Nokia Lumia 1520 – Long Term Labs

NUSA-PP-Refresh-Lumia1520-Section-Images-1500x1500-08-jpgThe Lumia 1520 has been available for several months now as the flagship Windows Phone from Nokia. It was released as the first Phablet design phone from Nokia and while it didn’t pack the same impressive 41MP camera from the Lumia 1020, it did benefit from a much faster 2.2 GHz Quad Core Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM. Majority of Windows Phones do not accept Micro SD cards but the Nokia Lumia 1520 does benefit from being able to accept up to a 64GB Micro SD Card. This means you get about 80GB of space on your phone with the on board 16GB. The phone was priced very well in the market at $199 with a 2 year contract or $549 off contract, so not a bad price for what is clearly a high end smart phone specwise.

Camera

Nokia Lumia 1520 20MP PureView Camera

Nokia Lumia 1520 20MP PureView Camera

With a 20 MP rear camera, Carl Zeiss lens, OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), Autofocus, and Dual-LED Flash, Nokia have proven to be at the forefront of smartphone camera technology. While the rear camera may not be as fantastic as the Lumia 1020 which features a massive 41MP camera, the 1520 is no slouch. Taking full resolution photos allows you to zoom right in to all the details without losing the sharpness of the image. OIS prevents you from taking blurry videos and the dedicated camera button helps you quickly access the camera and snap a pic in a hurry. After using this phone for 7 months, I honestly can say the camera is the best I have ever used in a smartphone. I’ve tried the iPhone 5S camera before and I just don’t feel it stands up to the 1520. Sure the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus take better pictures, but let’s not forget they are a year newer than the 1520 and therefore would not be a fair comparison.

The Front utilizes a 1.2Mp camera which can record at 720 @ 30FPS. There is not much else to say about this camera as I rarely use it. Photos are grainier in low light situations but even in a well lit room, it does look like Nokia should have spent a few more weeks at least to develop the front facing camera. The iPhone 5s however was similarly disappointing so it’s great to see that the 6 and 6 Plus have integrated a much better front facing camera for all the Selfie lovers out there.

Weight and Display

In terms of design, anyone familiar with the Lumia product line will see that Nokia has gone to great lengths to lighten the phone, and it now weighs 209 grams. While this does sound like a lot, keep in mind you’re getting a whopping 6 inch 1080P screen with that. The Corning Gorilla Glass 2 was a disappointment in my eyes as my old Lumia 920 has Gorilla Glass 3, but not a single crack or scratch on the 1520 in the last 7 months. The screen is definitely brighter than almost any smartphone out there, and there is a huge drawback in that you only get 3 settings to choose from for brightness. Checking the phone at 2AM is sure to make you cringe away even on the lowest brightness setting. I wish Nokia had thought to implement a slider that offers more customization for the screen brightness similar to how Apple has implemented one.

The sunlight readability of this phone is by far second to none. The technology implemented by Nokia makes this one of the easiest phones to look at even with the midday Florida sun beating down on the screen. I’ve never found myself needing to cup the phone in my hand just to read the screen. The blacks are deep, and colors bright. My only caveat is that the sensor, which is used to automatically adjust the brightness, does sometimes has a mind of its own when you take the phone out of your pocket. It can mistake some indoor lights for sunlight and try dim the screen which does make it unreadable indoors. The touchscreen is extraordinarily sensitive and while most people won’t like that, I enjoy the high sensitivity. Don’t worry if this is something you can’t deal with though, the Lumia 1520 allows you to adjust your screen touch sensitivity so you can lower it as you please.

Storage

The model I bought was the 16GB AT&T in Gloss Red. International customers benefit greatly here because they received 32GB plus the Wireless charging which I’ll get back to later on. I know that a couple months ago AT&T did release the 32GB for sale but only in the Matte Black model. This doesn’t seem like a worthy amount of storage in a flagship phone and you’d be right. My Lumia 920 had 32GB but the Lumia 1520 has the advantage as it supports up to a 64GB MicroSDHC card. Some users have been able to use MicroSDXC cards but these are usually difficult to match up with the phone. The only one I am aware of which offers the benefits of MicroSDXC is the Sandisk Extreme 64GB 45MB/s card. You can use the Ultra, but there have been cases of video recording becoming erratic. The 1520 allows you to store apps, movies, music, photos, and videos onto the SD card so you really want to pick the best possible option here as you could lose a lot of data if your card corrupts.

If you enjoy using cloud services, then worry not, All Nokia Lumias include a certain amount of OneDrive (formerly Skydrive) storage. When I purchased this one, it came with 20GB free. You can have your phone automatically update every photo, saved image, and video straight to your OneDrive account. Your documents are also available if you saved them from a desktop or laptop. With 16GB and a 64GB MicroSD card you are looking at a total of 80GB on your phone, but probably closer to 74GB usable capacity. This is 10 more than the previously largest iPhone. With the 128GB in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the 1520 does fall short, but again let’s not forget that the new iPhones are a year newer. With the successor to the 1520 due very soon, it will be interesting to see how far Microsoft will push the Lumia brand to get ahead of the competition.

Battery Life

The Nokia Lumia 1520 has the best battery life from a smartphone that I’ve ever used. I consistently get 2 days use from this phone with the longest battery life being 2 days and 9 hours. A must have app to keep track of your battery life is “Battery Sense” which allows you to keep track of every charge you’ve ever done. Unfortunately for me, when I went on a cruise with my wife in July, something happened to the app and it lost track of my average battery life, I’ve contacted the app developer but we just couldn’t figure out what caused this.

Nokia Lumia 1520 Battery Life

Nokia Lumia 1520 Battery Life

 

As you can see from these images, the battery is quite impressive. With 37% I’ve still got 14 hours and 30 minutes left in Battery saver mode. With batter saver mode off, I still have 8 hours left. Theoretically, if I was to run the phone in battery saver mode from 100%, I would achieve 3-4 days with light use. The longest battery life I have achieved was 2 days and 9 hours, which in real world terms, was 3 days without charging the phone. This is not too surprising once you find out that the Lumia 1520 sports a 3400 mAh battery inside.

Performance

The 1520 comes with a quad core 2.2 Ghz Krait Processor and 2GB of ram. This is more than enough to take advantage of the Windows Phone operating system. Originally shipping with Windows Phone 8.0, the 1520 was already a great phone, but I created a Developer account and downloaded 8.1 a few months before the release and the addition of Cortana was genius. She learns your routes, learns what you like and can suggest places to eat, things to do, and map routes for you based on this information. The Snapdragon 800 processor is fast and animations are silky smooth. Once the official update for Windows Phone 8.1 came out, bugs such as apps crashing or certain apps not being supported were all ironed out. Unfortunately, I did not terminate my developer account and continued downloaded the latest updates prior to release. The last update has started causing some major issues with the software upon where opening certain apps will crash the phone or battery. The new transparent tiles let you integrate a background photo that will be shown on the live tile of many apps. For those that Microsoft did not support, there is a third party app called “Transparency tiles” that lets you turn several popular apps into transparent tiles such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. The 2 GB of Ram lets the phone deal with multiple apps being run but due to the processing power this will run down battery life drastically.

The Lumia 1520 comes equipped with Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and allows you to use the phone as a Wi-Fi Hotspot. I haven’t had the opportunity to test the phone over a Wi-Fi ac connection as I only use n at home, but the speeds are fast and over LTE you can see speeds upwards of 40Mbps depending on your carrier. When I was with AT&T I saw 45-60Mbps but with Straight Talk, that speed goes way down to 3-5 Mbps.

Lumia 1520 Features

Here is where I have a bone to pick with AT&T. They struck up a deal with Wireless charging company PMA (Power Matters Alliance) which is a small wireless charging standard in comparison to Qi charging. AT&T in their wisdom, forced Nokia to REMOVE wireless charging from all Lumias that would go on sale for AT&T and also requested that Nokia LOWER the standard 32GB to 16GB for AT&T models. What on earth was AT&T thinking? PMA is rarely supported, accessories are minimal, and you need to throw on a bulky case to your phone to get the PMA standard chargers. Lumias COME WITH QI charging. But AT&T had them removed because they chose to go with PMA. This was a terrible decision by AT&T and if I have one thing to ask of Nokia, it’s to sell their phones unlocked for USA or move to a new carrier. AT&T should not have power over Nokia to where they actually remove features that consumers want. My Lumia 920 came with Qi wireless charging from AT&T. Now they refuse to sell a phone with Qi Charging? AT&T joining the PMA was a huge sign for wireless charging enthusiasts such as myself to move away from the carrier as there are not many PMA standard accessories for Lumias or other such smartphones.

Volume control buttons, power button, and the dedicated camera button can be found on the right side of the phone and are easily accessible with your thumb if you hold the phone in your right hand. With the Nano-sim card and MicroSD card slot on the top left side of the phone. The Lumia 1520 has the headphone jack on top of the phone rather than underneath it, but I think this is a huge benefit as when you connect an AUX cable to it in your car, you can have the phone the right way up if you place don’t mount it above the radio.

Lumia 1520 Specifications

Nokia Lumia 1520 Dimensions

  • Display

    • Display size: 6 ”
    • Display technology: ClearBlack, IPS LCD
    • Display resolution: Full HD (1920 x 1080)
    • Touch screen technology: Super sensitive touch
  • Photography

    • Main camera sensor: 20 MP, PureView
    • Flash type: Dual LED flash
  • Power management

    • Maximum talk time (2G): 20 h
    • Maximum talk time (3G): 24 h
    • Maximum music playback time: 95 h
    • Wireless charging: Yes, with accessory cover
  • Processor

    • Processor name: Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 800
    • Processor type: Quad-core 2.2 GHz

The price for all of this power and performance? $0 from AT&T with a 2 year contract, or $580 from Microsoft. I would suggest waiting for Microsoft to release the newer models however, hopefully AT&T won’t be able to force them to remove Qi Charging.