Nokia Icon Handset Is a Camera With Extra Mobile Phone Features

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-03-03

Nokia Icon Handset Is a Camera With Extra Mobile Phone Features

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.

Nokia Icon Handset Is a Camera With Extra Mobile Phone Features

The Nokia Camera software also lets you switch between still photos and video, and while you're shooting your video, you can record in surround sound. Unfortunately, the phone won't actually play that through your earbuds, but if you transfer the video file to something that has better audio, it will all sound much better than what you get with the video from other phones.

This is not to suggest that the Nokia Icon will replace your Nikon D300s or your Sony studio HD broadcast camera, because it won't. But for something you can slip into your shirt pocket and buy for under $200 (with a two-year Verizon contract), it takes darned good photos and videos.

Even though the Nokia Icon isn't a real pro-level camera, that doesn't mean it's not effective. The camera in this phone is good enough and allows enough control to take useful photos for a number of business purposes. It will record your actual location and time when the photos or videos were recorded. It will upload everything to Microsoft's OneDrive (which is still called SkyDrive on the Icon). The Smart Mode will automatically shoot photos in a sequence.

Nokia has made some smart choices in the way it handles photos. While the file sizes you get from a 20MP photo are unwieldy to send via email, for example, the camera can also take companion 5MP photos that are easier to handle. Nokia includes a selection of editing tools for the images, and while it's not the same as using Photoshop, they're quite useful.

But as I mentioned initially, there's a lot more to the Icon than just a really nice camera. It's got a Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, there's 32GB of storage, and it's got a 2,420-mAh battery that you can charge wirelessly, although the wireless charger isn't included in the box with the phone, so we didn't test that. The edges of the phone are aluminum, giving the phone a solid feel.

Overall, the Nokia Lumia Icon is a very nice phone with a very good camera. To sum up, the screen is clear even in sunlight, there's plenty of battery power, and the camera is excellent. The screen is large enough to be useful, but not so large as to be inconvenient.

This phone uses the latest implementation of Windows Phone, and it's got Nokia's latest application software, including its well-regarded navigation. If the camera feature is important to you, this is a good bet.

Oh—and the Icon also makes phone calls.

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