The Nokia Lumia 920 runs the new Microsoft Windows Phone 8 operating system (OS) which unlike Google's Android OS cannot be tinkered with by phone manufacturers. As such the experience you get here is essentially exactly the same as that on any other Windows Phone 8 handset. So, if you want the full low down on all the software features we'd suggest you head over to our full Windows Phone 8 review.
The brief version, though, is that Windows Phone 8 offers a slick, very stylised interface that's centred around a couple of key ideas. The first is the Live Tile. These feature on the homescreen and are a cross between an icon and a widget. Like an icon they simply provide a link to whatever app they represent but then like a widget they also show live information from the app on the icon itself. For instance the People (contacts) Live Tile shows constantly changing pictures pulled from your contacts' linkedin or Facebook pages or the Calendar Live Tile will show today's agenda.
Live Tiles can be made one of three sizes: a small square icon which shows very limited live information, a large square or a full screen-width spanning rectangle which can show lots of information. They can be arranged in whatever order you like and it's a simple task to 'pin' or 'unpin' apps from the main app list onto the homescreen.
The Live Tiles concept is quite neat though we find that, as with widgets on Android, we seldom use the larger versions and instead steer towards simple filling the screen with as many small icons as possible. Also, the fact that the homescreen is simply one long list, rather than pages of apps, can feel a little limiting as it's not quite as quick to scroll to the bottom of the list as it is to flick through a couple of pages.
The other key overall feature are the hubs. These are essentially apps but given their highly integrated nature they can do much more than one task. So, for instance, the People hub integrates information from your social networks, providing a feed of new status and picture updates. It also has Rooms and Groups, which offer places for groups of Windows Phone users to ‘hangout’ and chat, share photos and schedule events as a group.
Other hubs include the Offices hub which not only has links to the three mobile office apps – Word, Excel and Powerpoint – but also integrates access to Microsoft’s cloud storage service, SkyDrive. This comes free with any Microsoft account and provides up to 7GB of storage space that can be seamlessly synced between phone, laptop and tablet as well as accessed from any PC via a web browser.
The overall experience takes a bit of getting used to if you’re used to iOS or Android but for the most part it offers as many unique positives as negatives, so is still a great option.
Where the Windows Phone 8 interface is currently let down is its availability of apps. While the headline grabbing numbers touted by Apple are somewhat meaningless – after all, it’s not about how many overall but how many that you want or need – it is nonetheless the case that most ‘must have’ apps tend to debut on Apple devices, with Android next in line and Windows Phone 8 bringing up the rear.
Looking for a selection of some of our favourites this is how we fared:
Angry birds star wars
National rail (unofficial)
The general rule of thumb is that it’s not so much the biggest companies that don’t support all platforms as the smaller ones that can’t afford to develop for multiple versions. That said, even some seriously big corporations aren’t yet onboard with the iTV Player and BBC iPlayer notable absentees.
Nonetheless, we fully expect this situation to improve over the coming months so as long as all your essentials are covered for now, you should be set for all your more esoteric favourites in the future.