T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 925 Review: Finally a great Windows Phone for T-Mobile users
While you may have already seen our review of the international version of the Nokia Lumia 925, a special version made for T-Mobile USA was recently released. This marks the first time that T-Mobile really has a good high-end Windows Phone to offer its customers. As the model number would indicate, the Lumia 925 has a lot of similarities to the Lumia 920 that’s been available on AT&T for quite a while as well as the Lumia 928 which is available on Verizon in the US. T-Mobile’s Nokia Lumia 925 finally brings the carrier up to speed with the amazing technological advancements that AT&T and Verizon users have been enjoying with the other 92X series Nokia Lumia Windows Phones. There certainly are some differences between the 925 and the other 92X series phones, so be sure to check out our full review of the international version of the Nokia Lumia 925 for all of the meat about this device. This review will focus a bit more on what’s different with the T-Mobile version, and we’ll also take a look at the optional wireless charging shell available for the Lumia 925.
Video · Specs · Hardware · Software · Camera · Performance · Battery Life · Call/Network · Pricing/Availability · Conclusion · Scored For Me
Compared to the other Lumia 92x series phones, you’ll 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 and the battery is still a non-removable, 2,000mAh unit. Unfortunately, the on-board storage is still non-expandable via microSD card. 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.
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.
FM Radio is back! Plug your headphones in to get that antenna going.
Other specifications include Bluetooth 3.0, WiFi a/b/g/n, a magnetometer, A-GPS, A-GLONASS, FM radio reciever and NFC. 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 design of the Nokia Lumia 925 has made a pretty big departure from the older Nokia Lumia 800, 900, 920, and 928. No longer is the body a single polycarbonate shape with flat ends at the top and bottom. Nor is the camera flush with the body.
Instead, the Lumia 925 is a completely new design with an aluminum rim all around the edges. These metal pieces are the antennae, but in practice the reception seems a bit weaker than previous Nokia Lumia phones on T-Mobile.
At the top you’ve got the handset speaker along with some sensors, and a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera for HD Skype video calls. Then you’ve got a large 4.5-inch PureMotion HD+ AMOLED sscreen with print quality pixel density that makes everything look very smooth. Outdoor visibility is great and there’s a new Glance mode option that’s been resurrected from some of Nokia’s older Symbian phones.
On the right side there’s a series of thin metal buttons protruding from the edge for activating the camera, power, and volume up or down. The buttons are very easy to find with your fingers and they’ve got the perfect amount of tactile feedback.
On the bottom there’s nothing but a metal rim…
Just like on the left side.
On the top is the 3.5-millimeter headset jack, MicroUSB jack and a flush little drawer for the MicroSIM card.
On the back is the 8.7 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, a Carl Zeiss lens, and a dual LED flash.
There’s also a speaker grill towards the bottom along with three metal contact points for the wireless charging shell accessories. The speaker has two little plastic bumps that keep it elevated a bit when laying on a table.
If you get a wireless charging shell, the speaker sound will be rerouted out the bottom through this little carved-out area.
The Nokia Lumia 925 feels very thin, which is especially good in the pocket, but not so great for holding with your hand. (Thanks to Day Lys for demonstrating pocket-ability above.) The rounded metal edges are a bit too thin and slippery. To fix this, I added the wireless charging shell which added some thickness as well as increased the grip area for a more comfortable hold. The wireless charging shell covers the back and corners of the device giving a bit more protection to the corners which could be very susceptible to dings when dropped.
The wireless charging shells aren’t available in the U.S.A. yet, so I hard to order a few from the U.K. I couldn’t stand the 5 days I spent with the Lumia 925 with no wireless charging capabilities.
Most of our Windows Phone 8 coverage can already be found in our full Windows Phone 8 review. That’s where you’ll get the most meat about the software on the Nokia Lumia 925 and we’ve covered many of the Nokia customizations in our review of the international version. So be sure to check that out as well. However there are a few differences in the T-Mobile version which we’ll look at here. Naturally T-Mobile has bundled a few T-Mobile branded apps with the 925. Some may be more useful than others.
Regarding the Lumia 925’s GDR2 update of Windows Phone 8, there are still some bugs that haven’t been fixed. For example, the photos hub will still only load the first 100 photos in each album and if you get comment notifications for photos beyondn that 100 count, you won’t be able to read them in the integrated interface. Xbox Music also has not seen any improvements. Streaming music or downloading songs via Xbox Music Pass can still cause some excessive performance slow-downs or application crashes. On the other hand, Nokia has added some storage check settings panels that allow you more granular control of storage usage along with easy access to clearing out temporary files (such as copies of photos uploaded to SkyDrive).
The T-Mobile addition that’s probably the most useful is the Wi-Fi calling feature. This lets you connect to T-Mobile’s network using your own Wi-Fi infrastructure as opposed to depending on the cell towers. That means you can make phone calls and send text messages from areas with no reception at all. Unfortunately, the reliability can be a bit lacking so I would keep this feature turned off when not needed. If you do use it, be sure to make the WiFi calling live tile on your start screen the full width size so that you can see error messages. I didn’t have my 911 address set up initially and I couldn’t figure out why WiFi calling wasn’t working properly until looking at the live tile in its largest size.
The My Account app is good to keep around for tracking your usage, though the live tile no longer shows data usage which is the only aspect of T-Mobile accounts that isn’t unlimited these days. You’ll have to dig into the app to find that.
The T-Mobile version of the Lumia 925 also includes Data Sense. This is a new feature that lets you monitor what applications are using the most data and it can automatically restrict background data usage when you’re near your data usage limit.
Another extremely cool feature of the Data Sense app which also shows up in the Wi-Fi Settings area is an option to map nearby Wi-Fi hotspots. This allows you to see different locatiosn for public Wi-Fi hotspots that you can travel to and then connect for your internet access needs. Of course, it needs some kind of internet access in order to download the map locations, but maybe you can memorize the locations and hop from one to the other as you go.
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. The unit is a PureView (stage two) 8.7-megapixel shooter with Carl Zeiss lens, and optical image stabilization. You get a lot of fun apps and camera lenses from Nokia to use with the Lumia 925, but the Pro Cam app from the Lumia 1020 is not initially available. This camera lens for quality manual controls is expected to be coming to the Lumia 925 later on. By the way, the Lumia 925, does have the Settings > Applications> Photos+Camera option to set the default camera app. Currently you can choose to go straight to the Nokia Smart Cam app, but hopefully the Pro Cam will be available soon.
Take a look at the samples below for some fairly impressive imagining quality.
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… except for Xbox Music. That’s where things get frustratingly slow. It seems like every time you want to access some music in the store it has to go out on the internet to recheck your permissions for streaming/downloading and this takes forever. Furthermore, sometimes it doesn’t do the check properly and streaming doesn’t work. The Zune days were so much better for music on Windows Phone.
In terms of battery life, we found the Lumia 925’s 2,000mAh battery to be satisfactory. If you’re looking for more quantitative battery test results, you’ll find them already in our review of the international version. Before we got the WiFi calling set up correctly the battery was dying very quickly. As mentioned before, be sure to pin the WiFi Calling live tile to your start screen and make it its largest size so that you can see the error messages. Or else, just leave it turned off when not necessary. Of course, the battery life depends on what apps you’re using and all of the options you may have turned on or off, but for the most part We’ve been able to get through about 8-10 hours without issue. That should do okay for a device that doesn’t have a removable battery. After buying a wireless charging shell, we’ve become much less worried about battery life since it recharges every time we set the phone down. Still for those long weekends in the wilderness, we wish we could keep a spare battery in my wallet.
Call Quality/Network Performance
Voice calls sound great on the Lumia 925 and it even supports HD voice calls if the other person you’re talking to also has HD voice calling support. 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.
Unfortunately, while testing the Lumia 925 in Westchester New York, Connecticut, and central Massachusetts, we found T-Mobile’s LTE coverage to be extremely sparse. The Lumia 925 doesn’t seem to support 3G on T-Mobile so if there wasn’t a 4G HSDPA or LTE tower nearby, it would drop to 2G. On the other hand, in New York City where there is LTE coverage sometimes, the speed is often in the 15Mb/s download and upload range. That’s about 3 times faster than AT&T’s LTE network in the same area.
+ beautiful design
+ excellent screen
+ great camera
+ fluid, smooth, performance
+ Wi-Fi calling
+ Nokia software (HERE Suite, Nokia Music, Augmented reality apps, Glance mode, etc.)
– thin, slippery edges make the phone easy to drop
– only 16GB of internal storage with no expansion options
– wireless charging shells are not widely available
– non-removable battery
– white color option is the only one available on T-Mobile USA
Pricing and Availability
The Nokia Lumia 925 is available from T-Mobile USA on the web as well as in the stores. Since T-Mobile doesn’t do contracts anymore, you can either pay for the phone up front for $528 or you can add a payment plan to your regular service plan: $22 per month for 24 months. If you choose the payment plan option, while T-Mobile says it’s $0 down to get the phone, you actually have to pay the sales tax for the price of the entire device right away. It’s also available from the Microsoft Store if you’d rather get Microsoft’s special insurance for the phone, however the online price is much higher than T-Mobile’s price. Some brick & mortar Microsoft stores may price match for you though. The Lumia 925 is also available from a number of other retailers.
Wireless charging shells are a bit more difficult to find. We had to order ours from the UK via Amazon. At least they’re still much easier to get than the wireless charging shells for T-Mobile’s previous Nokia Lumia 810.
Our final rating is going to be an 8.3 out of 10. The hardware, the metallic design, the screen, the camera, the sound quality, the video stabilization, and Nokia’s custom apps are all extremely impressive. The only negatives for me are really the lack of user-replaceable battery and excessive thinness. Everything else on this phone is top notch. That is to say until the Nokia Lumia 1020 became available on AT&T. The Lumia 1020, of course, blows away the camera quality on the Lumia 925 and every other smartphone out there, but still… if you really like T-Mobile’s prices and you really like Windows Phone 8 along with a gorgeous design and OIS camera, the Lumia 925 is a great choice.