Another day, another Windows Phone. It's unfortunate that Microsoft's mobile operating system hasn't had much traction since it debuted in late 2010, but at least those who have adopted it seem to swear by it. Nokia's latest, the Lumia 925, isn't much of a departure from the last few iterations of its Windows Phone 8 hardware. It's essentially a refresh of last year's handset, the Lumia 920, but with a bit of added panache, like a thinner body to fit your hand better and a suite of extra software features. It's a capable phone, but Nokia forgot to include a marquee feature that would help it stand out from the crowd.
Hey, there, good lookin'
The Lumia 925 is the first of the Lumia family to sport the stylish metal-accented chassis, which also works as an antenna. At 8.5 millimeters thick, it's a bit beefier than some of its competitors, but it's comfortable to hold and it's not as heavy as some of its predecessors, like the Lumia 900 and 920, which felt like veritable bricks in the hand.
The 4.5-inch, 334 pixels-per-inch (ppi) Super AMOLED screen is striking: blacks appear black, while other colors appear true to nature. AMOLED screens are known for their intense brightness and high resolution, but the Super AMOLED produces a crisper image. The difference in display is particularly noticeable when the 925 lays next to other Windows Phone competitors like the HTC 8XT, which features more faded colors, but overall the 925 features the exact same resolution as its predecessor and Nokia's most recent handset release, the Lumia 1020. As an added bonus, you can still use the 925 with your gloves in the cold weather--like the Lumia 920, its "Super Sensitive" touchscreen works through fabric or with long fingernails.
It's fast, but not without a caveat
Inside, the Lumia 925 features the same 1.5Ghz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and 1GB of RAM as its predecessor, the Lumia 920, and Nokia's most recent release, the Lumia 1020. Its innards are a bit dated at this point, at least compared to other high-profile handsets on the market, but you can't tell the speed difference between the Lumia and the Android-fueled HTC One, for instance, because the two platforms are so vastly different. For the most part, the Lumia 925 felt speedy; multitasking was quick and easy, and switching back and forth between games or applications to the home screen was a cinch. The only applications that ever crashed were decidedly buggy ones that were easily fixed with a quick reinstall.
The only caveat to the Lumia 925 is its battery life. At medium brightness, the phone won't get through the whole day of constant use, as it tapped out at just a little over six hours. Fortunately, it isn't much of an energy sucker when it's on standby: I left the phone in my bag, untouched for three days, and it had barely barreled through any of its remaining battery life. Windows Phone 8 also comes with a few features to help minimise battery exhaustion, like a battery saver setting and the option to automatically dial down the screen brightness when applicable.
A more-than-capable camera
By now, the phrase "camera phone" might as well be synonymous with the name Lumia, as Nokia has managed to successfully make its mark by introducing a slew of capable camera phones. The Lumia 925 is no different with its 8.7-megapixel camera. I've always been particular impressed with every Lumia's photo-taking abilities, and although the 925 doesn't come with the 41-megapixel sensor of the 1020, you'll still be able to take proper macro shots and discernible photos with your friends while at the bar.
Nokia has also packed with in its Smart Camera application which includes an array of photo editing features, including the ability to choose between the best shot in a series of shots and the best facial expression after you've taken a group or portrait photo. The Smart Camera app is a part of the forthcoming Amber update for the rest of Nokia's Windows Phone 8-based smartphones, but Lumia 925 users have immediate access to these features and more.
The 925's inclusion of extra apps for photo editing is a nice touch considering the mess that is the Windows Phone Marketplace, but some of the Smart Camera's abilities will take a bit of adjusting to. Action shots, for instance, require that you select the different stages of the shot from a group of individual photos. If you don't do so correctly, the end result could look unappealing.
Amber is the color of [Windows Phone 8's] energy
We said it in our review of the Lumia 1020 and we'll say it again: the biggest drawback of the Lumia family is that it uses Microsoft's mobile OS. Windows Phone 8 is a stylish-looking, fluid operating system, but once you actually go in search of your favorite application in the Windows Phone Store, the lack of important apps holds you back.
For the most part, you'll have access to some pretty neat game titles. Gaming has become a particularly big part of the Windows Phone ecosystem, with titles like Jetpack Joyride, Radiant, Sonic CD, and Cut the Rope available to play, as well as a plethora of lesser-known games. If you're a social networking junkie, however, you may run into some brick walls, as there is no official Instagram application, and the official Facebook and Twitter applications aren't updated as frequently as other platforms.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however: as we mentioned, Nokia packed the Lumia 925 with its Smart Camera app, which is a part of the forthcoming Amber update for its other Windows Phones. It includes major features like FM radio--a feature that was previously available in Windows Phone 7--and minor updates like the ability to wake up the screen just by double tapping. The Lumia 925 includes these features, as well as the ability to manage your data flow with apps like Data Sense, and use Nokia's HERE apps to navigate around your city and find the best transit routes.
Other social networks, like Vine, have also recently announced that they're making their way to the Windows Phone platform, though there's no evidence of their existence in the Marketplace just yet. For the most part, Windows Phone users are playing the waiting game as developers make the decision to bring their apps to the platform.
The bottom line
Nokia makes some stellar, well-built phones, and the 925 is no different than the rest of the gang. With its thinner design, high-resolution screen, and excellent camera capabilities, it's a solid choice. It doesn't have one special feature to make it stand apart from its other siblings. But no matter: if you're willing to give Windows Phone 8 a go, and are looking for a comfortable phone that takes almost point-and-shoot quality photos, the Lumia 925 is well worth a look--as long as you can stomach the limited library of top tier apps.