AT&T Wireless's Nokia Lumia 925 offers an excellent Windows 8 phone that distinguishes itself from the pack by smoothly integrating with Microsoft's suite of products, including XBox, SkyDrive, Word, Excel and OneNote.
The Windows 8 Live Tile interface works well on a smart phone, with the ability to add various types of content to the start page, such as contacts, photo albums, music playlists, Web sites, One Note items and driving directions.
Costing $99 with two-year contract ($429.99 month-to-month), the Lumia 925 also stands out for its exceptional rear-facing 8.7 MP camera with an array of special features and built-in photo editing apps. The Lumia 925 should easily satisfy the amateur shutterbug who wants his/her smart phone to include a dynamite camera.
Nokia Pro Camera lets you manually control flash, focus, white balance, shutter speed, ISO and exposure, and you can even use Nokia Panorama to combine pictures together. Nokia Cinemagraph lets you animate your photos to make them more lifelike. You can wake the phone by holding in the side camera button.
The Nokia Smart Camera allows you to take a sequence of 10 photos in 2.5 seconds, then choose from options such as Best Shot, Action Shot, Motion Focus, Change Faces and Remove Moving Objects. The Lumia 925's photo editor, Nokia Creative Studio, includes a wide array of options for enhancing and editing your photos. I was disappointed in the Lumia 925's front-facing camera, though, as it seemed to produce off-colored photos and has no flash or ability to adjust settings such as white balance.
Some of the gee-whiz camera functions are a bit cumbersome to use. However, the device does include access to dozens of help documents to get you over any hurdles you encounter on the camera or elsewhere.
Battery life is impressive on the Lumia 925, easily lasting two or three days with moderate usage, although, strangely, you have to tap the top of the screen to see the battery meter and signal strength icons.
If you use Dropbox or Skydrive, I recommend disabling auto-upload when you plan to take a lot of pictures away from home, since uploading dozens of photos to the cloud can drain the battery juice on any phone in a hurry.
The phone's sleek design and .33" thickness make it feel nicely thin, and its good-sized 4.5” Pureview HD+ AMOLED display offers gorgeous video viewing and text reading. Articles, emails and texts look clear and crisp. Sound quality seems average, with the awesome display quality being the the highlight of watching videos or movies on the device. Even Amazon Kindle books look phenomenal on the Lumia 925's screen.
The Lumia 925 measures 5.08" by 2.78" and weighs just under 5 ounces - a bit lighter than some higher end competitors. The phone's 16 GB of internal memory should provide plenty of space for apps and a fair amount of media, though using SkyDrive auto-upload will make sure your videos and pictures are copied to the cloud so you can clear them from the device periodically to save space.
Though Dropbox doesn't offer a supported Windows Phone app, Dropbox apps exist in the Windows app market. However, SkyDrive offers significantly more free space than Dropbox, and AT&T Locker lets you use up to 50 GB of free cloud storage. Unfortunately, the Lumia 925 takes a page from iPhone's book by leaving out a microSD card slot, meaning there's no way of adding memory to the phone.
The Lumia 925's onscreen keyboard, also similar to the iPhone, shuns multi-function keys in favor of letter-only and number-only layouts, something that seems behind the times in comparison to most Android and Blackberry devices. You also have the option of speaking commands and dictating your messages, similar to what's available on most other smart phones. You can wake the phone by speaking to it, too.
AT&T Wireless's mobile network expansion efforts in the past couple of years have resulted in a robust and wide-reaching 4G LTE network, and its 4G LTE phones like the Lumia 925 fall back on the somewhat slower HSPA+ when they can't pick up LTE. Most other 4G LTE carriers' devices fall back on the significantly slower 3G technology when they can't find a 4G LTE connection.
AT&T has also invested significant resources in expanding its Wi-Fi access points in many public places, and its phones can auto-connect when they find an AT&T hotspot to help customers conserve their monthly data allotments. The company also offers some nifty add-on features (at monthly cost) such as AT&T Family Map and AT&T Mobile TV.
The phone comes with the mobile version of Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel and OneNote, and lets you easily open files stored in SkyDrive.
A drawback to Windows phones is the lack of support from app writers, resulting in the inability to play popular games like Words With Friends. Games with free Android versions such as Angry Birds and Words By Post cost 99 cents or more for their Windows Phone versions. You can, however, download Pandora, YouTube and Amazon Mobile for free. You can also find free and paid versions of many popular XBox games.
Parents may appreciate the ability to use Windows Phone 8's Kids Corner for creating separate profiles for the little ones, with only approved apps available to them.
Microsoft may have arrived late to the smart phone party, but their $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia's smart phone business leaves no doubt about their intent to compete in a field now dominated by Apple and Android devices. If you've been around long enough to recall the last time Microsoft and Apple went head to head, you may think twice about doubting Microsoft's chances of success.
The Nokia Lumia 925 would make a good choice for smart phone users who require an exceptional camera, need frequent access to OneNote, make liberal use of SkyDrive or XBox or simply don't want to have a phone like everyone else's.