It’s been an interesting couple of months for Nokia’s devices and services division. As you know, its identity has now been folded into its new parent Microsoft and will soon cease to exist. But even as new, Microsoft original phones are being planned, there’s still a few models that have been in the works for a while that we’re only just getting on these shores.
One such smartphone is the latest flagship, the Lumia 930. It’s essentially the same hardware specifications as the Lumia 1520 phablet packed into a more manageable frame to appeal to a broader audience. It’s running the latest version of the Windows Phone operating system that has addressed some of our greatest complaints with it in the past and, as is customary from Nokia phones in the past, has a camera that promises exceptional photos.
So the Lumia 930 has all of the ingredients to make it a real contender for your hard-earned cash when it comes time to upgrade your smartphone, but is it the smartphone that you’ll want for the next two years?
From the moment you see the Lumia 930 you can immediately see that it’s a clear evolution of the same design language that spawned a plethora of colourful polycarbonate Lumia smartphones since the Lumia 800 first appeared in 2011.
The polycarbonate backing comes in black with an accompanying black aluminium frame or a silver aluminium frame with a choice of white, bright green or, in the case of our review unit, bright orange polycarbonate backing.
The frame is rather thick in modern smartphone terms at 9.8mm and while the backing is curved to help it sit more naturally in hand, it still feels rather too thick.
The front of the Lumia 930 is dominated by the black slab of display with its Gorilla Glass 3 protective covering which has been neatly bevelled at the longer two edges to help with sliding your fingers across the screen.
When it was first announced the Lumia 930, along with its (much) bigger brother the Lumia 1520, were the best specced Windows Phones available however they have since been upstaged by the HTC One M8 for Windows.
It has a 2.2GHz quad core Snapdragon 800 from Qualcomm along with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. All of that sits behind a 5 inch full HD display with a 2 420mAh battery to power it all and wireless charging to get it charged back up again.
Imaging duties are handled by a 20 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and the requisite wireless standards including LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac WiFi are all present and accounted for.
It’s all more than enough grunt to keep the Lumia 930 and its lightweight Windows Phone OS humming along without any noticeable stutters.
The Lumia 930 runs on the latest update to the Nokia version of the Windows Phone operating system known as Lumia Cyan which brings with it a host of much needed improvements.
Finally a notification centre or ‘Action Center’ as it called that allows you to see all of the notifications from the apps you choose as well as quick toggles for things like WiFi and flight mode. It’s remarkable that it has taken Microsoft this long to add it to Windows Phone but now that it’s here one of our biggest gripes with the OS has been shut down.
The best new addition however is the digital assistant known as Cortana, something akin to Apple’s Siri with a bit of Google’s prescient Google Now service baked in. You have to lie and say that you live in the US to get the service activated on your phone, but it really is fantastic to use once you get used to the things you can do with Cortana.
Saying something like, “What is the weather in Paris tomorrow?” will get you the information that you want, however because of the aforementioned location requirements the temperature will of course be given in degrees Fahrenheit to which you can reply with “What’s that in degrees Celsius?” and Cortana will be able to make the connection and change the answer for you on the fly. It’s one of the best voice assistants that we’ve used to date.
Even with the addition of a swiping input system, the Windows Phone keyboard may be one of the weak points of the phone’s software now that iOS 8 has given iPhone users the choice to switch out their keyboards for something like SwiftKey as their Android counterparts have been able to.
At five inches the Lumia 930 display is par for the smartphone display course at the moment and even though the bezels are larger than on many of its contemporaries it doesn’t feel overly big for a phone of its size.
As with previous Nokia smartphones the Lumia 930 uses the company’s ClearBlack display technology which makes reading it in even the brightest sunlight an absolute pleasure. The double tap to wake function that has been seen on so many phones can be enabled on the Lumia 930 which we would recommend as it makes turning it on with one hand much simpler than hunting for the power button.
The full HD resolution makes Windows Phone’s new six-tiles-across interface work spectacularly well and the AMOLED display was as bright as the polycarbonate backing, which made pictures and video come look fantastic.
Nokia has a long history of making some of the best imaging devices in the industry and the Lumia 930 is no different. The 20 megapixel camera with its Carl Zeiss lens takes fantastic pictures in both the bright and sunny as well as the dimly lit and gloomy. It’s due in no small part to the optical image stabilisation built into the sensor which allows the lens to stay open for longer, improving the overall quality of the photos taken.
The Nokia Camera has been exported from the Lumia 1020 into all of the high-end Lumia smartphones and allows those with some knowledge of photography to get in and change the setting manually to get the perfect pic.
With the Lumia Cyan update, the 930 is also able to take pictures in RAW format which will allow photographers to take their images off the phone and into programs like Lightroom, Aperture and Photoshop to get the best results from post-production.
At just 2 420mAh the Lumia 930’s battery is a little bit sparse when compared to its competition. It’s outdone by the HTC One (M8) at 2 600mAh, Samsung Galaxy S5 at 2 800mAh, the LG G3 at 3 000mAh and the Xperia Z2 at 3 200mAh.
However because of the tighter integration that Nokia has over the software from its partnership with Microsoft before it was acquired, it seems the Lumia 930 is able to utilise its battery rather more efficiently than most Android smartphones.
We were able to get as much run time out of the Lumia 930 as we would from the Galaxy S5 or the HTC One and only ran into trouble on days where we relied heavily on display intensive apps like navigation which drained the battery quickly by virtue of more screen-on time.
The Lumia 930 is by far the best Windows Phone available on the South African market today. It’s fantastically well-built, has the specs to match the competition at the top of the smartphone ladder and has one of the best cameras on any smartphone out there.
That said however the Windows Phone platform is still short on the apps that will make it competitive with iOS and Android based smartphones. The gap is constantly getting smaller but there are still several key apps that we use day-to-day that we couldn’t find.
With the purchase of Nokia Windows Phone development will get better and the phones that Microsoft produces in the next few years may come to be better than those of the competition but for now the Lumia 930 isn’t the best smartphone available on the market.
Price: R7 000
Display: 5 inch 1 080×1 920 resolution ClearBlack AMOLED display (441ppi)
Operating System: Windows Phone 8.1
Processor: Quad core 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
Memory: 2GB of RAM
Storage: 32GB of non-expandable storage
Battery: 2 420mAh
Camera: 20 megapixel camera with Carl Zeis lens and optical image stabilisation
Networking: Dual band 802.11ac WiFI, Bluetooth 4.0 and LTE
Dimensions: 137mmx71mmx9.8 mm
Other: FM radio, wireless charging