(Regular) Camera app
Nokia loaded the Lumia Icon with a great deal of photo-related software, too. Right from within the Camera app itself, you can change a photo’s aspect ratio and zoom in and rotate to crop, and more. Plus, you can open a photo in Nokia Creative Studio to add various filters, play with focus blur, apply tilt-shift, fiddle with the color, crop, rotate, and fix red eyes. You can also adjust brightness, color balance, clarity, and vibrance.

With Nokia Cinemagraph, you can “animate” your images, add location data, and share or export your edits as a GIF. Nokia Storyteller (Beta) offers a way for you to make something like a digital photo book, placing camera shots on a timeline and tagged with places.

Related content