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printed October 20, 2014
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Review: Nokia Lumia 820 for AT&T

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Media

The 820, like all Windows Phone devices, uses Microsoft's XBox Hub and storefront for entertainment and media. The XBox Hub includes gaming, music, and video. It's a decent app to help score some entertainment, but you'll need to use desktop software to sync your music to the device.

Nokia Music, which is exclusive to to Nokia's Windows Phones, is on board as well. Nokia Music is separate from XBox. It has its own store through which music can be purchased, and offers a wide variety of streamed radio stations, personalized recommendations, and the ability to browse through local concerts.

 

Nokia Music

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The 820 also includes AT&T U-verse TV, which is a for-pay service that's streamed over the network, and AT&T Radio, which is a free, streamed radio service. YouTube is not included, but there are several YouTube apps in the Windows Phone Store.

I didn't have any trouble with these services at all. Music sounded good and videos looked good.

Camera

The camera launches fast with a long press of the dedicated button, even when the phone is locked. It is dead-simple software that is easy to master. The menus and controls are all self-explanatory and work well.

The 820, like all WP8 phones, supports “Lenses”. Lenses for the camera are third-party plug-in apps that perform specific actions with the camera. Nokia offers several of its own lenses, which are not available to other WP8 devices. Oddly, the 820 doesn't ship with any Lenses preinstalled. You have to download them from the Windows Phone Store. The ones developed by Nokia include Smart Shot, Cinemagraph, and Panorama.

Using any of the Lenses requires a few extra steps, but that's not unlike other devices that offer special shooting modes.

The camera allows users to adjust scenes, ISO, white balance, and aspect ratio, but not resolution. It's stuck at 8 megapixels. This is kind of odd.

 

Camera

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Photos

Carl Zeiss optics help the 820 take razor sharp images. While focus was good, the 820 appeared to have the same white balance problem I noticed on the Lumia 810. Exposure was usually accurate, though, and shots taken out under the sun looked particularly good. Indoor shots have a lot of grain.

 

Photos

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Video

The 1080p HD video that I captured with the 820 was good. As with regular pictures, the video was in focus and well exposed. White balance was only rarely a problem. Most of the time, the 820 gets everything right, which results in video you'll want to share.

Picture Hub

The Windows Phone Pictures Hub is a central repository for all the photos in your life. It pulls in all the photos from your social networks and stores them in one spot for perusing and sharing. I found it quite easy to shuffle my images between folders, as well as post them to social networks or send them up to SkyDrive for safe keeping.

The People Hub lets you crop and rotate images, but Nokia's Creative Studio takes things a little bit further. The Creative Studio app is sort of like Instagram in that it lets users apply various filters and effects to change the tone/appearance of their photos.

 

Gallery

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Apps

AT&T can't help but cram seven apps onto the 820, and the include the usual suspects (myATT, Navigator, etc.). Nearly all the apps on the 820 can be deleted if you want to get rid of them. Beyond what's included, the Windows Phone Store offers plenty of cool apps for the 820.

Bluetooth

The 820's Bluetooth radio worked just as it should. It paired with everything. Sound quality of calls through my car's hands-free system was quite good, but I had to crank the volume to hear them. Music wasn't bad through the stereo speakers, either.

Browser

The stock Windows Phone browser is Internet Explorer 10. When paired with AT&T's LTE and HSPA+ networks, I find it to be a quick browser that does a good job of rendering web pages. It doesn't have quite the feature list that the Android and iOS browsers do, but it still offers plenty of features (multiple tabs, sharing pages, pinning sites to Start scree) to keep Lumia 820 owners happy when surfing.

 

Browser

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Clock

The 820 has a nice digital clock on the lock screen. It also displays the day of the week and the date. I wish the clock were bigger. It’s easy to see outdoors, though.

GPS

The GPS radio of the 820 itself performs flawlessly. It pinpointed me quickly and accurately no matter where I was. The phone comes with both AT&T Navigator (costs $10/month) and Nokia's full line-up of map-based apps (all free).

Nokia Maps (which is being rebranded as “Here”) offers a wealth of features that go head-to-head with the best that Google Maps offers on Android handsets and the iPhone. It helps users manage locations, share points of interest, and route directions. Some of the others include Nokia Drive and Nokia Transit. These are individual apps that perform specific functions. Nokia Drive plots point-to-point driving directions, while Nokia Transit helps manage mass transit route planning.

 

Maps

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Nokia City Lens

Nokia City Lens is an augmented reality application for finding nearby points of interest. It works in concert with the camera. You pan the camera around and the app shows you what's in the vicinity. It is easy to pick one of the shops or restaurants it finds to pull up more information and/or details about it.

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