Nokia Lumia 928 for Verizon handson

The Lumia 928 isn't the first of Nokia's Windows Phone 8 handsets to hit Verizon -- that distinction goes to the 822 -- but for all intents and purposes, it's the first true flagship Lumia to bear Big Red's branding. From the jump, you'll note that Nokia's bent somewhat to Verizon's heavy hand, customizing the 928 in a way that shucks the smooth polycarbonate unibody of the 920 for something more hard-edged and angular, yet still plastic. So, what's so new about this Lumia? Apart from its Xenon flash, nothing at all really. It bears the same 4.5-inch, 1,280 x 768 PureMotion HD+ display (now, OLED), 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor with 1GB RAM, 2,000 mAh battery, integrated wireless charging, NFC and 1.2-megapixel front-facing / 8.7-megapixel rear camera setup as the Lumia 920. Naturally, the 928's made to run on Verizon's network, so you'll find support for LTE / CDMA, but there are also radios for HSPA+ making it "global ready." We'll have a review for this deviant Lumia coming shortly, but in the meantime follow along for our first impressions.

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Nokia Lumia 928 for Verizon hands-on

Nokia had a good, if extremely weighty, thing going with the Lumia 920 -- its curved chassis, 2.5D glass, eye-popping colors and, of course, highly-touted imaging capabilities. The 928 abandons all but that latter bit, with a lighter body that falls more in line with the live-tiled aesthetic of Windows Phone 8 and a black and white color scheme that screams serious business; a move made, no doubt, to broaden its consumer appeal. Though the build quality remains just as solid as ever, there's an unmistakable sense of cheapness to the 928. The glossy plastic looks chintzy and doesn't give the impression that it'd survive too many hard knocks.

That's not to say the 928 isn't pleasing to hold. The ergonomics may have changed slightly, but we actually prefer the blunter edges as they allow your fingers to grip more comfortably. One immediate con we encountered with the 928 was just how seamlessly its hardware keys blend into the chassis. The buttons may appear to jut out just enough for easy tactile detection, but the truth is, your thumb is more than likely to slide over the keys (i.e, volume rocker, power and dedicated camera button).

On back, there's now a longer metallic strip housing the 8.7-megapixel camera and emblazoned with Carl Zeiss and PureView branding. The Xenon flash lies just to the left of this, contained in a significantly elongated ellipse of its own that accurately conveys just how potent its powers of illumination are. At the base and just above the speaker grille, Verizon's left the branding to a minimum, etching in only its 4G LTE logo.

Flip the 928 around to its front face and it's Nokia's take on Windows Phone 8 as usual. Capacitive keys for navigation and a lone mic border the bottom edge of the screen, while logos for Nokia and Verizon sit up top, flanking the earpiece and 1.2-megapixel camera. And, in a move that hearkens back to the original 900, the micro-USB port resides on the top edge, smack dab between a 3.5mm headphone jack and microSIM slot on the left and a secondary mic on the right.

Nokia's using the same PureMotion HD+ screen tech in the 928, so the only major difference you'll note between this and the 920 is the brightness and vividness of its 4.5-inch, Gorilla Glass 2-coated window to WP8. That's due to the OLED display employed here; a change from the 920's LCD. A slight washout becomes apparent at a 15-degree tilt, but viewing angles remain excellent.

As for performance, it's barely changed. And with the same dual-core S4 setup inside, why would it have? In fact, we tested the 928 and 920 side-by-side and the results were exactly on par: navigation is brisk, apps launch almost immediately and all of this carries the hallmarks of WP8's elegant, swooping transitions.

The Lumia 928's set to go on sale this Thursday at a very competitive $99 on-contract price (with mail-in rebate). If the only thing holding you back from a dance with a high-end Lumia was Verizon LTE, well, now's your chance to dive in. But no numerical name change can erase the fact that this is still a six month-old device, albeit made-to-order for Big Red. Surely, the next big thing's always around the corner and rest assured Nokia's cooking up yet another top shelf Lumia successor in its labs. For now, this is as good as Lumia gets on Verizon.