Rumours of a metal Lumia phone were circling for months before Nokia finally took the lid off the Lumia 925. As expected, the Finnish firm had moved away from an all-plastic construction, instead incorporating luxurious aluminium into the design.
It made the phone much lighter and thinner than the previous flagship, the Lumia 920. The rest of the key specs remain fairly unchanged though. It still packs a 4.5-inch display and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor slumbers inside. Is a fresh design and a new glass camera lens enough to justify the top end price tag that comes with it?
The Lumia 925 is available now for £500 SIM-free.
Should I buy the Nokia Lumia 925?
With its bright, bold screen, great camera and fun Windows Phone software, the Lumia 920 was already a great bit of kit. Nokia has taken most of its key specs and wrapped it up inside a new sleeker, lighter body. It's the first time Nokia has used metal in its Lumias and it's resulted in a more mature-looking device. Those of you wanting the garish colours of past Lumias will be left wanting.
The 1,280x768-pixel display and dual-core chip haven't been updated since the 920, so don't start a spec war with a Galaxy S4 owner. In everyday use though, the 925's screen is brilliant and high res enough to do justice to Netflix and YouTube, while the processor is capable of tackling anything from the app store.
Speaking of which, the Windows Phone app store still lags far behind its iOS and Android rivals, so keen gamera and app addicts will want to steer clear.
Nokia's slight tweaks to the camera have slightly improved an already great camera so shutterbugs are well catered for. If you're really keen on photography though, I suggest waiting until the summer. Nokia is strongly rumoured to be bringing its true 41-megapixel PureView tech to Windows Phone in July which could well be the ultimate camera phone.
If you're keen for a Windows Phone device, the 925 is unquestionably the best model to go for. It does share so many specs with the 920 that if you can cope with the increased size and weight, it's likely to be a more cost effective option.
Design and build quality
The Lumia 925 is the first of Nokia's Lumia phones to use metal in its construction, rather than polycarbonate alone. Various rumours before the official unveiling pointed to an all-metal design, but instead, the 925 provides a mixture of both metal and plastic.
The phone's frame is aluminium, giving a slight nod towards the design of the iPhone 4 -- particularly with the little black lines next to the corners. The back panel is plastic, however, and isn't removable. The whole phone is one sealed unit, much like the 920. There's no microSD card slot hidden beneath and you can't swap out the battery.
The use of metal is definitely an interesting addition for the Lumia phones, which have typically boasted colourful plastic bodies. Whether you like this new approach or not is another matter entirely. I'm personally quite keen on the look, but it won't suit everyone. It's a lot more subdued than the brash yellows and reds of other Lumias, making it a safe option for those of you looking for a sensible work phone.
The downside is that it's less obviously a Nokia phone. I was very fond of the rounded body of the 920 -- and 800 before it. It was immediately recognisable as a Lumia when I saw it in someone's hands on the bus, but the Lumia 925 doesn't stand out in quite the same way. If you've been waiting for a Windows Phones device which will allow you to fit in with your Android mates, it'll suit you well. If you want to make a real statement with your phone, go find yourself a 920 in red or bright yellow -- you'll certainly turn more heads.
The matte, white plastic back of my review model is also an absolute magnet for any dirt and grime in your pockets. That's particularly important if you've recently got a pair of blue jeans as the dye from the material will soon be covering the back of your swanky new mobile. It's possible to clean it up of course, but that's likely to become a drag after a while. If you're really concerned about it always looking spick and span, you might want to opt for the black model -- it won't show the dirt quite as much.
Metal is understandably considered a more luxurious material than plastic, but I'm not sure it really shows on the 925. It's not that the 925 doesn't feel expensive -- it definitely does -- but the solid, rounded build of the 920 felt equally so. I have no worries about the build quality and longevity of the 925 -- the display is made from toughened Gorilla Glass 2 and the plastic back offers absolutely no flex.
Gorilla Glass 2 is toughened to withstand small attacks from keys in your pocket, but it's not impervious to all scratches. I found this out first hand when sliding the phone across the table to show it to my colleague Luke Westaway. I picked it up to find several quite unpleasant scratches across the display. I can't hold this against the 925 as the same will happen to most phones, but it's a valuable lesson to bear in mind if you don't fancy investing in a case or screen protector.
Where it really trumps the 920 though is in its physical size. Both phones pack 4.5-inch displays and are roughly similar in terms of dimensions, the exception being that the 925 is slimmer and much lighter. It weighs 139g which is a big step down from the 185g of the 920. It might not seem like a lot, but it's extremely noticeable when you hold both in your hands. The 925 is much less weighty when tucked in your jacket pocket, and is considerably more comfortable to hold up for a while if you're watching Netflix.
Around the sides you'll find a micro-USB port for charging and data transfer and a 3.2mm headphone jack. 16GB of storage is provided as standard, with a 32GB model being exclusive to Vodafone for now. There's no expandable memory, so you'll want to keep a fairly close eye on how many big videos you're storing on the phone.
There are three little metal contact points on the back. These connect to a case that gives the 925 wireless charging when used with one of the Nokia charging pads. Wireless charging was built into the 920, meaning you didn't have to spoil the nice look of your phone with a case. It's slightly annoying then that it's not built into the 925, but it's an acceptable compromise in order to make the phone slimmer and lighter.
The 925's 4.5-inch display has a 1,280x768-pixel resolution, giving it a pixel density of 334ppi. That's the same size and resolution as the 920, so it's perhaps a bit of a shame that Nokia hasn't seen fit to boost the pixel count. It would certainly help differentiate the 925 as a flagship mobile.
Still, it's far from lacking in pixels as it is. The Windows Phone interface looks incredibly crisp, with no fuzziness around the tiles. Small text on Web pages is perfectly comfortable to read for long periods and high-resolution photos look great. More pixels might help it play specs Top Trumps against the Full HD Galaxy S4, but I'm not sure it would really make much difference in everyday use.
It has the same Clearblack screen technology from the 920 too. It makes black levels very deep, resulting in lusciously rich colours and satisfying contrast. The colourful Windows Phone tiles look gloriously vivid and it helps make Netflix movies and YouTube clips look great.
If you find it a bit too rich for your retinas, jump into the settings menu. In there, you're able to change the brightness, colour temperature and saturation of the screen.
Nokia's also boosted the sensitivity of the screen, allowing you to swipe around while wearing gloves, using a fingernail, or in fact by using any conductive metal. I was actually able to navigate the phone using the metal back of an HTC One.
Windows Phone software
Like all of the Lumia range, the 925 is running Windows Phone, Microsoft's own operating system for phones. If you're only familiar with iOS or Android, then Windows Phone, will come as quite a surprise.
The homescreen is made of various bright, colourful tiles, each showing live information. You can resize them and move them around to customise it to the way that suits you best. Any apps you don't want to give pride of place on the homescreen will be put into an alphabetical list of apps, found when you swipe to the right.
Once you learn a few of the little tricks -- like pressing and holding the back arrow to show the multi-tasking screen -- Windows Phone is pretty easy to use.
My favourite aspects are the People and Me hubs. They link together your Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin accounts, as well as your contacts' phone numbers and email addresses, allowing you to see all updates in one place, and post to your own networks without having to switch between different apps.
You can also create groups of people that allow you to easily send group texts or emails. The social butterflies among you will appreciate the speed at which you can send out quick invites to meet at the pub after work.
While Windows Phone is a refreshing change from the slew of Android or iOS phones you'll see cluttering the streets, it's far from perfect. The main issue continues to be the lack of big name apps in the app store. Although there are now 140,000 apps in total, including gems like Netflix and Spotify, many popular apps like Snapseed, Instagram or games like Real Racing 3 are nowhere to be found.
Windows Phone is also typically the last to be treated to new titles. Spotify has only recently been added to the catalogue, as has Temple Run, just after Temple Run 2 was launched on Android and iOS. If you're an app addict and can't wait to compare scores of your favourite new game with your mates, you'll be better off shopping elsewhere.
To help plug some of the gaps in the app store, Nokia includes a healthy selection of its own software. They mostly revolve around Nokia's maps -- now called HERE Maps, providing local information about nearby businesses and places of interests.
Fire up the maps app and you'll be able to immediately see nearby restaurants, bars and similar. The City Lens app has been built directly into maps too. Lift the phone up as though you're using the camera and you'll see all businesses scattered around you in an augmented reality view. You can then simply walk towards the one you want to go to.
Clicking on a business name will bring up contact details, images and user reviews, if they're available.
Nokia Drive uses the same maps software, but provides turn by turn satellite navigation for use in your car. It shows a ground level view, together with 3D landmarks, with your route stretching forwards, exactly as you'd expect from your dedicated in-car sat nav.
The roads information is highly detailed and you can download maps to the phone, so you don't need to worry about your connection dropping out. Considering the TomTom app for iOS costs upwards of £40, it's genuinely a great extra for Nokia users to get for free.
Other Nokia additions include the transit app that gives live departures of local buses and trains and Nokia Music, which lets you listen to music playlists by genre, for free, without ads and with the ability to sync them to your phone for offline playback.
Processor and performance
The phone is powered by a dual-core 1.5GHz processor, which is identical to the processor found inside the Lumia 920. Those of you still playing the smart phone numbers game will be disappointed that Nokia hasn't given it a boost to compare more favourably with the slew of quad-core phones like the HTC One or Sony Xperia Z.
For the most part though, the 925 doesn't really need anything that powerful. Swiping around the interface is extremely smooth and responsive and switching between open apps in the multitasking window is free of any delay.
It handled video streaming using BBC iPlayer and Netflix perfectly well and doesn't bat an eyelid with mobile games like Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds. How well it will cope with demanding games like Real Racing 3 is a moot point, as very few are available on the Windows Phone store. The 925 fares well with anything you're able to throw at it from the selection available.
It did seem more sluggish when using some of the camera software though. Nokia has bundled various camera tools, called 'Lenses' with the phone. I'll elaborate on what these do later, but I found that firing them up and switching between them was subject to quite a few delays. Whether that's a problem with the processor or the software isn't clear, but I can't help thinking that a more burly processor would handle the task better.
At the launch, Nokia spent a great deal of time boasting about the 925's camera skills. It actually contains the same 8.7-megapixel sensor found in the 920, which again won't help you win any spec wars against the other smart phone big boys. Nokia has shoved in an extra glass element in the lens which it reckons makes images more defined.
I haven't been able to do a truly exhaustive camera test, but my shots for the review so far have certainly been impressive. The delightful grey skies above London's St Paul's Cathedral were captured well, with good exposure overall. There's not much difference between the 925 and the 920 (shown below), but at full screen, the 925 does seem to have a slight edge in clarity.
Both cameras did a great job capturing the close up detail on this tree bark, with great depth of field in the background. It's very difficult to really see much improvement on the 925, but that's because the 920's was a great shot to begin with.
It's in low-light situations that the Lumias really shine though. The 920 roundly whooped the proverbial of all top-end smart phones in my recent low-light test, so the 925 has a lot to live up to. Thankfully then, it performed incredibly well. My test scene was extremely dimly lit, but you wouldn't be able to tell from the 925's shot. It's bright, evenly exposed and with very natural white balance.
The 920 did a decent job of exposing too, but it was very heavy handed with the auto white balance, giving a reddish hue to the scene. The HTC One meanwhile produced a darker scene, with much lower quality than either of the Lumias. The 925 is more susceptible to hand shake in low-light scenes, but so long as you set your shot up properly, it can deliver some superb results.
Nokia has also bundled the 925 with its new Smart Cam software. It takes 10 pictures in a burst mode, allowing you to edit them in a number of ways. It can track a moving object across the scene to either edit it out completely -- removing a 'photobomber' -- or turn the moving figure into an action sequence photo, shown below.
The photo stitching isn't as smooth as the shots I've seen from the HTC One's Zoe cam, but it looks pretty cool nonetheless. Furthermore, the 925 allows for greater control over which of the 10 shots are included and allows you to fade some of them out, giving more emphasis to your favourite part of the action.
The 925 really seems like it's capable of some impressive shots, but I'll be taking a closer look over the coming weeks. Bear in mind though that if photography is of crucial importance, you might want to keep hold of your cash. Nokia is almost certainly working on a proper PureView Lumia, pairing the ridiculous 41-megapixel sensor from the 808 with Windows Phone software.
No smart phone's battery ever really impresses, but I found the 920's to certainly be among the better efforts. Nokia quotes just under 13 hours of 3G talk time from the 925, which is similarly satisfying -- but as always, that really depends on how you use the phone.
In my early tests, I found the battery to drop quite quickly. I was using the phone heavily, streaming video and downloading apps, with the screen at maximum brightness. After being unplugged in the morning, it would be just over half gone by the afternoon. This is something of a 'worse-case scenario' test, so you'll find it much better with careful use.
Avoid streaming video when you're away from a plug and keep the screen brightness to a lower level -- or on auto-mode. You shouldn't struggle to get a day of use out of the phone which isn't at all bad, but you'll still want to put it on charge each night.
I haven't been able to perform my proper battery drain tests on the phone, so I won't give a final conclusion about how it stacks up against other phones. I'll be updating this review over the coming weeks with further tests, so keep your eyes peeled.
Nokia has taken much of the key hardware from the Lumia 920 and wrapped it up inside a slimmer, lighter and arguably more luxurious body. The addition of the glass lens makes an already superb camera even better. Sure, the screen isn't Full HD and the dual-core processor won't impress Galaxy S4 owners, but you're unlikely to notice this in everyday use.
The main drawback is still the lack of good new apps in the Windows Phone app store, but otherwise, the 925 is a brilliant phone. If you're after a truly brilliant camera though, you might want to hold onto your money just in case Nokia launches the much-rumoured Lumia EOS.