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Those who regularly read my tech articles will be well aware that I have taken a great deal of interest in Windows Phone 8 since the launch late last year.  It is largely seen as a make or break for Windows, and a failure with Windows Phone 8 could have wider implications for Microsoft as their share of the computing market has shrunk massively since the resurgence of Apple.  Although Microsoft has felt the wrath of Apple, no one has been burnt more than Nokia.  The former global mobile phone powerhouse has seen their share price diminish rapidly thanks to the rise of the smartphone, and their delayed approach in coming to the market has perpetuated Apple and Samsung’s dominance.

Nokia decided to dump their Symbian operating system in 2011 in favour of collaborating with Windows, and disappointing sales of all Windows Phone 7 devices meant both companies have gone back to the drawing board and possibly make one last attempt to break this market.  Another failure could spell the end for Nokia as we know it, and with so much on the line, we got our hands on the Nokia Lumia 820, their first smartphone running on the Windows Phone 8 system, to see whether this could be the saviour of the brand.

The Basics

4.3” screen
Available in 7 colourful shells
8MP Rear Camera with HD video recording
Expandable MicroSD compatible up to 32GB
Priced from £379.95 8GB Model Sim Free


The phone we are testing comes in a striking banana yellow and although this goes against all my gadget colour principles, I like it.  Even better is that there is a matching yellow screen theme, so everything is neatly colour coordinated, and the white font with black background makes it stand out from the crowd.

The other thing that immediately stands out is the weight of the phone.  Being used to the similarly sized iPhone, it was somewhat of a surprise when first handling the Nokia as it is an eye watering 160g- a whole 40% greater than the iPhone 5.  The wireless charging unit and removable battery are partly to blame for the added weight, but this shouldn’t account for why it is so heavy and has been a common complaint for a number of years that Nokia have failed to address.  On the plus side though, the Lumia feels sturdy and it doesn’t seem necessary to buy a case to protect this beast of a phone.

Lumia cases


The feature that stands out the most is Nokia’s wireless charging shell, which comes as an optional extra.  For £40, you can charge your phone by simply placing it on a charging plate, which is great for those who detest wires.  Nokia have also collaborated with JBL on a Bluetooth speaker which allows you to place the Lumia on top and it will play your tunes and charge wirelessly at the same time.  The system works brilliantly and this will sure to be a common feature in all smartphones soon.

Nokia have always had a reputation for great camera quality, and the Lumia 820 doesn’t disappoint.  The Carl Zeiss lens ensures crisp images, dedicated camera shutter button, and the ability to create full HD videos is a big plus for impromptu vlogging.

Another impressive function of the Lumia is the ultra sensitive touch screen which allows for use while even wearing leather gloves.  The tech really works and I was extremely grateful during the snow, and I could feel the jealous eyes watching me type away while others were catching frostbite attempting to text.

With all these advanced features, something’s got to give and unfortunately it’s the battery life.  It is dreadful to say the least and although the Lumia comes with battery conservation software, once you reach below 20%, it’s nigh on impossible to save it.  With moderate use (Checking twitter, sending emails etc), I managed to go 6-7 hours before dying, and with heavy use, my record was just over 4 hours.  As I’m constantly on the move, I grew more and more frustrated at the constant low battery warnings, so I ended up carrying around a spare phone, and had to use it most days.

Nokia Lumia 820

Operating System & Apps

Much has been made of the Windows Phone 8 OS with Microsoft investing millions to convince consumers that it can compete with the big 2.  Personalised home screen, resizable app tiles, and the kid’s corner security feature are some of the standout Windows characteristics, and I did find myself playing around with them regularly.  Being part of the Windows network means full integration with your home computer, an inbuilt full version of Microsoft Office, and the Skype apps allows you to be online at all times.   The best functions are provided by Nokia themselves, with preloaded apps including Maps, Drive SatNav, and the fantastic augmented reality City Lens which shows local bars, shops etc by just holding up the camera and creates a street view.

The real let down of this phone comes from the apps- the Windows App store is missing too many apps that I have grown accustomed to in everyday life. Instagram? Nope. Mobile banking? No chance. Sky Go? I hope you’ve not forgotten to set Sky+ before leaving home.  I could go on, and considering how much Microsoft have spent trying to make their store as competitive as possible, this is simply unforgiveable.  It wouldn’t be so bad if the apps they do have were brilliant, but the Twitter app makes crafting amusing 140 character gems a chore, irate eBayers have complained of  push notification problems, and a lack of small 3rd party app developers mean there is a distinct lack of genuine gaming treasures.  Another little annoyance I found was that when in the middle of using an app, the top display disappears so you have to exit to read the time or check how much battery life remains.

The Verdict

The Lumia 820 is a better effort than the Windows 7 Nokia phones, but still lags well behind the nearest Android alternatives, like the Google Nexus 4 or Samsung Galaxy S2.  Some of the tech used in the Lumia 820 is creative and practical- so the potential is there for future greatness. In my opinion, if Nokia swallowed their pride and went to Android with cap in hand, a Nokia Android collaboration could see a return to glory.  To break the dominance that Samsung and Google have on the market it would take something mind-blowing, and unfortunately, the Lumia 820 is decisively average.


Wireless charging
Nokia augmented reality City Lens app
Super sensitive touch screen


Poor battery life
Limited app store


Nokia Lumia 820, available on all major networks from free, depending on tariff and network.

There are 2 comments

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  1. Pete

    Agree about Nokia teaming up with Android, would have been a great combo… As I love the Lumia 820 phone, but find WP8 to be lacking in so many areas. I also can’t find an Android phone thats anything like the Lumia 820!

  2. Gavin

    Hi Pete,
    The Lumia 820 is a good phone. As they say “Rome wasn’t built in a day” so hopefully WP8 only gets better!

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