Smartphone: Nokia Lumia 930

Every time I see a Nokia Lumia phone, it reminds me of a convertible car being driven here.

Modern convertibles are sleek and pack a powerful engine. However, the wisdom of driving an open-top car here in the heat and humidity is questionable.

With Lumia phones, the questionable part is its Windows Phone 8.1 operating system. Despite having been on the market for four years, it has barely held its own against the vastly more popular iOS and Android platforms.

This is unfortunate because Nokia has outdone itself in crafting hardware which easily rivals and, in some cases, tops the competition.

The Lumia 930 is a successor to the company's 920 and 925 models and comes with a quad-core processor and Nokia's PureView 20-megapixel camera.

This is the first device Nokia has launched since its acquisition by Microsoft was completed, although its pedigree is clearly Nokia.

The company has spent a lot of time and effort on its PureView cameras and it shows. The camera's response time is snappy and it takes great photos, which have a good balance of colours and detail.

Power users will appreciate features, such as automatic bracketing, which takes multiple photos at different exposures, so you can get the best shot despite questionable lighting conditions.

The Living Images feature creates a GIF-like effect in photos, as it displays images in short motion clips. There are also the usual panorama and scene modes, as well as the option to reframe a photo after it has been taken.

The problem is that such features are spread across several apps. For example, the panorama mode is available in the Nokia Panorama app, but not in the default camera app.

As for the bracketing feature, it can be found in the Nokia Camera app, but not in the phone's default Camera app. The list goes on.

It makes you wonder why Nokia makes users jump through so many apps to access the camera's many features.

In design, the Lumia 930 looks like a slab of cement - with a flat, silver aluminium edge which runs along the sides of the phone. The headphone jack and SIM card tray sit on the top edge, while the power, volume and shutter controls are parked on the right edge.

Instead of a glass or metal rear, Nokia has followed in Samsung's plastic footsteps. The rear panel cannot be removed, so there is no expandable storage here.

The full high-definition Oled screen is a beauty to behold, whether you are watching YouTube videos or viewing photos or webpages filled with text.

Windows Phone 8.1 introduces Cortana, its voice-controlled personal assistant, although users here cannot activate it out of the box.

Available in the United States and some countries, such as China and Britain, the app is tied to the specific regions which the phone is activated for.

What this means, though, is that you can trick the phone into thinking it is a US device by changing the speech and region to United States in the settings menu.

Cortana updates automatically. Users can consult it for local food recommendations, schedule appointments, search for news and call contacts. However, its recognition and pronunciation of Chinese, Malay and Indian names is imperfect and it will not recognise names of local dishes, such as nasi lemak and kway chap.

It is the software that is the real disappointment, though. After four years, there are still basics which do not perform well. When I first logged in, the universal log-in allowed me to sign in once for services, such as e-mail, OneDrive, the app store and the Xbox Games market.

However, Skype required a separate sign-in, even though Microsoft owns the instant messaging service.

Social network users will find its Facebook app not as robust. For example, you cannot post to a group or page directly from the Post option. Instead, you have to dive into the page itself to make an update.

Windows Phone 8.1 does have some improvements which help the 930 shine, such as quad-core processor support and Battery Saver mode, but it is the little things missing from the operating system which stand out.

Windows Phone 8.1 may be an alternative to iOS and Android, but it is still not a substitute and Nokia's Lumia 930 suffers for it.


Tech Specs

Price: $789

Processor: 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800

Display: 5-inch full-high definition Oled (1,920 x 1,080 pixels, 441 pixels per inch)

Operating system: Windows Phone 8.1

Camera: PureView 20 megapixels (rear), 1.2 megapixels (front)

Memory: 32GB storage, 2GB RAM

Battery: 2,420mAh

This article was first published on August 20, 2014.
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