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Hands On: Nokia's Lumia Icon cuts the phablet down to size

Mark Hachman | Feb. 13, 2014
Sanity has been restored to Nokia's Lumia smartphone lineup with the release of the Nokia Icon. This Verizon exclusive pulls the best features from Nokia's massive 6-inch phablets--the Lumia 1520 in particular--and tucks them behind a manageable, 5-inch OLED display.

Sanity has been restored to Nokia's Lumia smartphone lineup with the release of the Nokia Icon. This Verizon exclusive pulls the best features from Nokia's massive 6-inch phablets — the Lumia 1520 in particular — and tucks them behind a manageable, 5-inch OLED display.

I purposefully seek out large phones. I spend an hour on public transportation each morning and evening, and prefer large displays for reading ebooks and watching video. But Nokia's massive 1520 scared me off, as one-handed operation is simply impossible with it.

But now the new $200 Icon gives Verizon customers a generous display that doesn't require two hands to use. While the Icon shares the 1920x1080 resolution of the Lumia 1520, it improves on the 1520's IPS, Gorilla Glass 2 display with an OLED display protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The new phone also shares the 1520's camera hardware: a 20-megapixel PureView sensor with Zeiss optics, optical image stabilization, and the ability to shoot either 16-megapixel (16:9), 19-megapixel (4:3), or 5-megapixel oversampled images that can be shared with friends or stored within the phone's 32GB of internal storage. Nokia also added four directional mics for improved audio quality. 

The Icon's 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon CPU is identical to what you'll find in the Lumia 1520. In the newer phone, it launches and runs apps in a snap.

One solid phone
When you first hold the Icon, you'll swear that the phone, though smaller than the 1520, weighs a bit more. But at 166 grams versus 206 grams, the Icon is actually 19 percent lighter. The heavier feel is clearly a sensory illusion. The Icon looks and feels more solid than the 1520, and perhaps this sturdy build quality — especially when tucked into smaller overall dimensions — tricks our brains into perceiving extra mass.

While the Lumia line has typically featured candy-colored plastic shells, Nokia's designers housed the Icon in jet-black metal, albeit with a plastic back. At 9.9mm, the Icon is also thicker than most Lumia phones, and its no-nonsense lines suggest something purposeful — like what a Surface phone might look like — rather than the more playful Lumias. It all imparts the impression of superior build quality, though slightly marred by a wiggly camera button.

The smaller dimensions also have a practical purpose. At 5.79 inches by 2.79 inches, the Icon is small enough for most people to traverse one-handed, from display edge to edge, with just a thumb.

Camera, audio, screen improved
Nokia has long labored under the burden of the Windows Phone ecosystem — the perception (if not the reality) that Windows Phone just can't compete with iOS and Android in terms of third-party software support. This challenge has diminished a bit over time, at least as far as the top apps are concerned, but still remains an issue.

 

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