There is big. Then there is massive.
The Galaxy Note 3 smartphone “phablet” is big. The brand new Nokia Lumia 1520 is massive.
Really, this smartphone should come with a warning label: “Putting this device against your face to make a phone call will make you look ridiculous and is not practical in any way, shape or form.” The Lumia 1520 makes the iPhone 5S look like a child who is holding its mother’s hand walking through the circus. Nokia, perhaps, has gone over the deep end.
We have been over this before. The “phablet” (a smartphone plus tablet) is a completely impractical device to use as a phone. It is difficult to carry around and seemingly just gets in the way of everything. That being said, the phablet has some advantages. One friend who bought the Galaxy Note 3 (with Galaxy Gear) told me, “I love reading on this thing. I read on it all the time. Do I use it as a phone? Almost never. Always with an earpiece or ear buds. There is really no other way.”
For a comparison of just how big the Lumia 15020 is see the picture below.
From left to right: Lumia next to the Galaxy Note 2, Lumia 1020 and Nexus 5.
So, we can note that the Lumia 1520 definitely falls into this category of ridiculous, oversized phones that are conceptually designed for the Hagrid's of the world, not the Hermione’s. Any conversation about the Lumia 1520 will start (and probably end) with the size. But to focus just on how big the Lumia 1520 and say that it offers little value to the everyday consumer would be a mistake.
More Than Massive
When the first couple of phablet devices hit the market in the last two years, the conversation on size was an appropriate focal point for a discussion. Smartphones, like the first two generations of the Galaxy Note, really started the category and other manufacturers have followed suit.
So, we have stopped being wowed by these mammoth phones that are really more like small tablets (the Lumia 1520 is closer to the size of a Nexus 7 than a Moto X). What are the benefits of these devices? More pertinent to the Lumia 1520, does the device make Windows Phone a better or different experience?
The answer to that is yes.
Windows Phone, by definition, is based on a static design principle. You can get a Windows Phone from any manufacturer out there and the home screen and app drawer (the only two homescreens on the device) are going to look basically the same. Yes, Windows Phone has the auto-updating Hubs and Tiles and the ability to resize the apps you pin to your homescreen but in the end, it all looks basically the same. If you have seen the design of one Windows Phone, you have seen them all.
The Lumia 1520 shows off the best of Windows Phone. It absolutely packs the homescreen full of everything you might want from the operating system and gives you the real estate to personalize it to your specifications. If you are a fan of Windows Phone, then the Lumia 1520 gives you the best experience you are going to get from Microsoft’s mobile operating system.
Yet, like basically everything in the Lumia 1520, there may be an aspect of “too much.”
The Lumia 1520 comes jam packed full of pre-installed apps. All of Microsoft’s apps are pre-installed on the phone including Office, OneNote, Outlook, Bing Sports/Finance/Weather/News (as separate apps), Xbox Games, Internet Explorer, People (Windows Phone version of Contacts that integrate from various social profiles and email), Windows Phone Marketplace and Windows Phone Wallet. In addition, all of the Nokia-specific apps are already there including Creative Studio, Nokia Music, Nokia Pro Cam, Nokia Screen Beamer, Nokia StoryTeller, HERE Drive+ and HERE Maps.
Coming through AT&T, the usual crapware from the carriers is also there, including the AT&T Address Book, FamilyMap, Navigator, Locker, Mobile TV, my AT&T and Radio. Then you get all the utility tools like the Calculator, along with some pre-installed third-party apps like The Weather Channel, YPMobile and Vimeo (in lieu of a decent YouTube app).
If you just bought the Lumia 1520 and turned it on, it would be understandable to say, “I just got this, where the heck did all these apps come from?”
We have written before about how Nokia must be the company that gives Windows Phone its value. That holds true with the Lumia 1520 as Nokia’s main objectives are all met: Nokia’s imaging, maps and music are all present to give users unique, quality choices that are not necessarily tied to the walled gardens of Google, Microsoft and Apple. That being said, Nokia just wants you to play in its own walled garden, but if you are used to using Android or iOS, Nokia’s features are a welcome addition to any Windows Phone.
Maybe Mammoth, But Quality Nonetheless
Phablets are a subjective consumer choice. What I find to be ridiculous may be completely reasonable to someone else. What cannot really be argued is that the Lumia 1520 takes all of Nokia’s best industrial design principles and puts them to work in its gargantuan phone.
The best decision that Nokia has made over it past couple iterations of smartphones is take wireless charging out from inside the device. The Lumia 920—considered the best of Nokia at the time—made a massive mistake by including wireless charging inside the device because it bloated the casing and made the smartphone heavy and brick-like. It is telling that Nokia’s two flagship smartphones since the release of the Lumia 920 do not include wireless charging, for both aesthetic and functional reasons.
The Lumia 1020 has a 41-megapixel camera that gives it a big bump on the back. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as the phone is otherwise fairly ergonomic. If Nokia had added the wireless charging, the focus on the camera (which is just about all that phone has going for it) would have been lessened in a more bloated device.
The same is true for the Lumia 1520. It is already huge but adding to that by making it thick as well would have been a complete deal breaker. Instead, wireless charging for the Lumia 1520 (and the Lumia 1020) is handled with an attachable case. As it stands, the 6-inch Lumia 1520 phablet can pull off a sleek and reserved look while still being just about the biggest smartphone on the market.
While on the topic of hardware, Nokia has chosen the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.2 GHz processor to run the Lumia 1520. It has 2 GB of RAM and comes in 16 and 32 GB internal storage models with an expandable storage slot. The 3,400-mAh battery should keep the phone alive with its large screen for at least a full day, while providing excellent standby time. The camera is 20-megapixels and sports all of the software and hardware that often make Lumia cameras as good or better than the competition such as the image stabilization specs and PureView.
Does It Make Sense For You?
Do you like Windows Phone? Do you like really big smartphones? If you do, this brings the best of those two worlds into one device. It may take some getting used to the fact that the Lumia 1520 has to be operated with two hands. That's okay, though, as long as you know what you are getting into.
In the end, the Nokia Lumia 1520 is a lot of smartphone—lots of screen size, lots of pre-installed apps, lots of Windows Phone. Smartphones are much like candy bars these days: you like what you like and damn everything else. It is a completely subjective decision left up to the individual. Is the Lumia 1520 better than the Nexus 5? The iPhone 5S? Those are the wrong types of comparisons to make. What the Lumia 1520 represents is a certain, very distinct flavor of smartphone. The software, hardware and experience will please those that like that flavor.