It’s about time Verizon saw its own flagship Windows Phone 8 device. The Nokia Lumia 928 is a beautiful device with innards similar to its cousins (AT&T’s Nokia Lumia 920 and T-Mobile’s Nokia Lumia 925). It recently saw a price drop, and is available for the crazy low price of $49.99 on-contract at Verizon. Read on to see if the quality matches the price.

Lumia 928 Video Review

Hardware

The Lumia 928 deviates a bit from the design we’re used to seeing from Nokia as of late — it’s like the Lumia 928 cut the proverbial crusts off the softer parts of its anatomy, particularly the edges. There’s a lot less of a “bloated” feel to the Lumia 928 compared to the Lumia 920, but there’s still a rounded back to help make it feel more comfortable in-hand.

Verizon Nokia Lumia 928-VS-Nokia Lumia 920-Back

The glossy, white polycarbonate body does a nice job masking fingerprints, dings, and other accidents, but we do miss the color options the AT&T variant has (the Lumia 928 only comes in black and white). There’s one thing we don’t miss much on the Lumia 928, and that’s the Lumia 920’s IPS LCD screen. The Lumia 928 has a 4.5-inch AMOLED display, and it is gorgeous. The blacks are deep and true, there’s almost no separation, and at 332 ppi, puts it on par with the iPhone 5’s retina display. It’s still an AMOLED, though, so keep in mind that while the Lumia 928’s screen looks incredible indoors, it’s close to unreadable on a bright, sunny day.

Lastly, Nokia chose to flip the location of the microUSB port from the bottom to the top. This is a personal preference, but it absolutely made me bonkers while using it as my daily driver. Headphone jack location I’m pretty open about, but having an upside-down phone while it’s charging on my desk or nightstand was extremely annoying. I guess it’s a good way to encourage buyers to also pick up the wireless charging plate?

Verizon Nokia Lumia 928-VS-Nokia Lumia 920-Top

In terms of specs, the Lumia 928 has the same DNA as the Lumia 920, with some changes sprinkled in to differentiate between the two. Both offer a dual core 1.5 GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 8.7-megapixel rear cameras, 4.5-inch screens,  and a 2000 mAh battery. The Lumia 928 adds a Xenon flash to its rear camera, and changes the IPS LCD to AMOLED.

Software

Verizon Nokia Lumia 928-Home Screen

There’s not much here that’s different from the Lumia 920 in terms of Windows Phone 8’s software, but we’re happy to report that any and all bloatware from Verizon can be easily uninstalled if it’s not your cup of tea. That’s a welcome change from a lot of Android devices, which often find themselves bogged down with carrier-imposed — and branded — apps. Even VZ Navigator can be dumped in favor of Nokia’s preinstalled Drive+ Beta app, which is a welcome option for anyone who prefers to eschew carrier apps entirely (trust me, you’ll want to get rid of VZ Navigator).

Verizon Nokia Lumia 928-Lock Screen

Windows Phone 8 is still the sleek, responsive OS it’s been since the Lumia 920 was released, and I’m a huge fan of the new, sizable Live Tiles. It brings an air of customizability Windows Phone desperately needed, and it’s also much more convenient for a user to shrink an app they don’t use as often, while expanding the ones they want the most information from. It’s very easy to set up all your accounts on the Lumia 928, and no matter how many times I’ve seen it, I still smile when I see my Xbox Live avatar fly into the tiny tile on my home screen. There’s nothing quite like live tiles, and no one can say Microsoft isn’t marching to the beat of its own drum with its OS.

Verizon Nokia Lumia 928-Multi-Tasking

WP8 is still lagging behind in app selection compared to the Android and iOS ecosystems, but generally speaking, it’s a decent selection. If you’re looking for something specific, you might not find it here, but if you don’t mind substituting new apps here and there for different services (Instance for Instagram is a good example), you might actually come to love what WP8 can offer, particularly if you’re entrenched in the MSN/Windows/Bing ecosystems. If you’re in Google’s camp, you’ll almost definitely feel the stinging, empty void from the lack of native Google Apps for WP8. Sorry, Microsoft and Google, but the Web experience just isn’t the same, and you both know it.

Performance

Verizon Nokia Lumia 928-Web

We found the Lumia 928 to be lag-free in almost every respect, offering a responsive and smooth experience overall. It’s a testament to WP8’s optimization, and even a large amount of live tiles didn’t slow the Lumia 928 down. Even though it’s a dual-core processor, it easily fits into the pack of current  flagship phones in terms of speed as perceived by the human eye.

The Lumia 928 also handled gaming nicely, with titles like Jetpack Joyride and N.O.V.A. 3 running without lag or other problems. We’re dying to find out how Halo: Spartan Assault will play on the Lumia 928, but we’ll have to wait until July to see how it performs. If the game is great, and the Lumia 928 can play it with ease, the phone might prove to be a compelling buy for Halo fans.

Camera

Verizon Nokia Lumia 928-Camera

The Lumia 928 camera has the same 8.7MP camera, Carl Zeiss lens, and PureView software as the Lumia 920, but a Xenon flash has been added to the 928. The Lumia 920’s low light performance is one of the best in terms of smartphones, and the Lumia 928 is no different. That Xenon flash is an interesting addition, but honestly, it doesn’t do much for you in broad daylight, and in low light situations, it actually gets in the way of great shots. There’s also an odd white balancing issue when the flash goes off, possibly from the brightness of the pre-photo flash causing the AWB to go a little crazy. You’ll see what I mean when you take a look at some of the samples.

Nokia has some fun and easy to use post-processing software via Creative Studio. There are all kinds of options, from action blurs to standard adjustments, and it’s obvious Nokia has a lot of pride in its camera apps. The robot on my desk will be making many appearances in my camera tests, and I had a lot of fun tweaking photos of him for various looks.

Video-wise, the Lumia 928 does an admirable job, filming at 1080p and offering a 720p option natively to save on space, something that’s rare in other smartphones currently without the help of third party apps. There’s some haloing around bright objects, especially if you’re using that Xenon flash to illuminate a dimly lit room, but overall, it’s a good bit of software. We really like how the Lumia 928 has “lenses” for you to download via the Marketplace, but they’re installed within the camera’s software menus, not outside of it, making them easily accessible without cluttering up your tiles.

The Lumia line easily beats the competition when it comes to snapping pics, and the 928 is another champ in a line of great photography smartphones.

Call Quality & Data

Verizon Nokia Lumia 928-VS-Nokia Lumia 920

Call quality on the Lumia 928 is clear, and there were no dead zones on my hourlong commute to the office. The speakerphone is actually quite nice, as Nokia’s moved the speaker to the back of the device, and curved the bottom of the phone so that the speaker isn’t flush with whatever surface you set it on. It results in some surprisingly clear and loud playback, but nothing out there really compares with HTC’s front-facing, BoomSound-equipped stereo speakers. I’d personally put the Lumia 928’s speaker pretty high up on the list, though.

As for data, Verizon’s LTE network is still wide-reaching and on the higher end of transfer rates: Here at our HQ in Irvine, CA, we pulled download speeds around 15Mbps, and upload speeds around 10Mbps with four bars of LTE signal. Not too shabby at all.

Battery Life

Verizon Nokia Lumia 928-VS-Nokia Lumia 920-Front

You’ll get a good day’s worth of battery out of the Lumia 928’s 2000 mAh battery if you’re a light to medium smartphone user, meaning if you check your phone for texts and emails here and there while you’re at work on a wi-fi network, you’ll have no problems with battery life.

If you’re a heavy media user, it’s a little bit of a different story, though I’ll admit to being impressed with the battery life after using the Lumia 928 like crazy for a day to really push it. If you’re constantly online, texting, calling, listening to music, taking pictures, and playing games, you’ll probably find yourself looking for a place to recharge about 6 hours in, less if you’re in an area with spotty reception.

Final Thoughts

Rating

8.5
Windows Phone 8 is still experiencing growing pains, compounded by Nokia’s inability to release the same device across multiple carriers.

Nokia Lumia 928

Even though that’s the case, there’s still a lot to love about the Lumia 928. It’s a great WP8 device, showcasing all that’s good about Microsoft’s mobile OS. Without an HTC One currently on Verizon’s network, it’s easily the best smartphone camera you can get on the carrier. The design is beautiful, albeit with a little less pizzazz without Nokia’s more colorful options, and if you’re firmly in the Windows 8 camp, you’ll find yourself right at home using the Lumia 928.

Here’s the crummy part: we’ll see the “EOS,” Nokia’s newest rumored flagship, at a July 11 event, making the Lumia 928 outdated within six weeks of its release. Consumers might take solace in the fact that Verizon won’t likely get any version of the EOS for a long while (leaving the Lumia 928 at the top of the pack for Verizon’s Windows Phone selection), but that’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow, and not really “good news” in terms of having the latest and greatest running WP8 available on Big Red. The Lumia 928 is a very solid phone, and is a ridiculously great bargain at $49.99 on-contract. You won’t find a better phone at that price point (or even at $99) on VZW.  

Disclaimer: Ashley Esqueda had the device for 6 days, and used it as her daily driver for 4 days. We will be returning the device following the publication of this review.