With solid build quality, excellent performance and an array of useful free services on tap, the Nokia Lumia Icon may be just a smaller Lumia 1520, but that's enough to make it the best smartphone to run Microsoft's mobile OS hands down. Verizon Wireless was forced to sit on the sidelines, while AT&T was already delivering the phablet, but now its patience has been rewarded by what should be a device with much broader market appeal.
The Nokia Lumia Icon is the first WP smartphone that reaches well beyond the Windows Phone 8 realm and not just in the cameraphone way. Thanks to the latest hardware on board, as well as the constant evolution of the ecosystem, the handset makes for a viable alternative to the Android heavy hitters and the Apple iPhone.
And while the market is doing reasonably well to close the gap to the platforms in front, the OS is in dire need of an upgrade. While the GDR3 update went a long way towards making WP competitive by shredding the hardware limitations, it brought virtually no new features, leaving the core functionality the same for over a year and a half now.
A major update doe to be announced next month is bound to make the OS even more attractive and the Icon will be in an even more rounded package by then. Unfortunately at that point the competition will also have brought its latest hardware to the market, so it's position is not necessarily going to be better.
The fact that it launched just before the major update that will unlock more of its potential is just one of the clues thought, that the Nokia Lumia Icon is more of a scouting mission than a full fledged invasion of the high-end market. Stuff like poor battery optimization and the lack of the excellent Nokia Glance Screen functionality also contribute to the overall feeling that the Icon is meant to gather feedback rather than sit at the top of the sales charts. Here's hoping that it will serve its mission well and by the time the Lumia 930 hits the shelves, Nokia will be ready to properly shake the flagship market.
But future plans are not what we should be discussing today - instead we should try and find if the Nokia Lumia Icon is a purchase you should be considering at the moment. And for that we'll have to take a look at what the competition has to offer. The Icon was initially priced at $199.99 with a two-year commitment to Verizon Wireless, but you can currently grab it for $150 from Amazon.
This means the smartphone is $50 more expensive than the Nokia Lumia 1520, which is basically the same package in a 6" phablet body. The Lumia 1520 offers the best battery life we've seen but other than that behaves identical to the Icon - it's your idea of a perfect screen size and your preference of AT&T or Verzion that will inevitably seal this one, but the phablet tends to offer slightly better value for money.
Nokia Lumia 1020 is still considered the company's global flagship. It has the best camera in the business, but its hardware is getting long in the tooth. If the ultimate mobile photography tool is what you are after however, the Lumia 1020 must be on your list. It is now available for less than $100 on AT&T, but unless photography is all you do with your smartphone the savings are not really worth it.
The above two devices are the only Windows Phone alternatives to the Nokia Lumia Icon for the time being. As you have probably guessed, Nokia will not mind if you opt for either one.
A much bigger potential threat is the LG G2, which can currently be had for just $50 on Verizon. Coming with a slightly worse camera the LG flagship matches the Nokia in terms of chipset and offers an excellent screen. Some great out-of-box thinking that made the excellent back-mounted key possible, while the Android platform inside really makes the G2 the far better all rounder. For all the improvement the Windows Store has made recently it's still unable to match the Play Store and chances are this will continue to be the case for quite a while longer.
There are also the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S5, which offers next-generation chipsets and some excellent cameras of its own. It won't be on sale for three more weeks, but when it does arrive it will easily be able to offer a more complete flagship experience than the Icon.
Like the Lumia 1520 which preceded it, the Lumia Icon for Verizon Wireless is a genuinely good offering from Nokia. Unfortunately, deprived of one of its key strengths (great battery life) and thrown into a territory where everyone has their best player, it's going to have a much harder time standing its ground. That said, everyone who wants a 5" flagship phone, but is tired of Android for one reason or another has got a device that is unlikely to make them regret forking out their hard-earned cash.