REVIEW: Nokia Lumia 925

Nokia's latest smartphone boasts a solid mix of hardware and software, as well as a camera that blows its rivals out of the water. But is it still doomed to be the last spark of a once great phone company?

The Nokia Lumia 925 is a solid mix of hardware and software, but Nokia is banking on its camera technology to give it the edge over the market-leading Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4.

Graph for REVIEW: Nokia Lumia 925

On the surface the Lumia 925 has a solid mixture of mid- to high-level hardware specifications including a 4.5", 1280x768 resolution AMOLED WXGA display protected by Gorilla Glass 2; a 1.5 gigahertz dual-core Snapdragon processor; 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage space. For the short term, Vodafone has exclusivity on a Lumia 925 model that has 32 GB of internal storage space.

Nokia's camera technology, often described as excellent, is represented by a PureView 8.7 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, high-powered dual LED flash and the ability to take photos, as well as 1080 pixel HD video at 30 frames per second with Optical Image Stabilisation. In our experience, the camera phone functionality performed admirably, especially in low light where it picked up details in shadows that the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4 often rendered as nearly black.

Weight was a problem with the previous Lumia 920, which weighed in at a hefty 185 grams, but the Lumia 925 has lost a lot of baggage at 139g, achieved by swapping a polycarbonate body for mostly aluminium.

Connectivity no issue as the Lumia 925 is compatible with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone’s 3G and 4G networks. It should be noted that the 2000 milliampere hours battery is unlikely to last a full day of heavy 4G use.

However, as fellow Technology Spectator reviewer Adam Turner pointed out when judging the Nokia Lumia 920: “It's important to judge every product on its merits, but reviewing gadgets in a vacuum often does readers a disservice."

Unfortunately, the Lumia 925 has one hand tied behind its back due to running the unpopular Windows Phone 8 operating system and does not offer enough compelling features or apps to attract buyers away from the Android and Apple phone ecosystems. When you’re as far behind the pack in sales numbers as Nokia, you need to launch products that blow the incumbents away rather than just being kind of competitive on some key features.

As a technology journalist who regularly gets asked by friends and business acquaintances which smartphone to buy, my anecdotal evidence is that people tend to defect to iPhone or Android once their Windows Phone fails or goes off contract.

Graph for REVIEW: Nokia Lumia 925

Nokia’s press kit includes several low-light photos taken with the Lumia 925, including the one above of the Argyle Cut tunnel in The Rocks, Sydney. Nokia is hoping that the Lumia 925 and soon to be launched 1020 are torches that will lead it away from the current dark days of falling market share, to a light at the end of the tunnel.

Unfortunately for Nokia, these phones are more likely to be the last spark of a once proud mobile phone innovator currently in its death throes. Reuters predicted recently that Nokia’s “loss-making handset business … could burn through its cash as soon as next year”.

The Nokia Lumia 925 is available from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone with a recommended reatil price of $699. If you absolutely love Windows Phone 8 and must have the best phone in that ecosystem, I recommend holding off until the Lumia 1020 is released in Australia. It’s basically the same internal hardware as the Lumia 925, except for a bump-up to 2 GB of RAM, as well as the big difference of a 41 megapixel camera sensor that overseas reviewers say blows away any other smartphone camera.