Review: Nokia Lumia 928 for Verizon Wireless
The 928, 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 (especially since there's no sideloading via microSD).
Nokia Music, which is exclusive 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. I like the concert discovery tool.
The 928 also includes Verizon's NFL mobile app, which lets owners watch football games, as well as get scores and news. Since we're in the offseason, most of the content in the NFL app is related to the recent draft and other developments in the league. YouTube is not included, but there are several third-party 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.
The camera launches with a long press of the dedicated button, even when the phone is locked. It’s dead-simple software that’s easy to master. The menus and controls are all self-explanatory and work well.
I found the camera opened quickly and was ready to take the first image in less than 3 seconds. The shutter button itself requires some finessing. As noted earlier, the stages are hard to tell apart. If you're really gentle with the button, you'll be able to focus before firing the shutter.
The 928, 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. A half dozen were preloaded, and they include Cinemagraph (for making animated GIFs), Panorama, Smart Shot (for piecing together group shots in which everyone is smiling and no one is blinking), Bing Vision (for image search), CNN iReport, and PhotoSynth (Microsoft's panorama app).
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.
The 928 has an 8.7-megapixel imager and it does a fairly good job, but it had the same problems I saw on the Lumia 920. White balance was wildly inconsistent (see the landscape shot below). Focus was nearly always spot on, as was exposure. Reds and pinks tended to blow out the sensor, though, even with even lighting. I thought the low-light performance was also a bit mixed (see concert shots below). It's a good camera most of the time, but the inconsistency worries me.
The 1080p HD video I shot had perfect focus. The footage below is razor sharp. I saw a lot of inconsistencies in exposure and white balance, though. You can actually see the white balance change as I pan the 928 around in the video. Aside from the white balance issue, I thought most of the video looked good.
The Windows Phone Pictures Hub acts as Central Command for all your photos. It pulls in all the photos from your social networks (Facebook and LinkedIn) and presents them in one spot for perusing and sharing. I found it quite easy to shuffle my images between albums, as well as post them to social networks or send them up to SkyDrive for safe keeping. You can also bookmark your favorite albums (your own, or those of your friends) so they can be found quickly later.
The Picture 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. Creative Studio was recently updated and it includes some really cool new features, such as the ability to blur the background, or use a tilt-shift adjustment tool to give photos a unique look. As far as tilt-shift tools go, it works pretty well. It has a pretty good feature set for those who like to explore their creative side.
Verizon has made it a pleasant habit to keep bloatware off its Window Phone handsets. The 928 ships with Data Sense (measures monthly data usage), MyVerizon, NFL Mobile, and VZ Navigator. That's it. Everything else is either stock Windows Phone or made by Nokia. Any of the apps can be deleted, and there's plenty of storage space available for downloads from the Windows Phone Store.
I was able to pair the 928's Bluetooth radio with a range of devices with no problems. Calls did not sound all that great when sent to either my car's hands-free system or a regular Bluetooth headset. Volume was the biggest problem, it just doesn't get loud enough. Music sounded quite good through my stereo headphones, though.
Thanks to the solid performance of the 928's LTE data radio, browsing the internet was always a good experience on the 928. Internet Explorer 10 and LTE go together well, and the 928 does a fine job of making web sites look spiffy on the bright display. While IE10 is good at displaying web content, the app itself isn't as feature-rich as the stock Android and iPhone browsers. There are alternatives available in the Windows Phone Store if you're looking for alternatives.
The 928 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.
The GPS radio of the 928 itself performs flawlessly. It pinpointed me quickly and accurately no matter where I was.
As noted earlier, Verizon's VZ Navigator is on board as is Nokia's HERE navigation suite. HERE Maps 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 associated apps 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. Part of me wishes these apps were all combined into one, but I understand that keeping them separate gives each more focus.
Some of the useful tools on board most Windows Phones - the 928 included - are SkyDrive, Office, and OneNote. SkyDrive is Microsoft's cloud storage service. All WP8 devices have access to 7GB of online storage for free. It is accessed online via your Outlook/Hotmail account. You can set SkyDrive up to automatically upload your photos for safekeeping, as well as store documents and so on. Office needs no introduction, as it is Microsoft's age-old productivity suite. On the 928, you can open/edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, as well as sync them to your personal (or corporate) computers. OneNote is Microsoft's extensive note-taking and -managing app. It functions similar to EverNote.
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’s easy to pick one of the shops or restaurants it finds and pull up more information and/or details about it.