At Nokia's London launch event, we've just managed to spend a bit of time with the gray version of the 4.5-inch Lumia 925. If you felt its polycarbonate predecessor was a little unwieldy in dimensions or weight, you might be pleased with what Nokia's crafted here. Its new Windows Phone flagship marks the company's return to metal-bodied smartphones, and in the process, it's become both lighter and thinner. This isn't a marginal shedding of a few grams, either -- there's a noticeable difference when compared to the Lumia 920. Likewise, the smaller frame makes the Lumia 920 feel all of a sudden rather chunky. Despite the slimmer lines, Nokia keeps the internal specifications largely the same, so you're getting an identical dual-core 1.5GHz processor and 1GB of RAM, although this time there's only 16GB of storage -- sacrifices had to be made somewhere, we guess.
Imaging-wise, and yes, it's still all about the camera with Nokia, there's the same 8.7-megapixel camera sensor from the 920 model, although Nokia says it's made countless improvements to noise-reduction algorithms and other inner workings. While the hardware has remained mostly unchanged, the company's gone to town on the camera app, moving beyond the Windows Phone Lens system to craft a new Smart Cam interface. Our favorite part here is the ability to leap straight into it instead of the standard camera app. Once we set it up within the app itself, it launched just as swiftly as the regular option. Performance, in general, was identical to what we've experienced on both the 928 and 920 (the same processor will do that), keeping up with our task transitions and web-browsing tests. We're putting the finishing touches to our hands-on video, but you can find more impressions on the hardware (and that Smart Cam) after our gallery and the break.
Update: Now with video!
Nokia Lumia 925 hands-on
Nokia Lumia 925 wireless charging cases
If you liked the style and finish of the iPhone or HTC's One, the Lumia 925 might be the Windows Phone that wins you over. Putting aside ecosystem issues, this is another beautifully crafted smartphone from Nokia. It's markedly different from the noisier color explosions we've seen up until now, although wireless-charging covers will offer at least a degree of customization, coming in white, yellow, red and black options. The plastic back panel (the rest of the body is aluminum) has a matte finish, and we seem to get more purchase than on the glossy sides of our Lumia 920. The profile feels more at ease in our hand too. We complained that the outer reaches of the Lumia 920's screen were a stretch for our fingers, but the 925's dimensions have made this a lesser issue. The camera unit protrudes ever so slightly, although there seems to be enough of a plastic lip to protect the lens. It's joined by a dual-LED flash -- sorry, no xenon flash here. Sadly, built-in wireless charging also disappears. You're dependent on those aforementioned covers for that feature and Nokia says they'll be sold separately from the smartphone itself.
Color reproduction is, well, mixed.
Focusing on that screen, Nokia's decided to go OLED on both the US-only Lumia 928 and this sibling device. Color reproduction is, well, mixed: we think whites appeared crisper on the Lumia 920 than on its OLED replacement, but (and sorry if you've heard this before) blacks are deeper on the new device and help to make those Windows Phone Live Tiles stand out. Given the propensity of black in the Windows Phone 8 OS, we're hoping it'll also translate to an extended battery life, but we'll have to test that out ourselves before we know for certain. And if you've gone for the white design layout within those WP8 settings, well, you might well see a reduction in battery life.
Nokia's new Smart Cam replaces Smart Shoot, its predecessor's burst-shot mode, and it could even replace the standard camera app in practice -- we'll certainly be trying exactly that. As mentioned in the intro, you can reassign the camera to launch directly to Smart Cam, and capture 10 images. From there (and this will be familiar with anyone who's toyed with the BlackBerry Z10 or even recent HTC and Samsung smartphones), you can pick out the best shot of the bunch (or pick the suggested one). You can select several different modes by swiping up and down, like some of the settings you'll have seen before on Windows Phone Lens apps. Action Shot combines multiple images of a moving subject to create an animation-style still. The bad news here is that an event launch hasn't proved the best setting to try it out -- rest assured, we'll try it out once a review model arrives. Rounding out the options within Smart Cam, Motion Focus is a simpler affair and adds motion blur to the background photos.
There's good news, however, for anyone that's already bought a Lumia Windows Phone 8, because you'll also be able to test out the new Smart Cam. It'll be launching on the entirety of Nokia's WP8 family in a download that's called the Nokia Lumia Amber Update. Admittedly not all features will make it down to the lower-specced likes of the Lumia 620 and 520, but the basic smart functionality "should," we've been told. This update will also enable FM radio support (excluding the 620, which doesn't have the necessary hardware) as well as the tap-to-wake function -- we'll be hearing more on this at a later date, but expect it to roll out to Windows Phone 8 handsets in July. If you're itching to see how the Lumia 925 performs in low light, we'd advise perusing our Lumia 920 review, as results are likely to be very similar.
It's very much an iterative improvement over the Lumia 920.
The creeping problem we have with the Lumia 925 is that it's very much an iterative improvement over the Lumia 920: think the HTC One X+ or the iPhone 4S, but without any subsequent processor bump -- not that it needs it. If you're not concerned with some camera improvements (which we need to test out more the field) or more streamlined access to Nokia's homemade camera apps, it could be a trickier sell for Nokia, appealing hardware or otherwise.