After months of waiting, Windows Phone fans on Verizon Wireless finally have some good news: A truly compelling new Lumia handset that combines a Lumia 1520-like camera with an interesting new metal form factor and a more reasonable 5-inch screen. And unlike all previous Lumias, this new phone also departs from Nokia's normal naming convention. So it's not the Lumia 929, but rather the Lumia Icon.
Here's what's happening.
New form factor. If you're familiar with the style of most Lumia devices, you'll immediately see that the Icon represents an unexpected departure. On the good side, it's attractive and features a distinct aluminum construction that comes in either black or white. But it's also really blocky looking, and nothing like the svelte Lumia 925-type case I was hoping to see.
Thickness. One thing I'm a bit worried about looking at images of this device is its 920-esque brick-like look. According to the specs, the Icon is 9.8mm thick, compared to 10.4mm for the Lumia 1020, 8.7mm for the Lumia 1520, and 7.6 mm for the iPhone 5S. So... I'll need to use it to be sure. I'm cautiously optimistic.
Weight. Surprisingly, the Icon isn't particularly heavy given its brick-like form factor: It weighs about 164 grams, a bit less than the well-balanced Lumia 1020 (167 grams), and quite a bit less than the mammoth 1520 (206 grams).
Processor. The Icon features the most powerful processor ever used in a Windows Phone, a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 running at 2.2 GHz that is also used in the Lumia 1520. The Lumia 1020 by comparison provides a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 running at just 1.5 GHz.
RAM and storage. Like the Lumia 1020, the Icon utilizes 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of onboard storage. But it has no micro-SD expansion, which is available on the 1520.
Screen. The Lumia Icon features a 5-inch ClearBlack AMOLED screen running at 1080p. Comparatively, the Lumia 1020 has a smaller 4.5-inch screen with WXGA (1280 x 768) resolution, while the Lumia 1520 provides 1080p but in a much bigger 6-inch form factor. This could be an ideal screen size.
Main camera. Of course, the question everyone is wondering is how the camera stacks up. The Icon features a 20 MP PureView camera with an f/2.4 aperture and dual LED flash. This is identical to the camera in the 1520, which is wonderful, since in my own tests the 1520 actually outperformed the Lumia 1020's ostensibly superior 41 MP PureView camera, which features an f/2.2 aperture and Xenon flash. I'm eager to test this feature in particular.
Microphones. In a curious bit of advancement that is typical for Nokia, this device features four lossless digital microphones with noise reduction that can capture omnidirectional audio in full stereo. This explains the "hear" part in the device's "see and hear the difference" tagline: Nokia is selling both the visual (camera and video quality) and the audio advancements in this device.
Battery. The Icon provides a 2,420 mAh battery and supports wireless charging without the need for a sleeve or case. This is significantly better than the 2000 mAh battery in the 1020, which requires a sleeve for wireless charging. (The huge 1520 has a comparatively humongous 3400 mAh battery and also requires a cover for wireless charging.)
Availability and pricing. The Lumia Icon will be sold exclusively through Verizon Wireless starting on February 20, 2014. The handset will cost $199.99 with a two-year contract. If you preorder the Icon from the Microsoft Store, you will get a free Nokia Wireless Charging accessory (presumably a wireless charging plate).
I'm looking forward to reviewing this handset soon.