Nokia Lumia 822 Review: Nokia Makes a Triumphant Return to Verizon
After quite a long absence, Nokia is quickly trying to establish itself in the USA, and they are continuing their push by offering the Lumia 822: a budget but feature packed Windows Phone 8 device on Verizon’s LTE network. While the Lumia 822 may lack the one-two punch that its bigger brother the Lumia 920 delivers on AT&T’s network, the 822 is a great way to start turning the masses away from Android and the iPhone.
Nokia was kind enough to supply me with a Lumia 822 for this review, and after using the device for the past week, I am now able to share my thoughts and feelings about the device. First, let’s take a look at the hardware.
Don’t judge a phone by its cover
First impressions go a long way when it comes to many things in life, and these days, not even smartphones are exempt. To be completely honest, the Lumia 822 is not one of the best looking phones in town. Don’t get me wrong here, the design is perfectly fine and functional, but the 822 is definitely not a head turner like the Lumia 900 was, and how the 920 is currently.
The 822 looks exactly like what it is: a budget phone. Unlike its 800 series brothers (the 810 on T-Mobile and the 820 on AT&T) the 822 does not have a full sheet of glass covering the front of the device, (which gives them a premium look). Instead there is a lip at the bottom of the case that houses the Verizon logo. Just above the Verizon logo you will find the capacitive back, Windows, and search keys.
On the bottom of the device you will find the Micro-USB port in between the speakers. On the right hand side you will find the volume rocker, the power button, and the dedicated camera shutter which is a feature of Windows Phone that I absolutely love. All of the buttons are well places, and they are not over;y recessed like they are on some phones. The controls feel sturdy, but they are not hard to press which makes operation simple. On the top of the device you will find a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a secondary microphone.
The back of the phone features a removable back cover (a key feature of the 822), but unfortunately it is made of rather cheap plastic, and feels quite flimsy. The Carl Zeiss lens sits in the middle of the back, and the Carl Zeiss Camera branding on the back does look nice and certainly offers some visual appeal. The front is home to the HD front-facing camera, and if you look hard enough, you will see the ambient light sensor. One thing the 822 does not have is a notification light, which can be annoying if you are switching from a device that has this feature, but this is by no means a deal breaker.
The 822 is quite thick (11.2mm), and a little heavy (5oz or 142g) by today’s standards. However, I have to say that the 822 feels wonderful in the hand. You could easily say by looking at the spec sheet that the 822 could lose a little weight, but I think it would feel less of a phone if it were to be a bit lighter as the weight and overall feel of the device make it feel like more of a premium device rather than a budget one.
Having said all of this, we have to remember that appearances are not the most important thing, and that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and the Lumia 822 more than makes up for any shortcomings in its design with what it has under the hood.
Ask any current Android or iPhone user about Windows Phone and they will tell you that their devices are superior because of their more powerful processors and better overall hardware, but Microsoft has worked hard along with hardware manufacturers to bridge that gap with Windows Phone 8.
Windows Phone 8 can now support Dual-Core processors, and the Lumia 822 is packing a powerful one. The Lumia 822 is powered by the excellent Snapdragon S4 Krait processor (the same found in the Lumia 920), which has been clocked at 1.5GHz. Married to the processor is 1GB of RAM and the impressive Adreno 225 GPU.
The 8MP f/2.2 camera with Carl Zeiss lens is no slouch either. While it is not as powerful or as feature-packed as the PureView camera found on its big brother (the Lumia 920), the camera offered here can take some great pictures, but I will go into more detail about the camera later on. The front-facing HD camera is a welcome addition, especially to those of you who enjoy video chatting with friends and family.
The screen that the 822 uses is a 4.3-inch AMOLED display that runs at a resolution of 800×480 (217 dpi) and while this is fine, it is a little disappointing seeing that Windows Phone 8 supports much higher resolutions. Having said that, the display is really crisp and sharp. This is in part due to the rather excellent ClearBlack technology that Nokia uses. The colors that the screen produces are vibrant and they really pop; blacks are about as black as they can be, and viewing angles are second to none.
Nokia has obviously put a lot of thought into the screen, and in their wisdom they opted to use a polarized filter on the display. While this might not sound impressive, it means that when you are outside in direct sunlight, the screen is just as clear as it is inside, which is something most smartphones struggle with. Another key feature of this phone’s display is the high sensitivity of the touch screen. Thanks to the unique technology used, when the sensitivity is set to high, users can tap away at the screen with their fingertips, and they will not have to remove gloves, which I’m sure will be a welcome feature to those who live in cold climates.
Behind the removable back panel you will find a removable 1800mAh battery (which is a pleasant surprise) and a microSD card slot. Windows Phone 8 devices now support SD cards, and while the Lumia 822’s 16GB of built-in storage space should be sufficient for most, you also have the option to use up to a 64GB SD card to store all of your media if you want to.
Along with the impressive hardware listed above, users will also find that the 822 houses 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, GLONASS and a NFC chip. Verizon customers will also be pleased to know that the 822 comes equipped to run on Verizon’s EV-DO and LTE services, but that’s not all as the 822 is also a global phone which means that it is unlocked for global use, which will appease frequent travelers.
When all of these items combine, you get a nice, powerful device that can easily compete with Android devices and Apple’s iPhone on paper, but how does it fare in the real world? Let’s find out.
The road test.
The proof is always in the pudding, and I have to say that the 822 does not disappoint in any single area. Despite the Lumia 822’s status as a mid-range device, the phone performs admirably, and it easily competes with and outperforms many other devices in its category.
From a cold boot, the Lumia 822 took 43 seconds to reach the home screen which is slightly slower than some phones on the market, but thanks to the Snapdragon S4 Krait processor, the 822 zips along at a speedy rate with nary a hint of lag once it is fired up.
Using the 822 to browse the web, watch videos, and play games is a pure joy. It easily produces ones of the best smartphone experiences to date thanks to the sheer speed at which this device zooms along. Even simple tasks like navigating the menu system is fun because the animations are fluid and smooth, and this is great because Windows Phone 8 animations and Live Tiles are just gorgeous to look at.
Aside from being fast and smooth through the menus and while playing media, the 822 excels in other areas too. Thanks to the great GPS and GLONASS receivers, the 822 locks on to satellites quickly, and this is a great thing, especially when you take into consideration that Nokia is putting a lot of eggs into the location based services basket. Included with all Nokia devices are the amazing Nokia Drive, City Lens, and Nokia Maps apps, and thanks to the great receivers these apps work flawlessly.
At the end of the day though, the 822 is a phone, and believe it or not, smartphones are capable of making old fashioned phone calls. The 822 performed well in my phone call tests. During calls to both land lines and cell phones, call quality was above average. I was easily able to hear the recipient of my phone call clearly, and they were able to hear me just fine as well. The ear piece is plenty loud enough, and offers clear sound even when in noisy environments.
Along with the earpiece, the main speakers also perform well. One thing Windows Phone has never struggled with is its volume levels. Even with the phone turned down low, the speakers deliver clean, crisp sound while playing music, or while taking a phone call through speaker phone. Another great feature Nokia included is the included Dolby Headphone equalizer, which is activated when you plug in your favorite pair of headphones.
Battery life and wireless charging
The 1800mAh battery performed well during my tests as well. With a full charge I was able to get a day and a half out of the phone with light use, and even with moderate to heavy use (which includes playing games, browsing the web, listening to music, sending texts and making calls) I was able to stretch the battery to make it through a day. The Li-ion battery is rated for 14 hours of talk time, and 330 hours on standby. While the battery is not the best around, it is certainly powerful enough to make it through the day with moderate use.
The Lumia 920 has the luxury of having wireless charging built into the phone, but the 822 does not. However you can buy an additional back plate that has the wireless Qi sensor built in to it. If you purchase the additional back plate and the wireless charging pad, the 822 will also have the ability to charge wirelessly, which could come in handy, especially as many businesses and restaurants across the country are beginning to add wireless charging pads into the stores. When businesses incorporate the wireless charging stations, with the additional back cover you could easily stop off at a coffee shop and get yourself and your phone a quick shot of energy.
Carl Zeiss has always been a maker of quality camera lenses, and Nokia decided to use a Zeiss lens in the Lumia 822. The 8MP sensor has been paired with a 26mm f/2.2 Zeiss lens, a dual-LED flash, and the excellent two stage, dedicated shutter button. While the camera is nowhere near as powerful as the PureView camera found in the Lumia 920, the 822’s camera is much better than previous cameras found in Windows Phone devices.
The camera can produce some really nice pictures with good lighting, and even in low light, the 822 can capture some good pictures with little picture noise. The biggest downfall though is that the camera is not the fastest around. This is mainly due to some auto focusing issues which will hopefully be fixed in an update sometime in the future, but having said this you can capture some nice shots with a little patience.
For the most part the 822 does a great job when it comes to metering light, and it does a good job with white balance (an area where many smartphone cameras fail). My biggest gripe though is that the camera app is very simplistic and offers little in the way of settings those who like to tinker with settings.
The Lumia 822 camera app allows you to change aspect ratios (16:9 or 4:3), you can set the ISO (100-800), you can choose from several scenario settings (Close-Up, Night, Night Portrait, Sports, and Backlight), exposure values and white balance settings can be changed, and there is an option to turn the focus assist light on or off, but that is it. There is no option for manual focus, no HDR option (which seems to be standard on other phones), and there is no timer setting. However there are probably enough features for the casual photographer, but this camera will not replace a regular point and shoot any time soon.
The dedicated two-stage shutter control on the phone is one of my favorite features. Having a physical shutter button to take your pictures makes things so much easier. The shutter button works just like a shutter button on a regular camera would. If you press the button down half way, the camera will focus on the object you would like to take a picture of, press it all the way, and the camera will snap a picture. You can of course use the screen to take pictures too, and all you have to do is tap an item on the screen to focus on it, and the phone will do the rest. I also like that you can wake the phone from sleep by keeping the shutter button held down for a couple of seconds. Turning on the phone like this will launch you straight into the camera app, and that can save valuable time when you are trying to capture shots on the fly.
While the camera might not be a world beater, it can take good pictures, but picture taking aside, there are some other wonderful features when it comes to the camera. The Lumia 822 comes with some excellent software features, such as the unique camera lenses software. The camera lenses allow you to place an overlay over the regular camera app. By selecting different lenses from the camera viewfinder, you can unleash your creativity. SmartShoot allows you to edit photos by removing faces and objects on the fly, CinemaGraph allows the user to blend still and moving images together to make moving pictures (GIFS basically), and then there are other 3rd party lenses like the CNN Lens which allows you to snap pictures and then upload them to iReport instantly.
The camera is also capable of recording in 1080p at 30 fps. The biggest difference between the 822 and the 920 is that the 822 does not have optical image stabilization, but you will find that if you can hold the phone still enough you can capture pretty clear HD videos. The amount of detail that can be captured is quite deep, and audio quality is excellent, but if you move too fast, the image will turn into a blocky mess, so just keep this in mind when capturing video.
The front-facing camera is also really good. I was actually surprised to find that the front-facing camera records in HD. The camera produces clear images, it never struggles to stay in focus, and does not suffer with white balance issues like many front-facing cameras.
While the camera may have its shortcomings, the additional software and good video recording abilities certainly makes up for them. Overall the camera is good; it is not the best around, but it is certainly not the worst, and if all you are doing is snapping pictures and videos to share on social networks, it works perfectly.
While this is a review of the Lumia 822’s hardware I would be remiss not to mention the software that runs on this phone: Windows Phone 8..
The Lumia 822 uses Microsoft’s latest version of Windows Phone, Windows Phone 8. The young OS has come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years, and the features and ecosystem on offer is starting to rival offerings from both Google and Apple.
The 822 handles Windows Phone 8 easily. Like I stated before, the phone blazes through menus, handles videos without a hitch, and browses the web like a champ, but many are still on the fence about Windows Phone 8 partly because it looks so different than the usual row of grids and icons that seem to have become the norm.
Windows Phone 8 is a beautiful operating system to both use and look at. The live tiles offer information right up front to the end user, and new customization features allow the user to really customize the phone to their liking. Windows Phone 8 is simple, intuitive, and is a breeze to setup.
After the first boot you will be prompted to choose your language, set the time and date, signing into or signing up for Microsoft’s Outlook service (needed to access the marketplace) and turning on location based services, and that is it. After a few minutes you are ready to go. The phone has built in links to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google, Yahoo, Xbox Live, and Skydrive, and once you are signed in to each service there is no need to download any separate apps for them because all those services become integrated into the device which is a major selling point.
You will find that there are several bloatware apps pre-installed by your carrier, but you can actually delete all of them if you so desire. The great thing about Nokia devices are the included premium Nokia apps such as Nokia Drive, City Lens, Nokia Maps, and the absolutely brilliant Nokia Music, which is a Pandora killer.
Xbox gamers will be thrilled with the fact they can access many features of Xbox Live right through their phone, and that some games offer the chance to accumulate gamer points. The fact that Smartglass is built right in to Windows Phone 8 means that Xbox users can use their phone to control their Xbox 360, and use their phone as a second display for some games. Microsoft has certainly done a great job of bringing their services together. All of this and I have not even mentioned that Windows Phone 8 has a version of Microsoft Office built right in. You can use Office to start writing a document or to create a spreadsheet, and can then save to cloud and pick right up where you left off on your computer.
The Windows Phone 8 Marketplace now features over 100,000 apps, and the top 50 apps available on both Android and iPhone are now available on Windows Phone, so do not worry about those who say the marketplace is lacking. It isn’t; in fact it is growing at a faster rate than both the iPhone and Android app stores were at this point in their evolution.
The hardware combined with the re-worked OS makes the 822 and Windows Phone 8 perfect for casual users, gamers, and business users.
The Nokia Lumia 822 is a great way to introduce yourself to the world of Nokia and Windows Phone.
The 822 might not turn heads with its design, but it will certainly blaze a trail thanks to the processor, RAM, and GPU (which are the same components found in the premium Lumia 920 and HTC 8X), so keep in mind that you will not be sacrificing which is surprising seeing that the 822 is supposed to be Nokia’s middle of the road device.
The Lumia 822 is a great phone. The overall performance and speed of the phone is exceptional, the build quality is good, the screen is crystal clear, call quality is excellent, battery life is good, and while the camera might not win any awards, it is a more than capable shooter.
The 822 is free with a 2 year contract from Verizon, and while you might be getting a mid-range device, do not let it fool you into thinking you will be getting mid-range performance.
The Lumia 822 is more than a viable alternative to many Android devices, and you will actually find that the 822 outperforms many alternative devices on the market. If you are looking for a new phone and want something fresh, fun and easy to use, you owe it to yourself to take a serious look at the excellent Lumia 822.
Rating: A solid 4.5 out of 5
A special thanks to Nokia US for supplying the review device.