June 03, 2013, 12:14 PM — The Nokia Lumia 928 is a humdrum Windows Phone that doesn't do much to stand out from the company's other mobile offerings. Available for $100 with a two-year contract on Verizon, the Lumia 928 offers specs similar to those of the Lumia 920--albeit in a less chunky and less colorful package.
The Lumia 928 has some advanced camera software and hardware--a Nokia hallmark--and also benefits from running the latest iteration of Microsoft's mobile operating system. Is this the Lumia that Windows Phone fans have been waiting for? Probably not, as the Lumia 928 feels dated compared to the competition and does little to advance the Windows Phone platform as a whole.
Slim and boxy
Nokia phones are known for their flamboyant colors and unusual shapes, making the Lumia 928 look uninspired by comparison. The phone is available in just two colors, white and black, and your choice affects only the back of the handset's chassis. The phone's face and sides have the usual assortment of buttons and ports, most of which feel unpleasantly spongy. While the Lumia 928 is slimmer and lighter than the Lumia 920, it's still thicker than other smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Apple iPhone 5.
The Lumia 928 is easier to hold than its AT&T cousin, and it fits much more comfortably in a pocket. In contrast to the Lumia 822 (the only other Lumia model that Verizon currently offers), the 2000mAh battery on the Lumia 928 is nonremovable, and the phone lacks a MicroSD card slot--strange considering that support for removable storage was one of the key features that WP8 introduced. In my tests, the phone's battery lasted for about 6.5 hours of normal use, which included playing a few games, streaming music, and updating my Facebook and Twitter statuses. The Lumia 928 supports wireless charging out of the box, but you'll need to buy the charging pad separately.
Nokia has outfitted the Lumia 928 with a high-performance loudspeaker that pumps out sound at a much higher volume than any other smartphone speaker we've tried so far--including those of the HTC One. But even though the Lumia 928 was louder, its speaker audio lacked the depth and clarity we got out of the One's Beats-enhanced speakers. If you're looking to use your phone as a makeshift boom box, you're better off going with HTC's handset, as the songs I played on the Lumia 928 sounded hollow and tinny.
The phone's gaming capabilities are likewise disappointing: Although the Lumia 928 runs buttery smooth while browsing the Web or switching between apps, the phone has issues playing games with advanced 3D graphics. In my tests, games such as Asphalt Heat 7 and Modern Combat 4 took a considerable amount of time to start up, and weren't as responsive as they were on other platforms. Even simple games like Angry Birds caused the Lumia 928 to heat up, obviously taxing the antiquated 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor. Gaming fans, this isn't the phone for you.
Calls sounded clean, with very little static, and the Lumia 928 managed to get reception in places that had previously been dead zones for my Verizon iPhone 5. Apps and music downloaded with haste when the phone was connected to Verizon's LTE network, though I generally had better results when I used the phone over our office's Wi-Fi connection to stream videos or download large apps.
Speaking of apps, the Windows Phone app store still feels inferior to Apple's and Google's digital storefronts. There is no Instagram. There is no Vine. The Fitbit app that's currently featured prominently in the store is an unofficial beta app developed by someone other than Fitbit. You'll find an official Twitter app, but the Microsoft-built Facebook app is embarrassing and is missing many of the functionalities included in the official Facebook app on other platforms. Most of the apps you encounter in the marketplace are, for a lack of a better phrase, crap with a nice coat of paint.
Granted, a few gems hidden here and there offer experiences greater than anything you'd ever find in the App Store or Play Store, but those apps are so few and far between that you'll need to spend a considerable amount of time hunting them down. Windows Phone 8 looks and performs beautifully, but with so little developer interest surrounding the platform, you shouldn't be too surprised when that hot new app everyone is talking about isn't available for your phone.
Nokia claims that the Lumia 928 is the best phone for taking low-light photos, and after spending some time with the phone's 8.7-megapixel camera, I'm inclined to believe them. I took several test photos in our building's basement, and was impressed by how clear the images turned out: I saw minimal noise around my subject, and colors looked surprisingly vibrant.
What's weird, however, is that I captured those good-looking photos with the camera's flash set to 'off'. When I turned the flash on (or set it to 'Auto'), my subject ended up looking like an irradiated demon. The camera has a few settings that you can tweak to lessen the effect, but if you find yourself taking photos in dark places, I recommend that you leave the flash disabled.
The pictures I took outside of our basement weren't as impressive: The Lumia 928 has an especially slow shutter speed, so you'll need to hold it extremely still when snapping a photo. Even the slightest bit of movement can cause the camera to lose focus, leaving you with a fuzzy image. This probably isn't the phone for snapping a photo at a moment's notice.
The Nokia Lumia 928 is a painful reminder of the miserable state of Windows Phone. While the handset boasts a few improvements over the Lumia 920, the Lumia 928 lacks a must-have feature that isn't already done better on competing platforms. The phone's $100 price tag and lower-light photography capabilities will be enough to pique the interest of some more budget-minded buyers, but the Lumia 928's overall raw mediocrity and lack of third-party apps keeps it from being truly memorable.