Feeds

Nokia Lumia 925: The best Windows Phone yet

But is it good enough to win back the market?

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

What's new in the Windows GDR2 'Amber' bundle?

The 925 also sees the debut of the latest minor revision to Windows 8 Phone: GDR, which with some new Nokia enhancements gets the marketing-friendly moniker of the ‘Amber Update’. All WP8-based Lumias will receive this in the next few weeks.

Microsoft additions include a data counter (allowing you to monitor and cap mobile network data usage) called Data Sense and a Wi-Fi hotspot finder. CalDAV and CardDAV have been added, which is fairly vital to accessing your Google contacts and calendar. And FM radio support has been restored – it went AWOL in Windows Phone 8. All Nokia’s WP8 devices bar the 520 have an FM radio, and now you can use it. GDR2 also includes a Wi-Fi hotspot finder, although as you can see from the screen grab, a little more on screen information would be handy.

Nokia's Amber update rolls up the Windows Phone 8 GDR2 update with Nokia's own additions, such as Colour Profiles (right).

GDR2 includes a data counter and data-capper.

Left: the Wi-Fi hotspot finder, right: Nokia's continues to improve its Accessories support

Nokia’s big addition is a new camera app and a standby clock, Glance. All this does is tell you the time when the phone is in standby, and allow you to unlock with a double tap. It’s very much a beta effort: the only option available is to mute the colour at set hours, or turn it off altogether.

This is all a bit of a comedown after using the Symbian 808 PureView, which has a wonderful standby screen, offering a shimmering display of very slowly, subtly changing backgrounds which are actually quite informative – you’d know if you’d missed a call or received a text. Nokia also adds colour profiles into its Amber update.

Nokia continues to throw in its own suite of ever-improving apps, including the exclusive streaming music service Nokia Music, and less-exclusive HERE+ Maps and HERE+ Drive, which offers turn-by-turn navigation. The latter two are available to all Windows Phone licensees. Maps is excellent, lacking only the StreetView integration of Google Maps and until now, a compass in the main map app. The iPhone has had compass-orientation in its Maps since 2009. Nokia’s rather gimmicky City Lens augmented reality overlay is now folded into the main Maps app. More usefully the excellent "Transit" or "Transport" app – a best-in-class public transport app – is not bundled, but is available as a free download.

Apple paid Windows Phone a backhanded compliment last week by remodelling iOS7 on the Modern UI: text labels replace buttons across the user interface. However, while iOS looks like Windows Phone, it doesn’t really work much like it. The WP UI may look like it was designed by a self-indulgent graphic designer, its real strengths are very practical: in the interaction design, making the phone simple and consistent to use, which is all built on a rock solid foundation ensuring good battery life and reliability.

There are disadvantages to entering the game late, though. The Windows Phone application store reflects a market almost entirely split between iPhone and Android.

Things are improving, steadily but slowly.

Not everyone is looking for that Long Tail, merely a modern reliable phone that’s easy to use, doesn’t require constant monitoring or maintenance, excels at one or two features such as photography and maps, has a smattering of the essentials. The 925 fits that bill.

The phone that goes Roamin' in the Gloamin'

The 925’s imaging system hardware uses extra hardware, commonly found in dedicated shooters and cams, to steady the shot. The camera module floats on springs, while sensors and gyroscopes compensate for wobble before the picture has been captured, or while video is being recorded. Most rivals can only apply smoothing after the picture has been taken, which the 925 does too. In practice this means better results in low-light conditions, and videos are much smoother.

The system has been tweaked a little in the 925, with the addition of an extra lens to the 920, that Nokia says improves daytime photos. As with its fellow flagships, low light photography is quite miraculous – provided you have a steady hand. It’s quite eerie to peer into the "viewfinder" (the display) when you’re taking a photo and see only darkness, then take a picture that’s filled with light and detail. Daylight photos are very good, but less spectacular.

Photos show good depth and detail, on typically overcast London summer’s day it was excellent. But they’re still noticeably softer pictures and prone to white-out than rivals. For dark conditions, high-end ISO is 3200. Of those rivals the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a smaller sensor but its aggressive sharpening algorithms give a casual impression of better quality.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
Jaguar Sportbrake: The chicken tikka masala of van-sized posh cars
Indian-owned Jag's latest offering curries favour with us
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Here's your chance to buy an ancient, working APPLE ONE
Warning: Likely to cost a lot even for a Mac
Xiaomi boss snaps back at Jony Ive's iPhone rival 'theft' swipe
I'll have a handset delivered. Judge us after you try us...
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.