Review: The Nokia Lumia 1020

While Apple and Samsung battle it out for the hearts and minds of mobile users across the world, Nokia has taken a different path in recent years. Mainly this was because of an exclusive deal with Microsoft for the Finish giant to use the Windows Phone OS on its hardware. To some this has been a huge mistake, as the Lumia range is well regarded but often overlooked due to the unpopular Windows platform. Supporters counter this with the arguments that Windows Phone is innovative, stylish, and more than capable for most users. Whatever your standpoint the truth of the matter is that Nokia hasn’t done so well and was recently bought by Microsoft, which pretty much ensures that it will become the sole hardware for Windows Phone from now on.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. In the past few months Nokia has released the Lumia 520 and 620, which have gone on to become very popular at the budget end of the market, showing that there might be life in the OS yet. The Lumia 1020 I have here today though resides at the other end of the scale, where the competition is much tougher and customers’ expectation are obviously a lot higher.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Review Image 1

The 1020 follows on from the similarly designed Lumia 920 (are you seeing a pattern here?) that always caught the eye thanks to its sharp looks, but caused wide-eyed surprise at its brick like weight. The new unit addresses that issue and does so even after incorporating a 41mp camera into the chassis. No mean feat that. This high power snapper needs a bit of room for all those megapixels, which manifests in a slightly bulbous back. At first glance it might seem bulky, but it’s smaller in the hand than you’d expect, and in some ways the camera bulge acts as a ridge to help when holding the device in one hand.

The overall unit though does feel thicker than say the HTC One or Samsung S4, both of which have larger screen sizes than the 4.5″ sported on the Nokia. This means that general one-handed operation is a little cumbersome, with the extra girth just making things difficult at times.  On Android you can side step the physical size issue by grouping your favourite apps together in folders located near to where you grip the handset, but Windows Phone doesn’t yet offer this useful option, so more often than not the 1020 becomes a two-hand phone for getting things done.

As you can see from the images Nokia fears not the use of colour. The 1020 blazes in the sunlight with its bright yellow body, of which I am mostly unashamedly a fan. Of course if holding this kind of device up to your face in public makes you feel squeamish then you could opt for the red or black options that are also available. Build quality, as you would expect from Nokia, is excellent. The body is solid, the screen is bright and responsive, while call quality is as good as any of the 1020’s rivals. Nokia also includes a suite of apps that definitely add to the Windows Phone experience. Various map, car navigation, and camera apps enhance the ability of the 1020 no end, which is good because the app store is still bereft of many names that most people would expect to see.

It’s safe to say that this is the optimum way to see Windows Phone 8, so if you don’t like this then you won’t find a better example anywhere else. Which is a shame, because it really didn’t take long for me to find myself bored of the 1020, and pining for my old iPhone 4S with its tiny screen and fading battery. Windows Phone 8 just feels…awkward. Apps can be slow to load, transitions between pages is delayed by the animations (although iOS 7 is now guilty of this too), and it takes a while before anything feels like it’s at your fingertips. It’s not bad or unreliable, just a different approach to design, but not one that tends to float my boat in any way. That’s not to say someone else won’t find it rather spiffy. At a recent work event I was stopped by a waiter when he saw me produce the 1020. He shared excitedly about his own 920 and how much he loved the OS. When I talked to him about why, it was clear that the design choices were ones that connected with him in some way. Of course he’d paid for his device, so the praises felt more genuine than my moans, as he had something to lose if the phone was disappointing.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Review Image 2Of course the camera is where the 1020 really shines. In various modes the device proved impressive, with light balance constantly making the best of shots, and colours remaining neutral rather than the saturation tricks that other manufacturers use as a default to charm the eye. One of the main advantages of the 1020 is that you can shoot an image from a distance, then zoom in when cropping on your PC. This resolution is so high that the image retains its details where others would descend into a noisy mess. Here are a few examples to show what it can do.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Review photo1 And here it is zoomed in.

church adjustHere’s a dark room with contrasting colours and images to focus on. It also features one of the built-in filters.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Review Image 3This was taken on an overcast day, just as the light was beginning to fade.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Review Image 4In the end the 1020 is an excellent camera, and a quite mediocre mobile phone. This could be acceptable for many, but the asking price puts it actually just above the iPhone on several carriers. For that kind of money it doesn’t hold up as good value. The iPhone has a very, very good camera, maybe 85% the capacity of the 1020, but also has 100% of the iPhone app and OS experience. The Nokia/Microsoft package really doesn’t compete with this, and when compared to the S4, HTC One and the hotly anticipated Nexus 5, it fares no better. If you love Windows Phone 8 then here you go, fill your boots. But if you’re undecided I suggest you look elsewhere.


Review – Living with the HTC One

The Android platform has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but if there’s one area were it lags behind iOS, and even Windows Phone, it’s that the premium handsets often don’t feel all that…premium.

Samsung devices may dominate the landscape, but they are hardly ever regarded as beautifully designed or manufactured, often the opposite.

It was a big deal then when HTC unveiled the One, and in doing so raised the stakes for all Android devices that will have to follow in its, rather large, footsteps.


‘Be gone plastic!’ Cried the HTC designers. ‘Welcome aluminium!’ and thus it was.

There’s no denying the workmanship and quality that the One represents. From the gorgeously bright and detailed 4.7″ 1080p display, to the surprisingly effective twin, front facing, Boomsound speakers, you can see how much thought has gone into the design of this flagship handset. The camera boasts ultrapixels rather than mega ones (fancy), and produces pleasing results, especially when using the Zoe mode which shoots short videos from which you can select the best frames to make still images. All very clever.

It is an utter mystery to me then why I just never really fell for the One.

Build quality? No. This is a series piece of kit

Performance? Not at all. The phone is very speedy.

Feel? Well…maybe this is where it begins to fall away for me.

A few months back I wrote about how the Nexus 4 had initially felt too big and cumbersome, until one morning it just clicked. This never happened with the One. In fact I think the Nexus 4 is partly to blame.  In the hand the Nexus 4 was slightly shorter and possibly wider, albeit by a very tiny margin. The One though seems just too tall. Possibly the speaker at the top is the culprit, but the sound really is terrific (I’d say this is one of the best devices I’ve ever encountered for listening to podcasts on) so you wouldn’t want to take one away. But the real problem for me was that after spending time with stock Android on the Nexus, anything else seems a bit…clumsy.

The navigation on the HTC One is via a back button on the left and a home button on the right of the front panel. In the middle is a large HTC logo that does nothing except hamper the neat three button system that stock Android employs. This shouldn’t matter too much, but it does, it really does.

On a big handset you don’t want to be moving the device around in your hand any more than you already have to, but the arrangement of buttons made this inevitable. Plus I kept hitting the HTC logo by accident, which no doubt illustrates my inability to learn new tricks (old dog and all that) but i’m sure won’t make me unique.

HTC Sense also complicates things by proving less intuitive than stock and offering not much in the way of advantages for the perceived obfuscation.

IMG_0998 (2)


Now I realise that I am almost certainly in the minority with these qualms. The One has garnered very impressive reviews all across the tech press, and certainly the quality of the handset is worthy of the accolades. But for me I just can’t get excited. I really wanted to love this device. I’m a fan of HTC, Android is growing on me at a frightening rate, and my old iPhone is beginning to lurch, so a replacement is in order. After using the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 I was left cold, so the One was my great hope. Now, although there is nothing wrong with this phone, it just doesn’t seem to suit my particular (possibly odd) tastes either.

Maybe I’m just cheap. The Nexus 4 was reduced to £200 the other day and my eyes are definitely turning back to it, with only the prospect of a lower cost iPhone causing me to pause.

For many the One will be exactly the thing they’re looking for. Indeed if you want a larger screen, quality materials, and excellent sound then it ticks all the boxes. Those of us with a hankering for something smaller, or purer in the Android stakes, can also take heart that there are other offerings out in the world to meet our more diminutive needs.




Living with the HTC One SV

With Samsung currently dominating the Android market for phones, it can be easy to forget that not so long ago HTC were the big kids on the block. With models like the Legend and Desire the Taiwanese manufacturer quickly made fans of UK Android users, including myself who toted a Desire for couple of years. That phone was lovely to hold, had a great screen, but quickly succumbed to the paltry amount of internal memory. This left me having to avoid updates to large apps such as Facebook and Google Maps, while always having to juggle which app I could consider using in case it filled up the usable storage. Subsequent Android system updates that allowed some apps to be moved to the SD card was a welcome relief, but of course all the big ones didn’t offer this convenience. By the end of my contract I was glad to jump ship to iOS where the memory/storage issues didn’t cause the same headaches.

During my absence Android has quietly continued to refine its innards, becoming the dominant operating system on the mobile platform. It’s also resolved many of the issues that caused me anguish in the earlier days, so much so that I find my eyes wandering back to the greener side of the fence. It was with interest then that I took delivery of the new HTC One SV, a mid-range Android phone that seems a cut above some of the cheap and nasty devices I’ve come across in this area.


In the hand, a rather important aspect for a device you’ll be holding all the time, the SV is a slim, light and comfortable handset to use. Its gently contoured back and grippy plastic casing means you don’t have the constant subliminal tension that your handset is going to leap from your grasp at any given moment, which is always nice. Perhaps one of the things that aids this sensation of inertia is that HTC has eschewed the current trend of hilariously large screens and instead fitted a 4.3” one to the SV. I must admit that I’ve yet to use a 5” screen that I didn’t find cumbersome, but this size seems almost like the perfect compromise between pocket and eye friendly design. It’s big enough to make me look at my iPhone 4S with a sense of inadequacy, but small enough to mostly navigate with one hand. Downloading the new Google keyboard helped in this fashion as the swipe feature (entering text by dragging your finger from key to key rather than hitting individual letters) meant that typing was also accurate and felt like a little game every time I wrote a text message.

The screen itself is also a respectable effort. It’s not quite up there with the retina displays of the world, and you can see jagged edges to text, but its perfectly usable and the size means apps look clean and clear, with bright colours. The HTC Sense 4+ skin is still one of the better adaptations available, but as usual I dropped it quickly in favour of the Go Launcher which I used to customise my layout. This really is something you forget about on iOS, just how easy it is to completely change the look and feel of your device on Android. Within ten minutes I’d personalised the entire UI, and I could change it back again with a couple of quick swipes. Brilliant. All this fiddling didn’t seem to bog down the SV, as the handset was snappy and responsive throughout the time I spent with it. One regret is that the version of Android running on here is 4.1.2, but that’s not surprising when previously premium models like the Samsung Galaxy S3 are still awaiting their upgrade to 4.2.2. The SV does have a standout feature though, that of 4G compatibility. For those lucky enough to live in the rarified areas of the UK that offer this provision of fast mobile data this will be a tempting offer. Of course the handset can do nothing about the prices that EE charge for access to the mobile superway, the monthly payments for which I imagine they must be collect via a masked man on horseback waving a loaded flintlock pistol at the terrified customer.


Sadly the camera is nothing more than average on the SV. Images are lacking definition, somewhat washed out, and not always properly focussed. I say sadly because otherwise this is a very alluring handset. Many times I had my iPhone 4S and the SV sitting on the table and I’d find myself reaching for the HTC, and not just because I was reviewing it. I’m in love with the screen size, the light weight, and the possibilities that Android offer for tuning a UI to your particular preference.

The SV delivers on many levels as a workhorse handset, and if you only occasionally use the camera on your phone then I can’t see why you’d need to spend a lot more on a device. Those who want all the newest features that Android have to offer will be better suited with the Nexus 4, HTC One, or Samsung GS4, but if you just want a really good handset that’s pleasing to use and offers you a micro SD slot to store all your music on, then you wouldn’t go far wrong with the HTC SV.