The Nokia Lumia 928 is essentially the Verizon iteration of the landmark Lumia 920. That's the short version of this review. If you liked the Lumia 920 but wanted it on Verizon, this is the phone for you. Yes, there are a few differences — the Lumia 928 has a different screen, better camera, more enhanced microphone system and a slightly different design — but at its core, its the same phone.
This isn't a bad thing. The Lumia 920 remains a great phone and continues to have one of the best smartphone cameras on the market — particularly with low-light photography. With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft continues to eschew the specs race game. It can't match the high-end Android phones on the market, which typically have a quad-core processor (or even octo-core with some regional variants) and at least 2GB of RAM. Many are even pushing the pixel densities into the stratosphere with 1,920 x 1,080 full resolution screens.
The Lumia 928 Specs: The Lumia 920, Tweaked
Will Windows Phone Break Through?
As a result, from a pure tech perspective, it's hard to get too excited by the Lumia 928 — not because it's a bad phone — but because the specs are basically unchanged from the Lumia 920 and those specs can't compete (on paper) with what Samsung, HTC, LG and Sony are pushing on the Android side.
As I said before — the Lumia 928 is basically a slightly tweaked Lumia 920.
The phone has a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm S4 Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM, a 1,280 x 768 resolution screen and 32GB of internal storage. It also features wireless charging, supports NFC and runs the latest version of Windows Phone 8.
The biggest differences in the two phones are the shape and design of the phone itself, the type of screen used and the flash on the camera.
Let's talk about design first. The phone is a bit smaller in volume than the Lumia 920. That phone is a weighty device — one that I've joked could genuinely be used as a weapon. The Lumia 928 is still substantial. As Apple, Samsung and HTC edge towards thinner, lighter phones, Nokia is focusing on durability as well as keeping room for a larger camera sensor.
The sides are now more tapered and sharp — rather than the curved edges of the Lumia 920 and 2011's Lumia 800. The back still has a curve to it and the front remains flat.
I actually preferred the curved sides of the Lumia 920 — it felt better in the hand. The thickness of the Lumia 928 and the new sharper corners make it less manageable for people with smaller hands (like me), but the build quality of the unit is such that you can drop this thing all day long and not worry about it breaking.
The screen is now OLED rather than IPS. That means that blacks are a bit blacker and colors really pop. This works well with the Windows Phone 8 UI (the artist formerly known as Metro), which relies on big, bright colors.
Photos look crisp, text is still razor sharp and the screen feels smooth underneath fingertips.
As we've said before, the Lumia 920 has a terrific camera. Even the Samsung Galaxy S4, which boasts a higher megapixel count, is still edged out in a lot of real-world tests by the Lumia 920. The HTC One comes closer — but the photos on the Lumia 920 — and now the Lumia 928 — are better.
The Lumia 928 uses the same 8.7-megapixel sensor but it adds a new xenon flash to the mix for super-low light. Xenon flashes are used in traditional pocket digital cameras, as opposed to the LED flash used on other smartphones. The basic difference is that xenon will give you truer, more lifelike illumination that doesn't wash out colors as much or blind subjects.
The Lumia 920 — and the Lumia 928 — already excel in low light without a flash, but the new xenon flash is remarkable because it illuminates subjects in a more natural way. The photos I took on the Lumia 928 could easily rival a $300 pocket camera with a fixed lens. The caveat, of course is that there is no optical zoom so you really do need to be willing to deal with a digital zoom or taking fixed lens photography. Still, even without a zoom, a good crop can often make even far off subjects (at a live concert or event) look great.
The Lumia 925 sports an even more advanced camera lens system as well as the new flash.
Still, if you're a Verizon customer, it's safe to say that the Lumia 928 is the best smartphone camera available on your carrier.
With the Lumia 920 available on AT&T and the Lumia 925 coming to T-Mobile, one of the defining aspects of the Lumia 928 is it's network: Verizon.
Verizon's network isn't always the fastest but it's one of the most consistent, at least in New York City. In my Brooklyn neighborhood, I easily get speeds in excess of 40Mbps over LTE and even in areas where I have a lower strength signal, calls come in clear.
Verizon hasn't made many modifications to the phone, aside from including VZ Navigator as yet another mapping option for users that pay for the feature. VZ Navigator is a solid alternative to Google Maps or Nokia Here.
The Lumia 928 is yet another great LTE addition to Verizon's lineup of smartphones.
Because the physical specs are so similar to the Lumia 920 — which I tested in-depth for 10 days last year — the more interesting part about the Lumia 928 is the ecosystem in which it now resides.
Six months is a long time in the mobile phone space and I'm happy to say that the app problem that I commented on back in November has largely improved.
While there is still no Instagram or official Dropbox support — most of the holdouts — including Spotify (which now supports Windows Phone 8), Pandora, Hulu Plus, Tumblr, WhatsApp, TuneIn and Viber are all the platform.
That's a big change from even six months ago — with support improving all the time. Windows Phone still doesn't have the level of developer mindshare of Android and iOS — and it continues to battle against BlackBerry in the race for third place — but six months later, I'm happy to say that the app situation is much, much better.
The biggest downside of the Lumia 928 — or the Lumia 920 or the Lumia 925 or any other Windows Phone 8 device is getting people to actually pay attention to the device in the first place.
Windows Phone 8 is something different and whether that's better or worse is up to the user to decide. But just as BlackBerry has to convince users to give it another chance, Microsoft continues to struggle with the U.S. messaging of its platform.
Last week, Mashable editor-in-chief Lance Ulanoff wrote about how Microsoft needs to "put the pedal to the metal" around Windows Phone. He's absolutely right.
The company needs to show off more compelling apps, get more exclusives — beg, borrow, steal or bribe Instagram onto its platform — and push the message that Windows Phone isn't just different but better as much as it can.
The Lumia 928 has one of the best smartphone cameras we've ever seen. It's a good performing LTE phone that has 90% of the apps most people will want. What it lacks, however, is that sense of brand loyalty that drives throngs of customers into the hands of the Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5.
The bad news is that there's nothing substantially different from a hardware perspective on the Lumia 928. The good news is that the software ecosystem continues to improve. For Verizon users, now you have a real chance to enjoy Windows Phone 8 with the best hardware support and broadest app ecosystem.