Nokia Lumia 925 Review
Nokia announced the Lumia 925 at its May 14, 2013 event in London, and the phone was brought to the stage as “the most advanced smartphone” on the market. The buzz-word of the day was aluminum; the company emphasized the advantages of using aluminum for the phone’s body, granting overall better reception and antenna performance. However, the Lumia 925 is not made completely out of aluminum. The back panel, non-removable, is still made out of polycarbonate: this time, a very soft-touch version of it.
Nokia also slightly tweaked the design of the Lumia 925. While one can still instantly recognize it as a Nokia phone, it is somewhat different from the Lumia 920 and Lumia 928. It is no longer the tank its predecessor was; instead, we’re looking at a thinner, more elegant, slicker version of the phone.
In addition to some design tweaks, Nokia also improved its PureView camera (stage-two, OIS and low-light version) over the unit on the Lumia 920 by throwing in an additional sixth lens, for better overall sharpness, color reproduction, and image quality.
Are these efforts enough in order to choose it over the Lumia 920? The Lumia 925 will be T-Mobile’s version but Nokia made sure to make the phone available internationally. In this review we’re taking a look at the global flavor, and we have spent five solid days with our unit. Read our full Nokia Lumia 925 review to learn everything about the phone.
Videos · Specs · Hardware · UI · Camera · Performance · Battery Life · Call/Network · Pricing/Availability · Conclusion · Scored For Me
As an incremental Lumia 920 update — and almost a Verizon Lumia 928 twin — there aren’t many spec-bumps worth mentioning. As a matter of fact, Nokia has basically taken the same Lumia 920 chassis and internals, and repackaged it in a smaller, prettier — more feminine, if you will — form.
You will find the same Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor clocked at 1.5GHz under the hood. The amount of memory hasn’t changed either: the Nokia Lumia 925 operates with 1GB of RAM. Internal storage has been reduced to 16GB — though specific carriers will get 32GB exclusives — and the battery is still the good old, non-removable, 2,000mAh unit. Unfortunately, the on-board storage is still non-expandable via microSD card, but Nokia emphasized the possibility of saving your stuff to the cloud. You can accept, or reject, that alternative/explanation.
The display, while still at 4.5 inches in diagonal, is now a PureMotion HD+ ClearBlack AMOLED screen, with the same 768 x 1280 resolution. This results in a PPI rating of 334, more than fine enough for everyone’s eyesight, definitely enough for Windows Phone’s graphics.
The camera, while still an 8.7-megapixel, PureView (stage two) construction, is improved, at least on paper. Nokia added a sixth lens — in addition to the five lenses on the Lumia 920 and Lumia 928 — which should further improve picture quality in both low-light and bright, optimal, conditions. Optical image stabilization (OIS) is present as part of the PureView package, and the low-light sensitivity is as good as it always was. The camera specs also include the 1/3-inch sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 26mm focal length lens, and a minimum of 8cm focus range. The main shooter is accompanied by an f/2.4 1.2-megapixel wide-angle front-facer.
However, the Lumia 925 doesn’t feature wireless charging, or at least not the way the Lumia 928 and Lumia 920 do. You can, of course, charge the phone without cables, given you purchase a separate accessory: the wireless charging add-on doubles as a back cover, and, alongside protection, brings induction charging to the phone.
Other specifications include Bluetooth 3.0, WiFi a/b/g/n, a magnetometer, A-GPS, A-GLONASS, and NFC. Radio offers support for the following frequencies:
- GSM network: 1800 MHz, 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1900 MHz
- GSM max data speed DL: EGPRS 236.8 kbps
- GSM max data speed UL: EGPRS 236.8 kbps
- LTE network bands3: 1, 3, 7, 8, 20
- LTE max data speed DL: 100 Mbps
- LTE max data speed UL: 50 Mbps
- WCDMA network: 900 MHz, 2100 MHz, 1900 MHz, 850 MHz
- WCDMA max data speed DL: HSDPA – 42.2 Mbps
- WCDMA max data speed UL: HSUPA – 5.76 Mbps
Everything is powered by the 2,000mAh battery, and our unit arrived running the Lumia Amber software release, which is Windows Phone 8.0.10327.77.
The Nokia Lumia 925 is probably the lightest among the flagships, compared to the Lumia 920 and Lumia 928. At only 139 grams, it is more than 20 grams lighter than the Lumia 928, which is itself about the same amount lighter than the Lumia 920. At 129mm tall and 70.6mm wide, the 925 is just 8.5mm thin, which is, again, an improvement over its predecessors.
The materials used by Nokia in the production of the Lumia 925 are premium. The entire front of the device is Gorilla Glass 2, which seems to flow and blend in nicely with the aluminum on the top and sides. And, speaking of the aluminum, the Lumia 925 feels cold to the touch at first, something which users of the iPhone 5, HTC One, or any other aluminum phone out there, can testify to.
We’re not sure why Nokia chose to keep the polycarbonate back plate, instead of going for a full-aluminum body, but it sure ain’t because of the color options. The Lumia 925 is available in black, silver, and white, and, since the back plate is non removable, color options are limited to those. That is, unless you purchase the cover and slap it on the back of the phone, resulting in a differently toned look.
However, the stock back plate feels good, almost too good. It is soft touch with no trace of texture. Rubbing your fingers against it is almost like feeling glass. This part covers the entire back. Initially we thought we had a faulty unit because the polycarbonate part is, in two specific spots on our device (on the back, near the volume rocker, and on the opposite side), squeaky, and flimsy. This takes away from the overall premium feel of the phone. And we have also spotted some gaps on the bottom. We have contacted Nokia about this and here’s its statement:
“As the device is not uni-body and the polycarbonate rear case is physically separate from the single piece of aluminum, the device has been designed this way in order to provide access for technicians“.
In other words, it is by design. In our perception, something like this shouldn’t happen on a high-end phone; it should feel solid. Instead, it feels like there is either a gap between the polycarbonate and whatever it is beneath it, or maybe like the glue didn’t do a great job (or hinges are misplaced).
The back part is where you will find your 8.7-megapixel PureView camera with a dual-LED flash on top. The plastic is somewhat raised around the lens cover, so that when the phone is laid down flat, it will not sit directly on its camera. Underneath the Nokia, PureView, and Carl Zeiss optics branding, there are three connectors which are used when slapping on the wireless charging cover. On the very bottom of the backplate there’s the speaker grill with nice, precision-drilled holes.
Going over to the front you’ll see a huge sheet of Gorilla Glass 2 covering the entire phone. It is just so very slightly curved towards the edges so that it blends in nicely with the top, bottom, and sides.
The top part houses the earpiece, just above the Nokia logo, and to the left of the 1.2-megapixel front-facing webcam. There you can also find the ambient light sensor as well as the proximity sensor. On the bottom, below the 4.5-inch PureMotion HD+ ClearBlack AMOLED screen, there are the three, capacitive, compulsory Windows Phone buttons for back, home, and search. They are backlit and they glow nicely in the dark (white color).
All around the edges (top, bottom, left, and right) you’ll find the aluminum with both top and bottom antenna placements on either side. While the left part contains nothing but the aluminum, the right side is where you will find all of your buttons, which are also made out of the metal. From top to bottom: volume rockers, power button, and the two-stage camera focus/shutter release button.
Just like on the left, there’s nothing on the bottom, and up top is where you find your microphone, 3.5mm headphone jack, Micro USB port, and the microSIM card tray (which ejects with the help of a bundled tool).
We said that the sharp, angled corners of the Lumia 925 need some getting used to when it comes to in-hand feel, but the truth is, given Windows Phone’s design, a rounded phone wouldn’t look good at all. So, the squared Live Tiles nicely blend in with the Lumia 925’s acute corners, and, whatever your favorite color of choice is for the OS, they just float beautifully on the absolute black that the Lumia 925’s display delivers.
Windows Phone (our version is the Lumia Amber software release, Windows Phone 8.0.10327.77) is as fluid as it always is and was. We experienced no hiccups, lag, or slowdown in our time with the Lumia 925. But then again, Windows Phone is, as we all know it, standardized across OEMs and devices, so that’s not really a surprise since the changes and additions Nokia bundled aren’t that deep.
That being said, there are Nokia specific titles pre-loaded on the phone. App Highlights is one of them, an application that suggests titles from the Windows Phone store, but it is rather limiting, and we very much prefer the operating system’s own Store application. It now has around 150,000 software titles in it.
The Here Suite comes pre-installed containing Here City Lens, Here Drive+ Beta, and Here Maps, all very useful for online (and offline navigation). Maps are downloadable in order to avoid roaming costs while abroad, and City Lens makes it easy to discover places while overlaying labels in real time, augmented reality-style, on what the camera sees and displays on the screen.
Cinemagraph is also present alongside Creative Studio for easy photo filter application and manipulation. Nokia Care brings tips and tricks as well as help to your fingertips and Photo Beamer enables you to send images using the online service.
Nokia Smart Cam is a Camera application lens that unleashes the Lumia 925. It took most of the focus at the official presentation in London, and it offers the user a lot of options to generate special images (very much like on the HTC One, or Samsung Galaxy S 4). It works by shooting not one, but an entire sequence of stills. It then uses that sequence to generate different results. You can pick the best shot out of the entire sequence, create an Action Shot, or make a Motion Shot. An Action Shot’s composed of several different frames through which a moving object passes, while Motion Shot allows you to select an object and then blur the entire frame to simulate motion, choose the best face for every person in a group, or simply remove unwanted objects, like people passing by in the background.
Nokia Music needs no introduction. It comes pre-loaded on the Lumia 925 and with the app you can listen to mix radios based on artists, albums, or songs, offering you an alternative to Microsoft’s own Xbox Music (ex-Zune), even if the two solutions are slightly different.
Nokia’s special features also extend somewhat deeper into the OS. In the Settings you can enable or disable the Nokia Glance Screen, which will display information like the time, and battery status, for 15 minutes (or always), lighting up just the used pixels of the AMOLED screen. You can also enable or disable the double-tap to wake feature, which is pretty self explanatory. You will still have to slide the lock screen to unlock your phone though.
Sunlight readability can be turned off (it is on by default) and helps in direct sunlight, making information legible on the display. You can also tweak the color profile of your screen (color saturation and color temperature). Last, but not least, you can tinker with the touch sensitivity of the display, setting it to either normal or high (in which case you will not have to take off your gloves in the winter).
Storage Check is also in, offering a graphical representation of how much Apps, Media, and System files take up from your internal storage.
In the end, a final word about the state of Windows Phone’s ecosystem. There are close to 150,000 apps already in the Store, and it is growing at a fast pace. The software title problem is no longer a real problem, and you can find most of the applications you are, or might be, using on other platforms. In our particular case we missed some of the apps we were using on a daily basis. To name a few: Google+ and, generally, Google apps (but we understand the delicate situation between the two companies), Facebook Pages Manager, our preferred food and workout tracking application, and we just can’t get over the fact that almost two-years later there is still no decent YouTube app (though Microsoft tried just recently, until the takedown notice from Google — after which both companies hinted that they might collaborate on an “approved” client).
Then, there’s still the missing Instagram app (not that I’d personally ever use it, but many of you out there do). Sure, there are alternatives and we’re yet to see the Oggl app that was announced together with the Lumia 925 at launch (that also posts to Instagram).
The camera on the Lumia 925 is slightly improved over the one on the Lumia 920. The sensor is the same, but Nokia has added a sixth lens for even better images. In bright, sunny, outdoors conditions, it generates good images (though there are phones that manage to capture even more detail, like the Samsung Galaxy S 4 for instance), but where the Lumia 925 really shines is low-light performance (where it managed to beat even HTC’s Ultrapixel camera on the HTC One).
The unit is a PureView (stage two) 8.7-megapixel shooter with Carl Zeiss lens, and optical image stabilization. Nokia has also bundled its own Smart Camera app to bring shooting modes to Windows Phone that are present on Android phones, and we applaud Nokia for that.
Take a look at the samples below and let them speak for themselves.
There were no issues with the Lumia 925. It really can’t get any smoother, though resuming some apps might require you to wait a couple of seconds until content refreshes or app resumes. However, for the benchmark addicts among you, the Nokia Lumia 925 scored 232.11 in WPBench, compared to 234.73 on Lumia 928. These scores are pretty much comparable to other Windows Phones.
In normal, day-to day usage, flipping through screens, scrolling in the browser, going through settings, launching apps, and other usual activities, are buttery smooth, and we have nothing to complain about.
The 2,000mAh battery inside the Lumia 925 will grant you a full day’s worth of juice. However, if you are heavy on the camera, music, games, or anything else, really, you might need to recharge the device towards the end of the day. If benchmarks are any indication, the battery inside the Lumia 925 was good for 2:56:46 hours in WPBench.
Our typical usage scenario included five-to-ten short voice calls initiated and received, same amount of text messages, some Facebook IMs, about ten emails received and just as many sent, moderate web browsing, about 15 minutes of gameplay, some music streaming, a short, 15-minute session of GPS navigation, as well as taking 10-20 pictures. We started our day off at six in the morning and at midnight we were still good to go for three more hours.
On our next attempt the second day, we almost doubled the above usage and the battery died on us shortly before 11pm.
Call Quality/Network Performance
Voice calls sound great on the Lumia 925. The earpiece has high-quality sound to it (though lacking some lows), and the microphone does a nice job at both picking up your voice, as well as canceling ambient noise. People told us we were sounding great. We know they did.
We have tested the Nokia Lumia 925 in the metro area of Oradea, BH, Romania, on carrier Digi.Mobil. The Lumia 925 did a great job of picking up an extra bar of signal where the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S 4 were only displaying three. This generated overall higher speeds in that particular location, but once outside, we barely saw it drop below the maximum. Data speeds maxed out almost at the peak (of what the carrier was offering) but never dragged under 5Mbps, unless indoors, where 3Mbps was the average
+ beautiful design
+ excellent screen
+ great camera
+ fluid, smooth, performance
+ good earpiece sound quality
+ Nokia Here suite
– wobbly, flimsy, squeaky, back cover with slight gaps on the bottom
– only 16GB of internal storage with no expansion options
– dull colors (compared to the other Lumia devices in the family)
– no direct wireless charging options
– Windows Phone still needs more features and apps
Pricing and Availability
The Nokia Lumia 925 will be T-Mobile’s Lumia flagship when it will become available. However, just like with the Lumia 920, Nokia made the Lumia 925 available globally, either unlocked, or on contracts with different carriers in Europe (and not only).
Our review unit set us back £480.00 and we purchased it from Clove.co.uk. That means that the SIM unlocked version goes for about $750 if purchased and imported this way – quite an expensive phone! It will certainly appeal to both Windows Phone and Nokia fans, but at that price point you could be purchasing a flagship Android or the latest iPhone.
However, Windows Phone 8 is soon going to receive an update and we sure hope that 1. it will fix the flaws and close the gap between it and other platforms and 2. Nokia will make the refresh available for the Lumia 925 ASAP.
At the end of the day, if you decide to go for the Lumia 925, you are buying the best Windows Phone on the market at the moment, at least until either Samsung or HTC step up their game (and honestly, neither seems to plan on doing so), or Nokia makes it obsolete with the EOS announcement on July 11 (also, there’s the question of when the EOS will become available).
The exceptional in-hand feel, the beautiful design, great screen and camera, coupled with a fluid user experience, make the Lumia 925 a joy to use. And, mark our words: it will attract attention when placed on the usually Android and iPhone-filled table. It will also not disappoint!