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 Reviews can be so subjective – let’s look at what makes a handset the best.

There are hundreds of choices – candy bar cheapies (usually pre-paid) that are just basic phones (that’s novel – a phone that is just a phone), handsets with added features like brand name speakers (I hardly think hi-fidelity phone speakers are really necessary), phones with internet connectivity and then there are the premium smart phones which millions of Australian have perhaps wrongly embraced as we are a nation of early adopters.

Then there are dozens of different types of users all with specific needs. On an age basis we have early to late school age teens (that want an iPhone but lose them too regularly) and cheaper pre-paids are the go. Then Gen Me who are buying their first real phone (parents be warned – you will still pay) and need to be uber cool regardless of having no income to meet the voice and SMS bills let alone data (this group covet iPhones but settle for bright flashy affordable Androids). Then the Gen Y who finally got a job and can barely afford an iPhone on a plan (and only come to mum or dad when they can’t afford to pay the bills). Next is Gen X who by now are getting respectable with jobs, family and responsibilities who need an iPhone to stay connected to work. Surprisingly Baby Boomers are more discerning - many buy iPhones simply because they can afford to but this most diverse group are happy with anything from a Candybar upwards because a handset should primarily make and receive calls and a camera should take photo’s etc. There are specialist users like tradies who want ruggedized phones and have ruined too many iPhones and politicians who want the plausible deniability of BlackBerry.

So no review can claim that the item in question is the best - it can simply point out things that the reviewer likes. For convenience I have used the iPhone as a benchmark (as it deservedly should be and Apple has succeeded in making it so) and features will be compared to i-features.

Reasons Nokia 920 is the best phone I have ever used.

1. It is very nice looking. The lustrous polycarbonate “Ferrari” red and yellow are different in a morass of black or white phones. You can also get lustrous white, matte cyan, matte grey and matte black as well but I don’t think they have ever sold any…  Summary: Impressive, different and desirable and more i-trendy than most others (close runner up is HTC 8X in purple, yellow and red). i-covers can make your phone look like the Nokia.

2. Size does matter and 4.5” is Mr Big (although not the biggest) – it is eminently usable, good light sensitivity, better resolution and appearance that the i-retina display and Corning Gorilla Glass is mandatory on a phone of this cost and quality.

3. It has a capable 8.7MP camera and dual LED flash that consistently produced better than i-quality in daylight and flash. The PureView (blur-free touch to focus and shoot in one tap) and optical image stabilisation works well and I love the SmartShoot feature that takes five shots in succession and helps you to compose the best shot. Video capture was good and maintained 30 frames per second at full HD. Like all smartphones optical zoom would be nice but probably would not fit into any standard design.

4. GPS and navigation is vastly superior to i-GPS because Nokia owns Navteq maps and has had a dedicated Nokia-Drive App for a long time. To use this in car you need to have a cradle. But it is nice to see that it works with City Lens that allows you to point the camera at a city scene and find out all the different restaurants, shops and points of interest in the scene – nice feature with loads of potential for the future especially when coupled to voice control.

5. USB is very important as a way to move files (photos especially) to or from your PC (Mac or Windows). It’s a standard that Apple needs to adopt (but as they have a walled garden probably won’t).

6. Near Field Communications will become important. iPhone 5 does not have it but maybe the next version will.

7. Love the inductive charging capabilities and the fatboy pillow charger.

Let’s now talk Windows 8 Phone because it is available on a growing range of smart phones i.e. manufacturers like Nokia can add value, design features and style but all Windows 8 smart phones work in a similar manner. For example look at the coming plethora of Windows tablets (RT and Windows 8 Phone are essentially the same) and the wonderful innovation there with devices that twist, fold, dock and rock… Hardware competition is good.

I like the idea of a cohesive Windows life comprising phone, tablet, PC, laptop and TV (via the Xbox). My tests show a high degree of interactivity and compatibility – it just works. It is home user friendly.

MS Office read and edit capabilities are unique to Windows phones. If you use Office at work and you regularly email files that you need to access, check and even edit on the move there is no comparable App. Sleeper Apps here are MS SharePoint and Lync. How many iPhone users have wished for better PC integration? It is business user friendly.

It provides a welcome change from the endless icon driven i-screens and Android glitz/mess. Tiles or icons however don’t make a phone – it is all about usability and my gut feel is “Apples for Apples” that Windows 8 is now the leader. Analysts tend to agree that users grow to love it and would find it hard to switch back. It is a better touch interface.  Live tiles (constantly updated) work well and are logical.

I feel more secure and trust Windows 8 over Android especially in using their mail and contacts apps from an Exchange server. I like OneNote (the sleeper App that has so much potential as a WORK processor.

Flash animation support is still important for a good web experience. iPhone does not natively  support flash. There is no need to argue about IE, Opera, Safari etc – all are available as Apps.

Developers have a potentially easier road to porting Windows 8 Apps to the entire Windows ecosystem as well as to iOS and Android (choice of Silverlight, XNA, Visual Basic, DirectX, Java Script, XAML, C++). At present Windows has 46 out of the top 50 iOS apps.  

Features that are similar to i-features

Music – all the standard features with Nokia offering unlimited streaming music for free (data charges apply)

Windows Marketplace – 200,000 Apps and growing it is still frustrating that App Developers are making i-Apps and Android first but that will change.

Battery life – there is just so many amp hours that can be stuffed into a handset. The Nokia weighs 185g and lasts longer - 460 hours) on standby. I-Phone is lighter at 112g and future iterations of the Lumia will slim down. Neither have a user replaceable battery.

Processor power – it is not about Gigahertz but functionality. The 1.5GHz dual core processor does everything well – more powerful that the iPhone5.

Summary:

If you want to buy a smart phone (if you actually really need one) the Nokia/Windows 8 combination is superior to iPhone in almost every way except the weight. This phone has immense business user appeal but more than enough sex appeal to cater to Gen X and Y. With Windows tipped to gain 15% of the smart phone market this year it will do so at the expense of i-Phone, not Android (which is more about “gadgets” and cost factors).

Would I buy one?

As a seasoned Windows phone user who has been unsuccessful in integrating an iPhone into his business life the answer is YES but I would seriously consider the HTC 8X as well – I suspect the Nokia has a few more features that I will use.

Note that my next review is Samsung’s Android Galaxy Note II 4G and I will use similar references for comparison. I expect great things from this phone and Android.

Nokia provided the phone for review and Telstra provided a 4G card for calls and Data testing (Telstra offers it on a base $60 with 1GB of data per month plan over 2 years).

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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