To date, options have been sparse for CDMA users in search of a truly high-end Windows Phone.
The most high-end Windows Phones Verizon has offered are the Nokia Lumia 928, and the Windows Phone 8X by HTC. Sprint has the HTC 8XT and Samsung ATIV S Neo.
There have been a few other forgettable models offered by the two CDMA carriers here in the States, but CDMA subscribers have not been treated to a truly spectacular, boundary breaking Windows Phone handset … ever.
Nokia and Verizon Wireless want to change that. The two companies came together to produce the Lumia Icon, a rough mixture of a Lumia 1020 and 1520 with a brand new look. How does the Lumia Icon stack up to its Windows Phone brethren and its biggest foes? We’ve spent a total of eight days testing a probing the Lumia Icon. Our full take on the latest Nokia device is below!
Video quality with the Lumia Icon was also rather impressive. Colors were notably more saturated in video capture, and it appeared slightly warmer. The optical image stabilization helped in reducing jittery footage, but it did case some warping to occur when walking or being extra shaky.
The audio quality is one of the most impressive aspects of the Lumia Icon. In fact, we recorded 100 percent of the audio for our video review entirely with the Lumia Icon. Unfortunately, a bug in Final Cut Pro X caused the audio to clip excessively. The raw audio was far more impressive, as you can see in the untouched clip above.
The front-facing camera isn’t anything terribly impressive, but it does its job just fine – blurry selfies and low-res video calls. At least you’ll sound great during those calls, if nothing else.
The Snapdragon 800 SoC, as we’ve seen countless times now, is an impressive piece of kit. Pair that with the already-smooth performance of Windows Phone, and its polish is only multiplied.
Truthfully, most users will never see the benefits of running the Snapdragon 800 over, say a Snapdragon S4, in day to day performance. In our comparison with the Lumia 1020, we found the Icon and 1020 to be comparable in performance. The Icon edged out the 1020 through things like synthetic benchmarks and gaming, as the Adreno 330 GPU brings some much improved gaming capabilities. Unfortunately, without a ton of games to take advantage of such a powerful CPU and GPU combination, the effects of the Icon’s internals are somewhat muted.
Take note, though, that these internals will be very helpful for the future-proofing of Windows Phone and any future games that may come to the OS.
Verizon’s data speeds and coverage here in the Charlotte metro area have been superb. In our testing, we’ve averaged 18.26Mbps down and 10.46Mbps up. The absolute slowest uplink speed we’ve encountered in testing was 7.43Mbps, and the fastest was 12.08. The fastest downlink was 22.56Mbps and the slowest was still impressive at 13.19Mbps.
Call quality was also great. The four-microphone array made voice quality on our end super clear, cutting out a significant amount of background noise. The earpiece speaker could be a tad louder, but we generally had no trouble hearing callers, and everyone said we sounded great and rather clear.
On the topic of speaker quality, though, the rear speaker could definitely use some more oomph. The opening around back is quite small, and the output itself is very tinny with little low-end. It should suffice for watching videos and other multimedia, but we’d suggest plugging in some headphones for a better music listening experience.
Battery life on the Lumia Icon has been stellar. We’ve been putting it through some abuse over the last week, doing heavy testing throughout our comparisons, and snapping roughly 80 or more photos each day, syncing three Gmail accounts, two Twitter accounts, two Instagram accounts, and several feeds. We’ve benchmarked, web browsed, and gamed, and we have yet to kill the Lumia Icon in a single day. We won’t say it isn’t possible, but on a standard day, you shouldn’t need to plug the Lumia Icon in to make it through a full day of usage, though you may want to top off before going out to a late dinner or other festivities in the late afternoon.
+ Gorgeous 5-inch 1080p display
+ Fantastic build quality
+ One of the best camera experiences to date
+ Solid call quality and impressive data speeds
+ Above average battery life
– Ecosystem and app offering still need work
– Mediocre speaker performance
– No Glance feature
Pricing and Availability
The Lumia Icon launched on Verizon Wireless here in the States on February 20 for $199.99 with a two-year agreement. You can also get the Lumia Icon on the Edge program for $23.06 per month for 24 months. Sans contract, the Lumia Icon will set you back $549.99.
If we’re to be completely honest, the Lumia Icon is easily one of the most solid experiences we’ve ever had with a smartphone. Battery life, performance, camera, call quality, data speeds, and nearly everything in-between are consistent, reliable, and above par.
Not everyone will be on board with the understated, minimal, and boxy design. But it’s impossible to overlook the sheer quality in the handset. It’s undeniably premium, and that’s immediately clear when you pick the device up for the first time.
The biggest disappointment remains to be the Windows Phone ecosystem. It’s gradually improving, but at a snail’s pace, compared to the growth of Android’s and iOS’s digital content offerings – apps, games, movies, music, books, etc.
If you can deal with the growing pains of the Windows Phone ecosystem, the Lumia Icon is a serious competitor to some of the best handsets on the market today. Its image sensing capabilities are truly inspiring, and performance is impeccable.
If you’re a CDMA user and you’ve been holding out for a serious Windows Phone handset, this is the phone you’ve been waiting for.