Our Nokia Lumia 820 received the Lumia Amber update together with GDR2 slightly over a week ago, and after using the device for sometime, we’ve decided to write down a review on our experiences with the device, and how it has changed with the update. The summary? It’s a pretty great update, believe it or not, except for a couple of bugs here and there which sort of annoyed us at first, but we managed to fix the problems (sort of). Anyway, click in for the full review
This review isn’t a hardware review of the Lumia 820, but rather will focus on some of the software enhancements that the Lumia 820 got from the update.
There are several camera improvements that came along with the Amber update, some of which are certainly worth highlighting.
Before the update, many users of Windows Phone 8 noticed that their shutter speed was painfully slow when taking a picture if they had a microSD card was inserted into the phone. This is so even if you had chosen to store images on the phone and not SD card. The lag time between pressing the button and actually taking the shot could be as long as 2-3 seconds, which is simply unacceptable to some users.
Thankfully, with the Amber update, we noticed that this lag time has been greatly reduced. If you choose to store new photos onto your phone, you’ll have no significant lag when snapping a shot, and shots get real… snappy.
However, if you did choose to store new photos onto the SD card, some lag time is present. So you might be better off saving them to the phone
Another thing that the Amber update brought was the activation of the Nokia Smart Cam app. Previously, the application could be downloaded, but when opened it would simply inform the user that a software update was required. Now the app works perfectly fine.
Just like on the Lumia 925, the Nokia Smart Cam app allows you to snap multiple shots. Afterwards, you can choose select different effects to the photos. These include Action Shot, Remove moving objects, Best Photo, Motion Focus, and Change Faces. I won’t go into too much detail on what each one does because the names are pretty self-explanatory. in settings, you can even choose to launch the Smart Cam app by pressing and holding the physical camera button, instead of the default camera app.
Regarding the actual performance of the app, it works great as far as we’re concerned. Sometimes the shots get a bit messed up if there are too many people walking around in the background, but other than that the app works great.
NOKIA GLANCE SCREEN
Another feature that came with the Amber update was the Glance Screen, which you can find in settings. The feature didn’t really work at first but we managed to get it working after a reboot.
Anyway, you can choose 4 modes: Off, Peek, Timed, and Always On. Peek is our favourite. When the device is locked, just hover your hand over the phone’s proximity sensor to “glance” at the time (and after an update which should be coming soon, battery and notifications as well). Brilliant.
Timed will turn off Glance Screen after staying idle for 15 minutes. There is also a night mode option that makes it less hurting on the eyes at night.
You can even set up double-tap to wake up your phone. Just double-tap your screen at any time to wake it up. (photo above) It does consume quite a lot of battery though. The glance feature also appears to drain the battery, though we haven’t done any conclusive tests on this yet.
With the Amber update, the Lumia 820 finally comes with Data Sense. This app allows you to set your data limit, and even the time of the month when the limit resets. It is really useful for monitoring your data usage, as it even tells you the amount of data that you spend on every app that you own, both on your mobile network, and WiFi. Just pin the live tile to your start screen and you’re good to go. You can even set the app to limit data usage once you’re near your monthly limit, which is a rather useful feature for data-hungry users.
The update also enables FM Radio, which can be accessed directly from the in-built music app. It requires headphones to work as an antennae, and reception has been great so far.
The display of the device has also changed with the update. We noticed that the colours looked slightly different after the update (though it could just be us). Our cyan tiles appeared lighter, while the orange tile for Office appeared to be brighter red/orange.
Anyway, under display settings, you can change the Lumia 820’s colour profile, choosing on a scale of warm to cool and to natural to vivid.
The auto-brightness also seemed to improve with the update, and now responds better to different lighting conditions.
PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY
Performance and battery life seemed to have slightly improved after the update. System apps seemed to open more quickly and you get fewer “loading…” signs. Battery life has seemingly improved, as web browsing for 30 minutes in the morning would still leave the phone at around 97%. Of course, we don’t have real test numbers or scores to prove this, but you should feel it getting a little faster, and the battery should last longer (when glance is not activated)
OTHERS + BUGS
Some other improvements include the fixing of the “Other” storage issue, which previously kept growing in size and owners had no way of clearing the data in it.
There are also a set of new lockscreen wallpapers for you to choose from, which were previously only available on the Lumia 925.
There are a couple of bugs in the update though. For one, some of the wallpapers cannot be cropped and selected when chosen. At first we thought that this was an issue with our installation of the update, but we realised the same problem with a display unit of the Lumia 925 in a SingTel shop. We’ve managed to find a discussion thread on this issue and apparently the problem goes away once the device is connected to the Internet. We’ve tested this out and sure enough, the wallpapers worked fine the moment our WiFi was connected to a network.
Other bugs include weird battery drainage that occurred even when the phone was on standby. The battery went down from 80% to 50% in several others while it was on standby. We assumed it to be due to the Glance that was on, but we didnt look much into it.
The Amber update is generally a great update with plenty of new features and software tweaks to provide a more streamlined Windows Phone experience. Though it has a couple of bugs, they should be fixed in future minor updates to the software, and they aren’t too nagging anyway. Nevertheless, the update is certainly worth getting and Nokia has definitely done a great job in rolling it out worldwide.
In similar news, the update is now available for the country variant of the Lumia 620. You can check the availability of the update for your device on Nokia’s support page.
There we go folks, our very first software review. Tell us what you think in the comments below.