Lumia 830 blazes on AT&T
Abracadabra! And all of a sudden, Nokia phones are now made by Microsoft, and Nokia is just some company that makes cell phone antennas or something. What the what?! Yeah, but y’know something, it’s ok. Microsoft isn’t seen these days (anymore anyway) as the company that forced us to use Windows 98, or worse, Millennium Edition. No, these days, Microsoft is the cool company that makes Xboxes, Surfaces, and now, Lumias.
The latest Nokia Lumia is in fact, the last Nokia Lumia. Kind of. Well, it’s the last phone to be released by the company with the Nokia logo emblazoned on the front of the device. I look at that logo on the Lumia 830, and I think I see something. It’s sort of shaking sadly from side to side. I hold the phone up to my ear and if I listen really hard, I can hear a tiny, almost inaudible little voice. It has a Finnish twang to the accent and I hear: “I am the last one”.
I look forlornly back at the 830 and I say almost as quietly: “I know”.
So the Lumia 830 might well be the final phone that leaves the factory with Nokia on the front, but it won’t be the last Lumia. We have the ‘McClaren’ phone to look forward to next year, with its 1020-esque design and oh no bugger and bums it’s been canceled already so forget I even mentioned it. Yes, I guess the little voice in the 830 might be right.
But seeing as it still does a superb job of being its favorite thing, a smartphone, let’s see what it can do, what it can’t do, how it smells, and all the things people need to know when they read a smartphone review written by someone who has had five hours of sleep this week.
Firstly, let’s get this out of the way: it’s not just a slimmed-down 930. Just in case you were thinking that you could save $100 and get a thinner 930, forget it, sister. The 930’s Snapdragon 800 is worth the extra moolah; the 830’s 400 is no way near as fast, and if you’re hoping for super speed that literally scares you, you ain’t gonna get it with the 830. That said, the 830 is fast. Faster than the Lumia 635, faster than the 520, even faster than the much-loved 1020. Although there isn’t that much difference in terms of noticeable speed between the Snapdragon 400 and the 1020’s Snapdragon S4. But the 930’s (and 1520’s) Snapdragon 800 is like going lightspeed in the Millennium Falcon, so no, you are not going near the hyperdrive with the 830, but it isn’t totally slow either.
Secondly, it is just like a slimmed-down 930. Haha!! See what I did there? Hmm, I’m tricky. But yes, physically, it is a thinner 930. It looks like you took a 930 and put it in a minimizing machine and it came out a little bit shorter, little bit narrower, little bit thinner. And the bonus of that is they still managed to keep the Qi wireless charging (AT&T, thank you for not doing a “1520” on us!) and it is nice and light. Also, there are a few other differences, one of which is that the microUSB charging/data port is on the top of the phone, (it’s in the usual spot on the bottom on the 930) but big bonus time – there is a slot under the battery for a microSD card, something that was strangely missing from the 930. I say strangely missing because there was so much griping online after the 1020 came out without a microSD slot, and then the 1520 came out with one, it was like Nokia had seen sense at last. And then they release their new mega flagship… without it again. But the 830 comes along to save the day, and right now I have a 32GB card in it, although little tweeting birds tell me it will take a 64GB card quite happily. 128GB card? C’mon those things are just a myth!!
Windows Phone has now progressed to college and is currently at 8.1 status. Once the dean gets his finger out and awards the next certificate called Lumia Denim, then our Lumias will have graduated. Then they’ll be getting ready for their post-graduate degree course called ‘Windows 10’ which will start next year, probably around December 31st 2015 if current software updates are anything to go by. The 830 has Lumia Denim right now, but not the ‘real’ Lumia Denim. Y’see, it doesn’t have the latest version of Windows Phone when you compare it to the latest Developer Preview which will most likely be the version that ships when Lumia Denim is really released for all to enjoy. It also misses the new souped-up Lumia Camera (V.5) app, y’know the one we saw Chris Weber demo at the 830’s launch, whereby the camera managed to take consecutive shots within a fraction of a second, and it was also shown that 4K video was possible, with the option to extract 8MP stills from said video. (The 830 won’t be capable of this but it will be able to extract stills from video, just not at crazy 4K quality). All very Samsung Galaxyish, but welcome all the same. Welcome when? Probably when all the Christmas ham has been eaten, that’s for sure. Don’t expect it in October or November when is was supposed to arrive, because those months have passed already, just in case you hadn’t noticed.
But software aside (and why not, because Windows Phone is so similar on all the Lumias) let’s go back to looking at the 830’s magnificent slim but slightly-hefty design. I have the options for a green or black back-cover, which incidentally easily peels off thanks to a number of little clippy tabs that need to be pushed in really hard when you’re replacing the cover back onto the phone. But the system works, and each of those sharp ‘snap’ sounds makes you think that the cover is going back on there really tightly, even though each time you hear one you think it’s snapped off. However, while I plumped immediately for the overly-bright green one because I love a bit of colour on my phone, it wasn’t long before I had to succumb to the more morose matte black, because seriously, that green is just too much. In a sea of drab iPhones that thing completely stands out – which I love – but not in a way that says, “Hey losers, check me out, I’m different. I’m holding a red 920.” The bright green says, “Hey losers, LOOK AT THIS CRAZY F***ING COLOUR!!!! WAAHOOOOO!!!!” So, yeah. No. Not because I hate the green, I don’t, I just hate the idea of being smashed over the head by New Yorkers who have been a) blinded by the bright fluorescence of the green, or b) just offended by it because iPhones don’t come in eye-searing green.
Black cover on, and out I went. The photos I took with the 830 were surprisingly good, considering it isn’t the 1020, or the 930, or the 1520. The 830 drops down to what now sounds like a measly 10MP camera sensor, with a pretty average sized 1/3.4” sensor. But the Zeiss optics are still there, as is the Nokia-now-Microsoft imaging magic under the hood. No I can’t SoZoom to show the ant on the road-sign 7 miles away like I could on the 1020, but it could take some lovely photos, with great colour balance. I also enjoyed taking shots relatively quickly in succession, which is certainly a plus when unfairly comparing the 830 to the 1020, which I’ve been doing a lot.
Another big plus from moving away from the 930 and going to the 830 was being spoiled by AT&T’s LTE data speeds again. There really isn’t anything like knowing you’re going to be able to access Facebook with hardly any lag, or knowing that amazing photo you just took could be uploaded to Twitter in a matter of seconds instead of waiting, waiting, waiting… sorry it timed out. I say this because I actually did experience this a few times with the 930, because no US carrier other than Verizon took stock of the 930. Verizon has the “Icon” and it’s still stuck on Lumia Black believe it or not, and there are no plans to sell it anymore in the Verizon stores. If it gets Cyan that will be great, but I can’t see Big Red dealing with Denim too, let alone Windows 10 next year. Verizon, you stink on this one!) And so with an AT&T sim snugly inside, it can only manage top speeds at “H+” (no- LTE 4G), which weren’t all that bad (I even managed nearly 10mb/s in a Queens pub!) but mostly out and about in NYC I was managing to get around 2 or 3 mb/s, which is fine, but sometimes you just crave extra welly. With the 830, it handled AT&T’s blazing-fast 4G LTE data speeds like a champ, and I was able to upload photos to Facebook in record times, scour Twitter with zero lag and surf the web like Patrick Swayze in ‘Point Break’. All in all, while I loved the 930, it was such a massive relief to get back to the proper internet with the 830 and not be dragging my heels on 0.8 mb/s when I really wanted to check in on Swarm.
At this point I have to give a huge shout-out to the awesome folk at AT&T who loaned us the Lumia 830. Many thanks to the following guys and gals who are making AT&T America’s most reliable network: @cswmer @belltrusk @kwoman @colehamer @attnyc @alee1251
Incidentally, I have to tell you that I have been on AT&T’s ‘GoPhone’ plan for just over a year now, and I am not changing anytime soon. I pay a mere $60/month, and for that I get unlimited calls and texts, and a generous 2.5GB of LTE data. Should I run out of data (I haven’t yet) the surfing can continue just at much-reduced speeds (128kb/s), so no complete cut-off if you use up all of your data, which is a nice touch. I know T-Mobile has a similar set up, but to be honest when I’m deep inside a Broadway theatre, or at my workplace, or even on the beach in the summer at Coney Island, I have decent AT&T signal. I never did on T-Mobile. Despite the brashness and sometimes outrageous and hilarious language from John Legere of T-Mobile, I have to say he’s a classic case of “all mouth no trousers”. Get your network up to AT&T standards, mate, and maybe we’ll talk. Until then, I’m sticking with AT&T because it just works.
Back to the camera for a moment. The 830’s camera isn’t the stellar offering like the 1020’s, of course not, that would be ridiculous to imagine Microsoft releasing another amazing imaging phone, *cough!* 1030 *cough!* but the pictures the 830 produces really aren’t bad at all, and I have managed to snap a few gooduns with the thing. As I said, it’s no powerhouse, but the photos do themselves justice. Here are a few examples pulled from the 830 (click them for full-resolution):
It has to be said that while the 830 has that slightly odd marketing tagline of being the “affordable flagship” it is a lot of bang for your buck. While some might immediately look away in disgust because of the lower speed processor, and some might dry retch at the thought of being able to have only a 2200MAh battery, it does comes with Qi wireless charging, something that can only be mentioned in a positive light once you’ve become accustomed to using it. It won’t change your life, but really, just being able to put your phone down to charge, is fantastic. When you go back to reaching for the USB charging lead that fell on the floor and under the table, and then spend a second or two making sure the plug is the right way up… it sounds trivial, but wireless charging is just the best. So much so, I am happy to spend $50 to have a guy open up my 1520 and have him “un-AT&T” it, reconnecting the Qi charging gubbins and effectively making the 1520 the way it should have always been. AT&T are great at some things, but taking Qi away in the 1520 was a misstep. Putting it back on the 830 was the right step, and not only that, you get a choice of garish green or subdued black, both with the Qi coils soldered on, so which ever colour you prefer, Qi charging is there for you to enjoy. Superb!
As usual the 830 is great at handling voice calls, and was a whizz at keeping things chugging along nicely in a Skype video call with my family back in the UK recently. Everything sounded loud and clear on the speaker, even if it was a tad tinny.
Let’s not forget one of the bigger advantages of the Lumia 830 over the beefier 930: Glance Screen. Some people dislike it and have no affection for it, but I for one love it. I’m not talking about splattering my standby screen with images of this and that, no, I just like to see the time and, moreover, any notifications in a subtle non-intrusive manner, and Glance screen does this excellently in my opinion. Take the ‘busy pub scenario’: you’re sat around the table talking with friends, the ambient noise is quite loud, but you didn’t see your phone light up when your wife called because she can’t get the cat down from the Christmas tree. But all is not lost because after you finish laughing at your friend’s joke about beavers and hotdogs, you glance down (eh, eh, know what I mean?) and see the small phone icon and that prompts you to pick up the phone to find out you have to pop back and rescue the cat (and your wife’s sanity!) Without Glance, a missed call (or text, email, Whatsapp, Tweet, etc., etc.) might go totally missed until you physically pick the device up again. If you’re like me in social situations, I actually don’t like ‘playing with my phone’, I prefer to chat to my friends. Glance allows me to do this 100%, so I’m so glad it’s on the 830. Great stuff.
If there’s one thing I’ll end on with my take on the Lumia 830, it’s that it is a great size. Sure, I’m loving my beastly slab of a 1520 these days, but picking up the 830 makes your palm give out an almost audible “Aaah!” a sigh of satisfaction, because this is what a phone should feel like to hold. It’s the perfect balance of weight, length and width, and the cold aluminium sides are balanced by the soft warmth of the matte polycarbonate back cover.
All in all, while I don’t particularly feel warm and fuzzy about the “affordable flagship” line, (I’d like a real flagship please, Microsoft!) it does tick a lot of boxes. And while for some it won’t be the geek’s dream, for a lot of people it will fit right in-between decent and fantastic, and that’s not a bad place to be.