When Mr. Mo reviewed the Nokia Lumia 1520 in March 2014, his verdict was that it scores high in many ways with few weak points. He mentioned it was undoubtedly one of the finest phablets in the market; one that was recommended. This is over a year after and I’m revisiting the 1520, to see if all these still hold true.
Obviously, the hardware hasn’t changed
The Lumia 1520 is still a unibody slab design with a 6″, 1080p, LCD screen. The front of the device comprises mainly of the screen, the Nokia branding above it, and the traditional Windows phone capacitive keys, located on the chin of the device. The phone houses the nano-sim and micro SD memory card in a compartment to the left of the phone; one which you’ll need an ejector tool, to get access to.
The right side of the device consists of buttons – for volume adjustments, power / phone lock, and the dedicated camera trigger. The micro USB port for charging and connecting the 1520 is isolated, at the bottom of the device.
The quality and design of the device oozes quality. Mr. Mo reviewed the red color version, with a glossy finish. My review unit is white and possesses a matte finish – which shows marks and stains on closer inspection; however the glossy finish material is more susceptible to showing fingerprints.
The loudspeaker of the device is clear, even at louder volumes, when playing media. However, the sound it produces is not as crisp as say the Blackberry Z30’s speakers. I also noticed that while on calls, listening with the earpiece rather than the loudspeakers gives more clarity, with richer sound. Since we are talking about calls here, I need to mention that one of the more refined characters of the device is the animation when a call is ended. It is beautiful and feels seamless; no matter how negligible that might seem.
The Lumia 1520’s 3400mAh battery is still top notch and delivers power to last well over a day of power usage. See proof below. Furthermore, recent versions of the operating system show the network and battery bars at the top of the screen. In addition, pulling down the notification bar shows the percentage of battery left.
Processing power is stellar on the 1520. It possesses a quad core Snapdragon 800, from Qualcomm, which is clocked at 2.2 GHz. There is 2GB of RAM and 32GB of on-board storage available. This translates to ample storage for those ‘pure view’ photos the 1520 produces from its Carl Zeiss totting, 20MP camera – the camera settings include an option to store good quality 5MP resolution shoots, in addition to a bigger 16MP version. Carrying out day to day tasks, or using the device in heavier multitasking scenarios are both a joy; the 1520 breezes through tasks, with no lags. This is a big leap from my last windows phone – the Lumia 800, which was running Windows 7.8 on lesser capable hardware.
The software version is ‘Denim’ now
In Nigeria, the Lumia 1520 got updated to the Lumia Denim software, sometime around the end of February, 2015. The software update brings a number of improvements, such as: the introduction of Cortana – the new digital assistant; the ability to create live folders – for a more personal start screen; the new Lumia Camera software; a more optimised glance screen, and faster browsing experience, to name a few.
One area the Windows Phone operating system has been very capable is in the keyboard, and the 1520 with its larger screen further increases it’s usability; so long you are willing to use two hands while typing out those long e-mails, articles, or other text format documents. The keyboard is pretty intelligent and adding new words to the inbuilt dictionary is pretty straightforward. In my opinion, it is arguably the best mobile keyboard on an all touch screen mobile operating system.
Don’t get me wrong, it is no Blackberry 10 keyboard; but then there are blackberry 10 devices that are not all touch screen. Besides, it is equally as intelligent, even though the ability to swipe words into the body of texts, which is available in Blackberry 10, is more efficient. Positioning the cursor while editing texts can be tricky. However, Microsoft claims that Windows 10 should bring the needed improvements in this area; so let’s be patient.
There are other novel approaches that the Windows Phone operating system takes, that I feel are interesting, yet not talked about as much. One of such approach is the ability to try full versions of applications from the store, before purchasing. I find this to be very useful, as I usually never regret any Windows store purchase, compared to other mobile operating systems that I use. However, I noticed a good amount of apps I bought on my Windows 7.8 device were not available for me to download. This raises concerns, especially as Windows Phone 10 is on the horizon. Those who intend to invest heavily in apps on the platform should take note.
Windows Phone OS is no Android or iOS, but the app gap is closing at a decent rate
According to Microsoft, the Windows and Windows Phone store have over 500,000 apps, combined. It is not over the 1 million mark, which is the case with its competitors – Google Play store, and iOS app store; but it has been showing decent growth year-on-year. A number of consumer apps such as Instagram, which were unavailable initially, are now available on the platform. Windows 10 should also bring universal apps, so consumers have access to the apps they bought on the Windows store, from the Windows Phone store; and vice versa.
All these being said, I can’t deny that the platform shows immaturity compared to its other competitors, in the area of how functional apps are. For example, not until an update to Whatsapp earlier this year, did it become possible to see the status of a message by just looking at the chat list. Prior to the update, you would have to go into the particular chats to see if the message was delivered, or still pending. Some might argue that it’s a third party app, that’s why; but even the inbuilt messaging app suffers the same fate. However, delivery reports can be turned on in this case.
The Lumia 1520 comes with decent, useful, inbuilt apps such as: Data Sense – for monitoring data use, Lumia Storyteller – for aggregating photos, and preparing sideshows; Lumia Beamer – which shows content form the device on another screen. There is also Lumia camera which gives the user manual controls while taking pictures. The above list is non exhaustive. Furthermore, I like the fact that these inbuilt apps can be deleted by the user, if you don’t find them useful, or just want to free up extra space.
It seems like some apps always have an update. However, these updates actually fix things or improve your experience. For example, until a recent update of the inbuilt video player, I was unable to play videos with the .avi extension; this is no longer the case after the update.
To be honest, it’s not all perfect
Mr. Mo started his review by stating that the Lumia 1520 is the most powerful, versatile and most capable Windows Phone in existence. He praised the display, outstanding battery life and mentioned that the 20MP camera that came embedded in the device beats most competitors. Guess what? I find all these to still be the case. However there are things about the device that aggravate me, or that I simply can’t understand. Mainly they are software related issues, so there is hope that they can be corrected with the next iteration of the operating system.
One of these complaints is the haphazard settings list that the Windows Phone operating system is characterized by. There is no orderliness behind the way the different options are setup. Unless you have been using the operating system for a while, it is almost impossible to pinpoint what settings option you are looking for at first try.
Another is the sunlight readability function, under the display settings – it makes content being viewed on the device appear washed out and unrealistic. Yes! It actually does improve readability when in direct sunlight, but without that option turned on, the device still does well, as the automatic brightness adjusts intelligently.
There is an option to set Bing images of the day as your lock screen image. But I have quit using this as I noticed the image never gets updated on the lock screen, even though it does on the search page – which is triggered by the search icon – one of the capacitive buttons below the screen of the device.
My final gripe is that I don’t understand why I have to toggle Bluetooth on first, before it appears as an option to send a music file. Normally, on other operating systems it already shows as an option; if you choose it, then you go ahead to turn it on, and then send. Simple!
Cortana is here now!
Like I mentioned earlier, part of the inclusions in the ‘Denim’ update is the addition of the digital assistant, Cortana. Users around this part will not have access to it by default, as it is available in only certain regions for now. However, changing regions to the United Kingdom for instance or any other supported region will give you access.
Cortana actually did impress me, although it is clear that there is still room for improvements and further development is needed. I like the fact that it got my name and that it can be woken by a trigger phrase – Hey Cortana!
What is the verdict?
This piece set out to find out if Mr. Mo’s verdict from the review over a year ago still holds true. My simple answer is yes! The Lumia 1520 is still one of the finest phablets in the market, especially in these parts (Nigeria). It is seeing heavier competition now however; but even almost 2 years after its introduction and a year after it was reviewed here, it is still the best Windows Phone phablet.
There are notable contenders like the Android running, Huawei Ascend Mate 7, but the 1520 is cheaper in the Nigerian market, at about =N=90,000. Furthermore if you must have the Windows Phone operating system and top notch hardware, it is the only way to go, for now.
Have you experienced the Lumia 1520? What do you think about it? Are you running the latest ‘Denim’ update? Please tell us what you like about it, and what doesn’t cut it for you. We value your opinion.
IB ‘Hi Beezle’ Sam-Epelle is passionate about smartphones and mobile technology; a solution provider; critical thinker; entrepreneur; the founder, Grand-Monumental Ink.