The Nokia Lumia Icon, a Verizon-only Windows 8 phone, looks a lot like pretty much any other Windows phone. It has the same tiled screen and the same buttons in the same places on the right side of the device, and there are cameras on the front and back. But it's not these basic phone features that make the Icon different.
What Nokia thinks makes the Icon cool is the camera and the related multimedia features. The Icon has a 20-megapixel camera and four digital microphones for surround soundlike audio. There are also some nice improvements to the phone functionality, but as far as Nokia's marketing folks are concerned, they're only bit players.
The screen, for example, is one of the best I've seen. The ClearBlack display works well in sunlight and the phone's touch screen is sensitive enough to work while you're wearing gloves. Nokia says the Icon has a curved glass display, but lest you think that this is one of those curved screens that other handset makers are famous for, don't despair. The glass is only curved enough to allow the screen to rise slightly above the edges. The display itself is flat.
Nokia has stayed away from "phablet"-like dimensions for the Icon. The device has a 5-inch full HD display using OLED technology. The 441 PPI screen resolution is extremely clear, and more light-fingered users can crank up the touch sensitivity. Nokia says it will also work if you have long fingernails, but I wasn't able to grow mine in the time allotted to confirm this. The display worked fine with my fuzzy REI winter gloves.
But of course, you want to know about the camera, since that's the phone's raison d'être. Nokia presents the phone's camera as a professional-quality imaging device in the body of a phone. The Nokia Camera software works with the imaging chip to allow an unusual amount of control over how the images turn out, and some of those controls offer pro-like features.
For example, you can set the ISO (camera sensitivity to light), the focus to a specific distance, the white balance and the shutter speed. Choosing the right combination can let you set the camera so that the subject in a photo is in focus while the background is blurry. Changing the white balance will let you take photos with the proper colors in anything from candle light to sunlight. This range of settings is unusual for a smartphone camera.