Nokia Lumia 1520 Review

Nokia’s first big-screen phone is certainly big. That’s the selling point — and also something of a problem.

Nokia Lumia 1520: On the plus side

When Nokia announced the Lumia 1520 — I liveblogged it here — it was somewhat overshadowed by the announcement of its first tablet product, the Lumia 2520.
We’re getting the Lumia 1520 here first, however, as a Harvey Norman exclusive for outright sale. It’s a larger screened device with a 6″ 367ppi 1080p capable display, running Windows Phone 8, as you’d expect from a Lumia branded device.
Nokia takes advantage of that extra screen size, however with its “Black” software update that pushes out the usual two column Windows Phone idiom out to three columns. With Windows Phone 8’s ability to shrink tiles down to fit two smaller tiles, that means you can slap up to six small tiles on the display screen at once.

You like tiles, right?
You like tiles, right?

That’s a lot of apps and a lot of information at your fingertips if you want it. Not all large screened phone devices make full use of that additional screen space beyond bigger browsers or larger screened video, but the Lumia 1520 certainly tries quite hard in this respect.
Onboard storage is 32GB, but the Lumia 1520 also allows for microSD storage expansion, a trick that the Lumia 1020 really ought to have learned. Curiously, it’s also one of the only non-Apple phones to use a Nano SIM, so those pondering a switch may also have to get a new SIM to go along with it unless you’re switching from an Apple device.
The Lumia 1520 has a 20 megapixel rear camera, well under the quality you’ll find in the Lumia 1020, but still of very high quality for most shooting situations. Nokia’s also done some software work to unify its camera app, making it far more pleasant to use for most shooting situations. The inclusion of a dedicated camera button also helps here — somewhat.
If you’re the type who never let go of the family slide night you may appreciate Nokia’s Storyteller app, and for those who can’t quite afford a full Lytro, the Refocus app promises to allow you to set focal points after taking photos.

Nokia Lumia 1520: On the minus side

The Lumia 1520 is big. Not quite Fonepad big, but perilously close, and that does have an impact when it comes to the overall mobility of the device. I’ve been testing it out, and I have very few pairs of pants that the Lumia 1520 will fit comfortably in. It’s a common problem for many large screen phones, and the larger you go the more of a problem it is.
It’s also something of a problem for photo shooting, because a larger screened device is harder to hold for good quality camera work. It’s one of the reasons I dislike using tablets for taking photos, but the same is true for a large screen device. It doesn’t entirely help that the camera lens juts out from the back of the Lumia 1520 either.

The camera doesn't exactly hide.
The camera doesn’t exactly hide.

Storyteller is quite neat, but it’s hampered by being tethered to the phone; it would be greatly improved if you could export Storyteller files to an external and shareable format. Refocus was, in my testing, very hit and miss, because it doesn’t actually provide infinite points of focus; merely the half dozen or so that it takes as part of its photo shooting. As a result, it’s also rather slow and unsuitable for any kind of moving target.
I’ve written extensively this year on the app situation for each platform, and I stand behind the idea that Windows Phone (and Blackberry) remains a largely information-centric operating system. Windows Phone isn’t the operating system for loads of apps, and while it’s improving, it’s still well behind Android and iOS. That may matter to you a lot, or a little, and it’s all but impossible for me to judge your preferences that way.

Nokia Lumia 1520: Pricing

At the time of writing, the only retailer offering the Lumia 1520 is Harvey Norman, where the Lumia 1520 will cost you $894 outright.
Nokia Australia representatives told me that they had offered it to all the major networks. None of them are offering it on contract; you can draw your own conclusions there.
On the direct import side, Mobicity have the Lumia 1520 for a slightly more wallet-friendly $769.95.

Nokia Lumia 1520: Fat Duck verdict

The Lumia 1520 is an interesting device, but with a few key caveats. If you buy your phones on contract, either for tax or smaller payments reasons, you’re plumb out of luck there. Putting it in that context, then, you’ve got to compete within the Windows space with the generally excellent Lumia 1020, and outside of it with a whole host of other devices.
In the large screen phone space, I’ve still got a slight preference towards the Sony Xperia Z Ultra, because the design is slightly more refined, especially when it comes to the rear camera lying flush with the back of the device.

A good large-screen option for Windows Phone users, but get to grips with it before buying.
A good large-screen option for Windows Phone users, but get to grips with it before buying.

I often say this when asked about buying phones, but it’s especially true for the Lumia 1520. If you’re interested, make sure you go into a store and spend some time with it in your hands. It’s large and bulky, and there’s really no way around that with a 6 inch display screen. If your phone lives in a coat pocket or handbag it won’t be a big issue, but if you want a phone to put in a pants pocket it most definitely will.

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