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Nokia Lumia 820 - Screen, Windows Phone 8 and Apps

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



Our Score:


Nokia Lumia 820 – Screen

Screen technology is one area of mobile phones that has developed rapidly over the last twelve months. “Retina” style screens so pixel-packed that images are as sharp as a switchblade are now common. However, the Nokia Lumia 820 screen benefits from none of these advancements. Its screen is downright disappointing, a serious let-down.

The Nokia Lumia 820 has a 800 x 480 pixel AMOLED display, 4.3 inches across. Although it doesn’t use the PenTile subpixel matrix found in many OLED devices, which causes fuzziness in text, clarity and sharpness throughout is poorer than Android rivals at the price. A year ago when the similar Nokia Lumia 900 arrived, this level of clarity was borderline acceptable – now not so much. Even Windows Phone 8’s careful rendering of text can’t hide the effects of the lowly resolution.

Its screen also suffers from the issue we find in many OLED-screened devices. The Nokia Lumia 820’s colours are oversaturated, to the point that bright colours appear to blur into each other a little. Using a background of red Live Tiles, the screen was a little too much to take – we went as far as reverting to brown Tiles to tone the phone down.

Nokia appears to be moving away from using OLED screens too, perhaps in part because of this oversaturation issue, having adopted an IPS display in the flagship Nokia Lumia 920.

The screen also demonstrates one of the Nokia Lumia 820’s few serious build quality issues. This phone does not use Gorilla Glass, and it shows. There’s a slight flex to the screen, and if you put moderate pressure on the centre of the display, the top layer squishes down onto the one below it, causing a form of screen distortion and an unnerving click.

The Nokia Lumia 820 screen does have its benefits, though. Contrast is flawless, with the perfect black levels you’d expect from an OLED display, and the polariser layer that’s part of the Nokia ClearBlack screen initiative keeps screen reflections at a minimum. Top brightness is excellent too, so you should have no trouble using the phone outdoors.

Nokia Lumia 820 – Windows Phone 8 and Performance

The Nokia Lumia 820 runs Windows Phone 8, Microsoft’s mobile OS. After a slow start, Windows Phone has become a full and feature-rich operating system. However, if you’re familiar with its predecessor, Windows Phone 7, you will find this latest version similar.

The main homescreen of the Nokia Lumia 820 is a vertically-scrolling array of what Microsoft calls Live Tiles. These are sharp-looking squares (or rectangles) that act as links to apps, while also showing the odd bit of info themselves – such as how many new emails you have. Windows Phone 8 adds the ability to create extra-small tiles, letting you fit up to 24 tiles on a single screen – previous versions did not let you be so space-efficient.

The key selling point of Windows Phone 8 is that it looks and feels incredibly slick. Made as a closed system that, like iOS, focuses on quality of experience rather than flexibility, Windows Phone 8 performance is superb, with barely any lag throughout. Lower-cost Windows devices tend to suffer from a bit of load time as apps fire-up, but this too is minimised in the Nokia Lumia 820. It has a powerful dual-core 1.5GHz Krait CPU with 1GB of RAM, matching the spec of the top-end Lumia 920.

Nokia Lumia 820 – People, Nokia Maps and Office

In its development from Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8, the system has lost none of its smooth moves, and slowly gained a bunch of useful features. These days, it’s fairly competitive with rivals Android and iOS.

Where it trumps both is in its deep social network integration. Hook up your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts within the Nokia Lumia 820’s Settings menu and all your social network updates will be weaved into the central People hub. This is like a traditional phone contacts book on steroids, letting you see what all your friends are up to, across all the most popular social networks.

The only issue is that flicking through a list of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn updates can see everything but tweets get a little lost – although it depends on your own social network behaviour, and you can view each network separately if you like anyway.

All the most popular email clients are supported without need for additional apps too, including Google Mail, Yahoo and – obviously – Microsoft-owned Outlook/Hotmail.

This info - emails, tweets, status updates - is relayed in roughly the same manner throughout the phone. The Windows Phone 8 visual style is pervasive, finding its way into many third-party apps as well as almost all pre-installed ones. Check out the screenshots to make sure you won’t hate it.

Not all the Nokia Lumia 820’s software best bits come from Microsoft, though. Perhaps the single best suite of apps comes from Nokia, in the form of Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive.

You could argue that Apple’s iOS 6 Maps were based on Nokia Maps, sharing a similar, smooth visual style. However, Nokia’s solution features none of the wonky information, mis-named roads and missing counties that made Apple Maps such a flop. Nokia Maps is pretty great.

And, best of all, Nokia Maps lets you download the maps of whole countries for use offline, making it just about the best free holiday navigation tool you can get.

Nokia Drive is Maps’s in-car brother, desperate to make you ditch your TomTom. Although it doesn’t offer anything quite as advanced as HD Traffic, which uses the signals of mobile customers and TomTom users to track traffic in real-time, it’s just about good enough to stop those who don’t have a dedicated SatNav from buying one.

Microsoft’s key additional app is Microsoft Office, the mobile version of the desktop software that every office drone loves to hate. Windows Phone 8’s mobile take on Office is streamlined, rather than feature-packed. It lets you create Excel and Word files, or edit existing documents, including Powerpoint presentations.

It’s emblematic of what Microsoft has gotten right with these newer mobile versions of Windows. Windows Mobile has actually been around since 2000, but before Windows Phone 7 it was an OS that tried to cram-in as much functionality as possible, sacrificing usability and accessibility in the process. The simple, easy-to-use Microsoft Office of the Nokia Lumia 820 is anything but that.

Nokia Lumia 820 – Apps and Games

Other apps will have to be downloaded from the Windows Store. Windows Phone 8 has more-or-less inherited the apps and games library of Windows Phone 7. It’s better than starting with nothing, but there are still plenty of holes that app fans will quickly notice. The library is poor compared to what's on offer from iOS and Android.

Windows Phone 8 is caught in something of a vicious circle here. The platform needs a larger audience to make developers consider creating Windows Phone ports a higher priority, but app support is one of the most serious turn-offs about “going Windows”. In short, patience will be required.

Windows games are siphoned-off into their own semi-separate store, then then filtered into Xbox-certified titles and the no-man’s land of the non-certified gaming wastes. That said, there are a few gems in the non-Xbox section.

Stick to the Xbox section and you’re guaranteed decent production values and not-entirely-shoddy gameplay. There are around 130 of these at present, and they take the pain out of app store searching for the less hardcore gamer.

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gaz martin

February 9, 2013, 11:25 am

DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR, DO NOT BUY THIS PHONE. The first 820 i had broke in my pocket (cracked screen), even though it was in a case with a screen protector. I eventually got a replacement from carphone warehouse after shouting and screaming for three hours in-store.
The second handset is plauged by bugs. Sometimes it won't charge through USB for no apparent reason. The data connectivity often won't work without turning the phone off and on first. Sometimes the music player volume will zump to zero and won't turn back up until you turn it off and on. Some photos iv taken have a solid line of purple pixels across them, the list goes on...
Iv tried endlessly to tackle this with Nokia and they've done absolutely nothing. They do not know the meaning of the words "customer service", do some forum searches and you'll see what i mean.
Iv used Nokia for 15 years but when this contract runs out im never dealing with them again. Take my advice and save yourself from a ton of frustration, and being stuck with a shoddy handset for two years.

Matthew Paul

February 9, 2013, 11:47 pm

I don't know if Gaz Martin is in the pay roll of some other manufacturer, but all I can say is he is subject to his own opinion.

It is a great phone and a smart option for your money's worth. Just use the phone in a store for any period of time and make your own mind up. Do not let some random guy troll your mind.

gaz martin

February 10, 2013, 11:16 am

Im just sharing my experience.

Matthew Paul

February 10, 2013, 3:40 pm

Okay so am I. It's sad that you've had such a bad one. Nokia has always been outstanding with customer service in my experience.


February 10, 2013, 4:10 pm

I have just returned this handset having upgraded my contract. It's a shame as I don't believe the issue is with the hardware, but it's Windows Phone 8 itself. The issues I encountered included poor battery life, difficulty setting up exchange but the biggest disappointment was the management of external storage.

It seems that it is near impossible to save anything to an SD card apart when using non-native applications. The fact that you can't even download an mp3 via the browser is ridiculous in itself. There is no native UK podcast support, so when using a third party app it will down files to the internal memory rather than your SD card. In addition, the Nokia apps do the same, including Nokia Maps and Music. With only 8GB of storage you will fill it up pretty quickly, I don't know how offline playlists work in Spotify but I can only assume the same issue applies.

It's a real shame as even my old e71 could run applications from the SD card and 3rd party applications could be set to use an SD card. I really don't know what handset to upgrade to now, as I don't trust WP8 on a Lumia 920. In addition it seems the 920 suffers from battery life issues and tends to run hot. It's a shame as I would prefer to upgrade to a Nokia if possible.


March 15, 2013, 5:18 pm


In line with the remarks of many other users/victims below.

The phone is not able to meet even the minimal most expectation. The main difficulty the phone I have has is to establish basic 3G connection, It is able to do so for about an hour a day (in total), Bluetooth is not able to sync once unpaired, 802.11 connection just vanishes for no reason. The difficulties in my view are software and not hardware, but the fact that no QC is able to identify the problem prior to the phone being offered to unsuspecting clients is insulting. On the evidence up to now, I don't think Nokia will be in business for long.


March 15, 2013, 7:59 pm

The handset is really good, build quality is perfect, and nokia applications are great, the only drawback is unfortunately win 8 mobile, I really, really wish Nokia used android instead of win system, I think quality-wise these phones are matching apple, but system is crap, amount o apps is less than poor and is not really growing :-( at all. I've always been fan of nokia but now I realy feel disappointed, think will come back to E52 as works much better than 820, and will last 8 days on one charge ;-)


June 19, 2013, 9:20 am

i agree with you. nokia rocks!! unlike the 'Made in China' like samsung or any other manufacturer. hardy, user friendly and CLASSY.!! I've dropped my C7 from a rocktop when i was hiking and it still works perfectly. i drop it once or twice everyday. I love nokia!! the thing is this model has no gorilla glass. would it be an issue???

Faizz Gour

August 21, 2013, 8:39 am

dear gaz martin u don't know how to use the windows phone............ hahahahahahah


October 7, 2013, 8:59 pm

I've had this phone for about 2 months now. Overall I like it but I do have a few issues.

1. Connectivity with my computer - I take a lot of pictures and videos that I want to share with friends. I haven't got the patience to upload them singly to Facebook or wherever and email struggles to send large amounts of pictures. It's not a simple case of plugging the phone in to the computer you have to download an app which is only available if you have windows 7 or 8 on your pc/laptop. I have XP on one computer and windows 7 on my laptop which won't let me update facebook or send an email (therefore meaning I can't share my pictures/videos etc)

2. Size - It's just slightly too big to type with one hand but it's liveable

3. The case is a little smooth so I keep dropping it!! Thankfully the screen seems to be holding out but the case is starting to crack!

4. The case is ridiculous to get off! Even the guy in the Vodafone store I went to to swap contacts from my old phone couldn't get it off!!

5. Memory - Weirdly, my old phone seemed to cope reasonably well but I am constantly getting messages telling me that I have run out of memory!!

6. The Nokia Music App is unpredictable. It used to work fine but now won't always work. I've looked online and a few others have the same problems. Their solutions worked at first but alas no longer.

There's probably a couple of other things that I've forgotten (Probably not that big a deal then!!) and a lot of this probably seems like a lot of personal preference but it's stuff I wish I'd known before signing up for a 2 year contract.

As I said, overall I like it but perhaps wouldn't have got a windows phone had I known about the connectivity issues with the computer.


October 20, 2013, 8:07 am

I do also have same experience. Are you saying that there is relation between Windows Phone and Screen and build quality of Nokia phones.
I am impressed with Windows Phone OS but Nokia build quality is worst.
gaz, at least get it replaced from Nokia; but for me I had to pay a lot for getting screen replaced from Nokia Care. Very much satisfied with Nokia smart phones quality.

tushar banne

November 7, 2013, 10:50 am

Even I face the problem of data connection. First I thought it might be the service provided problem but now confirm about it. Music player problem also persist.

Dual code does not work upto the mark.. Even I keep on fighting with the bugs. But camera is appreciated and battery and rigidity is also appreciated. Maps are good. But details of area are less. Many imp places are missing on the map.

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