Nokia Lumia 928 (Verizon Wireless) review

The Lumia 928 is the best Windows phone yet, but it isn't Verizon's best phone overall.
Photo of Nokia Lumia 928 (Verizon Wireless)

If at first you don’t succeed… Well, that might be a little misleading. Nokia’s Lumia 920 for AT&T has been modestly successful as far as Windows phones are concerned. But Nokia is trying again with the $99.99 Lumia 928 for Verizon Wireless. It’s almost the exact same phone as the 920, except it’s been fitted with a new, lighter design, and improved low-light camera performance. The Lumia 920 was arguably the best Windows phone on the market, so there’s no doubt the Lumia 928 now holds the title. It’s a well-priced alternative to Android and Apple, but it’s still not the best phone on Verizon.

Design and Call Quality
If the Lumia 920 is flat-out humongous, then the Lumia 928 is just really big. Whereas the 920 weighs in at a whopping 6.53 ounces, the 928 is somewhat more reasonable at 5.71 ounces. That’s still a lot heavier than the 4.6-ounce Samsung Galaxy S 4—which is not only lighter, but has a much bigger screen than the Lumia 928. And it’s nearly two full ounces heavier than Apple’s 4-ounce iPhone 5, though that phone has a smaller screen. But there’s no way around it—the Lumia 928 is a big phone. At 5.24 by 2.71 by 0.44 inches (HWD), you can still hold and operate it with just one hand, but there’s a lot of excess bezel around the display at every angle.

Nokia has traded the matte polycarbonate of the Lumia 920 for a high-gloss finish. I miss the matte, which has a much more sumptuous, luxe feel. But I especially miss all of the fun colors, like red, blue, and yellow. The Lumia 928 is only available in black or white.

The rolled edges of the 920 have been replaced with much sharper angles—you can even stand the 928 up vertically if you choose to do so. The headphone jack is at the top left of the phone, while the micro USB jack is next to it in the center. On the right side you’ll find Volume, Power, and Camera buttons. I would’ve preferred the buttons be broken up differently, as I kept pressing the Volume button when I meant to press Power. There’s no memory card slot, and the 2,000mAh battery is sealed in. I got 9 hours and 32 minutes of talk time, which is very close to what we saw on the Lumia 920, which has the same battery. Also like the 920, the 928 has features wireless charging, but you need to purchase a separate (wired) charging pad in order to use it.

The Lumia 920′s 4.5-inch IPS LCD has been replaced by a 4.5-inch OLED panel. It has the same 1,280-by-768-pixel resolution, and the same 334-pixels-per-inch screen density. The main difference is that OLED looks even richer, though I don’t dig the PenTile pixel layout, which can cause text and images to appear fuzzy if you look closely. But the phone is much more readable outside than many of its competitors.

The Lumia 928 supports a ton of frequency bands, so you can connect to global HSPA+ and LTE networks if Verizon has roaming agreements with those carriers. The phone also has 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz and faster 5GHz bands, along with Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, and NFC. Reception was decent and 4G LTE data speeds in Manhattan were on par with what we’ve been seeing lately.

This is a great phone if you like to talk. Incoming calls get very loud and sound clear, with a real richness and warmth. The same goes for calls made with the phone, which were easy to hear even when made from an area with lots of construction noise in the background. The speakerphone is borderline loud enough to hear outside, and calls sounded great over a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset. I had no trouble triggering Microsoft’s voice command software, which works fine for making calls, but is no match for Apple’s Siri.

Windows Phone 8 and Apps
The Lumia 928 uses the same 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 processor as the 920, not to mention the Lumia 822, the HTC 8X, and the Samsung Ativ Odyssey. In short, there isn’t much variation among any of the Windows phones. That’s mostly thanks to Microsoft, which runs a much tighter ship with Windows Phone than Google does with its open-source Android. That’s good for quality assurance, but bad for innovation. Either way, benchmark scores on this phone were on par with other WP8 devices.

Windows Phone 8 is a quick, minimalist operating system built around a series of live tiles on your home screen. The tiles continuously pull information from social networks, the Internet, messages, and local content stored on your phone, which is both useful and fun. Of particular note is the People Hub, which pulls together your contacts from different sources—like email, Facebook, and Twitter—and presents you with all of your social-networking updates in one place. It’s more flexible than Apple’s iOS, but less than Google’s Android. For a closer look at WP8, you can read our full review.

The biggest difference among Windows phones lies in the included apps, which is where Nokia once had a leg up on the competition. When the Lumia 920 came out, most of Nokia’s proprietary apps were exclusive to Nokia Phones. Now Nokia is serving up those apps for all WP8 phones in the Windows Phone store, though they come preloaded on the 928. Nokia is doing this in order to acquire more user-generated data for a better overall experience, though it claims the apps themselves work best on Lumia devices.

(Next page: Camera and Conclusions)

Nokia Drive+ Beta offers voice-enabled turn-by-turn GPS navigation. Here Maps is a very attractive set of interactive maps, and Here City Lens is an augmented reality app that places nearby points of interest over your camera’s view. Nokia Music allows you to buy music or listen to premade playlists for free. Data Sense is exclusive to Verizon, and is a great data monitoring app. It shows you how much data you’ve used (and where), and warns you when you get close to your monthly limit.

The Windows Phone store is home to over 100,000 apps. The selection is improving all the time, but it still lags behind what you’ll find on Android and iOS. You can find many of the same popular apps you can get on iOS or Android, like Netflix and Temple Run. But if you search for newer apps and games at the top of the Android and iOS charts, you’re far less likely to find them available for Windows Phone as well.

Camera
The Lumia 920 has a very good camera, but we weren’t in love with its low-light performance. Nokia has paid special attention to that this time around, and I’m happy to say that the Lumia takes some of the best low-light photos we’ve seen from a phone.

The Lumia 928 actually has the same 8.7-megapixel sensor as the Lumia 920, and takes the same 3,552-by-2,000 images. Compared with other top shooters like the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S 4, the Lumia 928 holds its own. It doesn’t capture quite as much detail as either of those cameras, and it struggled a bit with dynamic range. In a sunny shot taken between city buildings outside, the 928 didn’t blow out any of the high-light areas, but low-light portions of the photo were underexposed. That said, the camera captures a good amount of detail, and colors appear more saturated here than on any of the other camera phones we tested. That’s likely due to software processing; I like it, but the rich hues may not be to your taste if you prefer a more naturalistic look.

Where the Lumia 928 really excels, however, is in low-light performance. With no flash and minimal background lighting, the phone took far superior photos to the iPhone 5, Galaxy S 4, and the HTC One. With the blinding Xenon flash turned on, the 928 won out yet again, capturing the most usable photos of the bunch. The flash did cause some white details in the background to blow out a bit, but overall, it’s a small price to pay. My only real complaint is shutter speed. It takes nearly a full second capture a photo from the time you press the shutter button.

Nokia has added Smart Shoot, which is pretty awesome. It fires off a series of five shots (it still takes about a second to capture each photo), then lets you erase objects or change faces once you’ve found the best photo. So if you manage to snap the perfect group shot, except someone’s eyes are closed, you can just swap their head out for a photo taken right before, eyes wide, smiling into the camera. And it really works.

The video camera records sharp 1080p video at a smooth 30 frames per second, and really great optical image stabilization makes for preternaturally smooth shots. I noticed some color distortion while adjusting to new lighting indoors, but in general, videos look great. The 1.2-megapixel front camera takes decent, but unimpressive self-portraits and captures 720p video.

Multimedia and Conclusions
The Lumia 928 comes with 23.76GB of free internal storage. There’s no space for a microSD card, so that’s all you get.

All Windows phones have the same multimedia support. As mentioned above, you also get Nokia Music, and the Lumia 928 is a capable multimedia machine overall. Music sounds great through both wired and Bluetooth headphones. And video really pops on the super saturated screen. The speaker on the back of phone gets pretty loud, but sounds noticeably tinny. And its placement at the bottom middle of the phone makes it easy to cover with your hand.

For $100, the Nokia Lumia 928 is a lot of phone, both literal and figurative. I do wish it were smaller still, like the just-announced Lumia 925, but you’re getting plenty of bang for your buck here. The biggest question is how much you care about apps. The Lumia 928 is competitive in many ways with some of the best smartphones available, but it just can’t keep up when it comes to apps.

If you like the Windows Phone OS, don’t care so much about apps, and are looking to get a new phone on Verizon, the Lumia 928 is a great choice. It’s a lot more exciting than the Lumia 822 or the Samsung Ativ Odyssey, and has a better camera and bigger screen than the HTC 8X. But all other smartphone buyers may first want to take a look at the iPhone 5, Galaxy S 4, and HTC Droid DNA (or the HTC One, if you’re shopping around on a different carrier). Each of these phones offer many of the same features as the Lumia 928, along with faster processors, lighter builds, and a much more impressive selection of third-party apps.

Specifications
Phone Capability / Network GSM, CDMA, UMTS, LTE
Screen Resolution 1280 x 768 pixels
NFC Yes
Dimensions 5.24 x 2.71 x 0.44 inches
802.11x/Band(s) 802.11 a/b/g
Video Camera Resolution 1080p Rear
720p Front-Facing
Battery Life (As Tested) 9 hours 32 minutes
Available Integrated Storage 23.76 GB
Processor Speed 1.5 GHz
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 Dual-Core
GPS Yes
Service Provider Verizon Wireless
Total Integrated Storage 32 GB
High-Speed Data EVDO Rev A, LTE, CDMA 1X
Weight 5.71 oz
Screen Type PureMotion OLED
Operating System as Tested Windows Phone 8
Physical Keyboard No
Camera Resolution 8.7 MP Rear
1.2 MP Front-Facing
Colors Available Black
White
Screen Pixels Per Inch 334 ppi
Bands 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100, 700
microSD Slot No
Form Factor Candy Bar
Screen Size 4.5 inches
Bluetooth Version 3

Verdict
The Lumia 928 is the best Windows phone yet, but it isn't Verizon's best phone overall.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc