- Vivid, engrossing display
- Stylish, well-crafted build
- Fast and powerful
- Windows Phone is still maturing
- Thick and heavy
- Camera is good, but not on the level of past Lumias
For Verizon users who are onboard with what Windows Phone has to offer, the Lumia Icon is a no-brainer purchase. With its gorgeous display, sexy design, and powerful internals, the Icon oozes quality from every pore.
It’s hard out there for a Windows Phone. Always fighting to scraps, taking what it can get, waving its hands for help as the rest of world floats away in the distance. It probably got picked last for kickball as a kid. Microsoft’s mobile OS is and has long been a solid third in the smartphone world, slowly growing a fanbase but never quite reeling in the hardware or software support it needs. In fact, until a few months ago, Nokia was famously the one company willing to commit to the outcast as it navigated through its growing pains.
That friendship is dead now, though, because Microsoft recently decided to buy its Finnish friends into its family instead. Today, the old Nokia has been subsumed by a substitute-to-be-named-later that looks, well, like the old Nokia. There’ve been some experiments, yeah, but generally speaking Nokia (by Microsoft) is still pumping out the same kind of Windows Phones on the regular. All the while, Windows Phone itself is still huffing and puffing as Google and Apple happily jaunt their way to the bank. The more things change.
The Lumia Icon, then, has become something of a landmark in hindsight. One of the last flagship phones released by Nokia before it became New Nokia, the Icon feels a culmination of the three years of toil its makers spent trying to get Windows Phone over the top. It picks and plucks the best features of its many predecessors, throws them into a body that refuses to compromise on aesthetics, and powers everything up with modernized hardware. It is the best Windows Phone your money can buy. But therein lies its problem, like it always has. Let’s take a look at the Icon, which is available now through Verizon.
Build and Design
Most modern flagships strive for pragmatism in their designs. The Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G3, HTC One (M8) — expensive phones like these are composed of vastly different materials and feel nothing alike in the hand, but all of them try to find a balance between style and comfort.
The Lumia Icon, on the other hand, doesn’t care about your dumb hands. It’s got a vision — to be a cold, miniature black (or silver) monolith — and it’s sticking to it. If its super sharp angles have to jut into your palms to keep its look consistent, so be it. If its hard, straight lines don’t round out and contort to your hands, too bad. Like past Lumias, this is a phone with a commitment to aesthetics. There’s something very noble about that.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that all of this is built with such fine materials. The Icon’s soft, barely curved polycarbonate back is about as premium as phone plastic gets, and its cool aluminum edges are both sturdy and smooth to the touch. The same can be said about its entirely Gorilla Glass 3 front, which curves ever so slightly at its edges and makes swiping around a pleasure. Things like the 20-megapixel rear camera and four built-in microphones are implemented into the device without bulging out or making themselves obvious.
Still, this is a hard rectangle, and that isn’t the most accommodating shape. The Icon is unapologetically thick (9.38 mm), and it’s heavy (167 g) to the point of distraction. It bulges out of your pocket like a mutated pack of gum. Those sharp angles digging into your hands can become an annoyance after a while. Its sense of style is appreciated, but the Icon’s elegance also necessitates a lack of comfort.
There are other nits to pick. The dedicated shutter button and removable nano-SIM tray are genuinely convenient, but neither are implemented as well as they could be. The former is looser than the otherwise fine volume rocker and power button, and the latter requires a pick or some grown fingernails to pry open. Nokia’s once again put the headphone jack on the top of the device, and that’s still a terrible idea. Finally, Verizon’s branding is a distraction, per usual, mucking up real estate on both the front and rear of the device.
We’re in the midst of a renaissance period for smartphone displays, and the Lumia Icon’s gorgeous 5-inch panel is amongst the industry’s best. It’s of the AMOLED variety, with a 1080p resolution that’s good for a super sharp 441 pixels per inch. Colors are deep and vivid, and as we’ve come to expect from other OLED screens, blacks are dark like the abyss, almost blending right in with the phone’s slim bezels.
Unlike rival OLED displays, though, the Icon’s screen is exceptionally bright by default, and it isn’t dragged down by an overarching hue of blue. (Keen eyes will see some slight blues when viewing all-white backgrounds from the side, but that’s about it.) Combine that with top-tier viewing angles, the ability to manually adjust color temperature, and Nokia’s successful “ClearBlack” anti-glare tech, and you have one of the best Windows Phone panels to date. The only real quibble is that the glass picks up smudges from time to time, but those aren’t visible once the display is up and running. Outside of that, this is a joy to behold.