Why I Adore my Lumia 920

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Windows Phone. I was one of the maybe six people on Earth who were actually optimistic for Windows Phone 7.8. But when I realized my pre-paid T-Mobile plan was going to expire days after the Lumia 920 launch, and that the 920 would only cost $100 on a 2-year term, I decided to pick one up.

Best. Decision. Ever.

The Lumia 920 is a phone made by Nokia, running Windows Phone 8. It was released last Friday, but I’ve only had mine for about three hours. I already completely adore it. Here are five reasons why:

1: Nokia Maps is incredible.

I hated Bing Maps in Windows Phone 7.

I remember searching for Westfield one time, because there are a bunch of Westfield malls in San Jose and I guess I wanted to get my shopping on.

It found nothing. This is completely typical of Bing Maps. Coming from iPhone back when it had Google Maps, this was a huge let down. I often cited it as the only thing I genuinely disliked about WP7.

Nokia Maps is leaps and bounds better. I searched for Westfield and it focused on the closest Westfield mall, highlighted the rest with little shopping bag icons, and when I scrolled down from the map, it gave me a text-based list of all the results.

It’s beautiful. Sometimes jabbing at tiny pin drops in a moving car (in the passenger seat, of course!) is really ineffective. Having a list of text results is great because they’re easier to tap, and you can see in plain text what all the results are, without having to tap on each one.

This is a huge win for UX, and it’s indicative of Nokia’s commitment to making sure WP8 succeeds.

2: Built-in GPS is about to be very helpful.

Nokia has a really slick Drive app, which is your basic 3D voice-navigating GPS. The brilliant feature in this app is that it lets you download maps of specific areas in 100MB or so chunks, so that you can navigate those regions while offline.

I’m going to Las Vegas with the wife and some friends this weekend, and one of the things we’re going to do is drive to the grand canyon. I just downloaded the maps for Nevada, so now we’ll have GPS despite driving through areas with bad or no reception. When we get back, I can delete the Nevada maps to free up the 90MB they’re currently taking up. Excellent!

3: Smaller live tiles are awesome!

Live tiles in Windows Phone 7 came in two sizes: big, and really big. Really big tiles stretched the full width of the home screen, and were half as tall as they were wide. Big tiles were the same height as really big, but square-shaped.

This means if you used all big tiles — the smallest available option — you could see about eight on screen at one time.

Windows Phone 8 offers a smaller size, which is 1/4 the size of big tiles. If I put all small tiles on my Lumia, I can fit 24 on screen at a time.

This is incredible!

I still have a really big tile for my calendar, and a big tile for my social network notification app, but that leaves me space for twelve additional icons, which is great when you have three email addresses, two blogs, two messaging apps, and of course a phone icon, and you like to have them all above the fold so you can see all your notifications at once.

4: The camera is superb.

I don’t know a whole lot about cameras, but this Carl Zeiss thing takes great pictures. It also records HD+ video, but I don’t know what that means. I guess it’s more pixels than HD?

Looking at comparisons online, the vote seems to be split on whether it’s better or worse than the iPhone 5 (my money’s on worse; it’s amazing what people can do with an iPhone these days).

All I care about is that the pictures aren’t blurry. You should see what came out of my last phone; it’s like the lens was part Jell-O. Glad to put those days behind me.

5: I’m digging the large screen.

One of the things I was a little concerned about with the 920 is its size. It’s a little bigger than my last phone, which was itself slightly bigger than the iPhone I had switched from.

It turns out the larger form factor is pretty sweet. It fits nicely in my hand, and thankfully the power button is on the side; I would struggle to reach it if it was on top like every other phone I’ve ever used.

My new Lumia sports a 4.5 inch screen, at a resolution of 720×1280. This is really nice for content that generally feels a little cramped on a mobile screen. Calendar events and non-mobile-optimized websites, I’m looking at you — and you look great!

Overall, I’m pretty psyched.

This is the first time since the iPhone launched in Canada (2008), that I’ve owned a just-released phone. This thing has features that I don’t even know how to use (NFC), and some that just seem like overkill (inductive charging).

I think I’m in for a swell two years :)

It’s good to be back, by the way. My last post was four months ago — ouch! — but I’ve been working on a little secret something in my time away. I’ll fill you in soon, but it’s going to be especially good news if you’re into serious Javascript development…