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Microsoft's Nokia Lumia 930 first NZ look

Although it says Nokia Lumia 930 on the box, the brand is under new ownership. Strictly speaking the Lumia 930 is Microsoft's first flagship phone.

It is a good start. The Lumia 930 — NZ$999 at Vodafone — is a solid contender. It needs to be. Microsoft faces an uphill struggle wooing phone users away from their emotional, learning and financial investments in iOS or Android.

After my first day with the Lumia 930 I've found something that could be enough to win hearts and minds.

When you need a great camera phone


Cameras are Nokia's trump card. While the 20 megapixel main camera packed in the Lumia 930 seems modest compared to the 38 megapixels in last year's outstanding Lumia 1020, it still beats anything rivals offer. If photography is important to you, this could be enough to tempt you from Samsung or Apple.

When you take a shot, the camera captures two images: a jpg and a Raw image. The jpg is compressed, but all the missing data is kept in the Raw image. What this means is when you crop a picture, the phone pulls all the missing information from the back-up image. In effect it is like having full optical zoom after the event.

This means the Lumia 930 camera does a great job of capturing fine detail. Nokia also uses image stabilisation which means its phones do a better job than other camera phones of getting decent shots in low-light conditions. That's important for me because I often have to take photos indoors where the light isn't great.

Killer video


Nokia has taken its camera technology further into video. I've not had time for full testing, but at first sight it looks like the Lumia 930 takes sharper movies than other phones and there's less jerkiness when you move the camera.

The Lumia 930 has four microphones to capture sound. I've always found audio a let-down when taking smartphone video. You won't get broadcast quality, but there's a clear audible difference between movies shot on the Lumia 930 and anything else from a smartphone.

All-up this means you'll get better video than with other phones.

Of course there's a stunning display


All modern flagship phones have stunning displays. You need one just to get through the flagship phone door. That said, the Lumia 930's Amoled screen is at least the equal of every other phone screen I've seen to date. Colours are bright and luminous, but for my money it's the way the Lumia 930 does black that really stands out.

The screen is large, but not ridiculously large at five inches. Squeezed into that space are 1920 x 1080 pixels. This makes for a pixel density of 440 per inch — that's more than on the iPhone 5S and frankly the human eye probably can't see a discernible  difference between the two.

In practice the Lumia 930 screen handles video beautifully, but best of all it makes text easy to read in all conditions. The Australian Microsoft executive who demonstrated the phone in Auckland suggested we test it in bright sunlight — that might be a challenge in August, but I'll take his word for it.

Microsoft adds value


If your digital life revolves around Microsoft Windows or Office, you ought to consider switching to a Windows Phone.

Like most Nokia devices, the Lumia 930 comes with a smartphone version of Office complete with a great version of the wonderful OneNote app. There's also Skype, Outlook and OneDrive. All these technologies work great on Windows Phone. Microsoft's technology stack is extremely well-integrated across devices, so you can effectively carry your desktop in your pocket when you leave your workplace.

You'll hear others warn that Windows Phone doesn't enjoy the app support found with iOS or Android. That's true, up to a point. Windows Phone is usually last cab off the rank when developers release new apps or upgrades. However, depending on your specific needs, there are few essentials missing. And there are some great Nokia-only apps. Here Drive, Here Maps and Here Transit are all first-rate tools to help you get about.

Overall


If you don't already own a smartphone, you should give the Lumia 930 as much consideration as the alternatives. Unless you need a niche app that's not covered on Windows Phone, you won't be disappointed.

If you own an iPhone or an Android it could be hard moving to a different phone OS. If you're a keen photographer or you want to experiment with handheld video, this would be a good choice. You may be surprised at the camera quality, which, frankly is far better than any digital camera was just a few years ago.

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