Windows phones have an inherent advantage over all other phones: The Windows Phone OS has the best-looking fonts of any smart phone platform, making the words on any screen—from an e-mail to calendar appointment—effortless to read. And since the Lumia Icon’s display shows three columns of Live Tiles instead of two, you won't have to scroll as much to find your favorite app.
As for display quality, the 5-inch, 1920x1080 OLED (organic light emitting diode) display crams in 441 pixels per inch and seems about as sharp and bright as the 6-inch LED display of the Lumia 1520—probably the best display we've seen on any phone. I could still read Web pages even when I held the phone in front of a snow bank on a bright, sunny day. But the Lumia 1520 display is an LCD, not an OLED. Our tests will determine if that makes much of a difference in performance.
Nokia's GPS navigation app, Here Drive, holds its own with the included offerings on iPhones and Android phones. Along with complete street names and estimated travel times, the app delivers speed-limit warnings and traffic alerts. And like the Google Maps navigation app, Here Drive lets you save frequent commutes, such as the trip from home to work. One new feature automatically geotags your parking spot when you arrive at your destination, so you can find your car—along with 25 other nearby points of interest--if you open up Nokia's Here Maps’ LiveSight feature. But unlike Google Now on Android phones, you won't be reminded to leave early for a scheduled appointment because of traffic.
Other smart driver apps include Driving Mode, which can be configured to automatically send replies to people who call or text you when you are driving. You can activate Driving Mode manually, or you can set it up to be automatically activated when it detects a specific Bluetooth device, such as the audio systems in newer cars.
The Nokia Icon's 2,420 mAh battery was a bit of a disappointment. Nokia claims it should yield a full day of use, but I had to return to the USB charger for a refill after only a few hours of moderate use. My tests were rather informal, though, and this is only a press sample. We'll see how long the battery lasts when our engineers perform a full test on the retail version of this phone.
Wimpy battery aside, the Lumia Icon deftly integrates Nokia's intriguing camera features and advanced map/navigation apps with Microsoft's attractive and intuitive interface. If you're considering a Windows phone, this one should be at the top of your shopping list.