Lumia-820Back in September, Nokia announced its first Windows Phone 8 handsets, the flagship Lumia 920 and its sibling, the Lumia 820.

The Lumia 920 officially launched in South Africa last month, while the 820 became available this month. I’ve been playing around with the slightly smaller 820 for a while now and this is what I thought.

With a 4.3-inch touchscreen (800×480), the Lumia 820 weighs 160g, and felt slightly large in my hand, which I eventually got used to. Unlike previous Lumia handsets I’ve reviewed, this one does not have a polycarbonate unibody. Instead, it has removable plastic back covers, known as shells. While the interchangeable back covers feel solid, it’s not easy to remove in order to insert a micro sim. Chances are you will break a nail doing so. I’d recommend inserting a microSD card at the same time because you don’t want to repeat this process. The Lumia 820 is also the first Windows Phone 8 handset with expandable storage. 
The only buttons on the phone are on the right: volume up/down; power; and camera. A 3.5mm audio jack can be found at the top and the charging slot at the bottom. There are 3 touch keys on the bottom of the screen: back; Windows; and search.


The Lumia 820 is powered by a Snapdragon dual-core 1.5GHz processor, with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of built-in storage and 7GB on the cloud (SkyDrive). It also lets you expand up to 64GB via microSD. App downloads go straight to the built-in memory, while movies, music and photos can be stored on the memory card. In terms of performance, there was no lag when launching apps, playing games or browsing via Internet Explorer. Battery life could have been better. I found that I had to stop myself from doing too much so that the battery could last the day. If you’re a power user, you will need to charge it again by the evening.


The most noticeable difference from Windows Phone 7.5 to Windows Phone 8 is its customisable Live Tiles. Apps can be pinned onto the homescreen into three different sizes – a large horizontal tile, a square or a mini square. Live Tiles display dynamic content so at a glance you can see your latest Twitter mentions, most recent photos taken, or calendar appointments. As a whole, the look and feel is somewhat modern, and slick. Once you set-up initially by logging into Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, you are able to “stitch” contacts together from various networks so they appear as one contact. You can view updates from everyone you’re connected to in one place via the People Hub. It pulls feeds across all linked accounts and if you go into a contact, you can see all their updates within that window, including all profile and contact information. For a slightly more in-depth look at Windows Phone 8, refer to my hands-on here.


The biggest advantage to using a Nokia handset is the Nokia-exclusive apps that come with it. These include Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive (with turn-by-turn voice navigation), Nokia Music (including Mix Radio, a free music streaming service with offline play), and the new augmented reality app City Lens, which lets you search for points of interest nearby by holding the phone up. You can search via different categories or just browse to see what comes up. Nokia City Lens is by far the best way to explore a new city when travelling. 


The main camera is 8-megapixels with Carl Zeiss optics, and a dual LED flash; unfortunately it doesn’t have the same PureView technology found on the Lumia 920. Photos taken outdoors during the day were great, but I wasn’t impressed with pictures I took at night. There are different lenses you can use like Panorama, Smart Shoot, Cinemagraph (animates your photos), and you can download more from the Windows Phone Store. You can record video in either 720p or 1080p, and unless you absolutely have to record in 1080p, 720p should be your default setting.

The Lumia 820 has 4G capabilities but my sim card wasn’t provisioned for it so I had to use 3G. It also has NFC support, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS. If you tether on the 820, it supports up to 8 devices. I didn’t get to try any NFC supported accessories.


The Lumia 820 is a good mid-range phone if you’re looking to switch to Windows Phone 8, and you’re not a power user. The advantage it has over the high-end Lumia 920 is its removable battery, and expandable storage. The Nokia-exclusive apps alone make it worthwhile over other Windows Phone 8 handsets on the market. I wasn’t completely impressed with the camera in low light conditions, and battery life was average. On that note, wireless charging mats are available separately.

The Lumia 820 is available from Vodacom at a recommended retail price of R6400.

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