We’re just over halfway through the year, and already we’ve seen HTC’s luscious One (M8), Samsung’s stripped-back Galaxy S5, and LG’s eye-poppingly high resolution G3.
And now comes a new Nokia, the first high-end device to run Windows Phone 8.1 (bizarrely, we’ve already seen the OS on its entry-level Lumia 630 and 635 handsets).
The Lumia 930 has a new design to go with its new software. But can it mix it with the big boys of the smartphone world? Let’s have a look.
First impressions and design
For the Lumia 930, Nokia (or should that be Microsoft now?) has jettisoned the all-polycarbonate design it usually uses for its Lumias.
Instead, the 930 has a plastic back and an aluminium band around the edge.
It makes it feel a bit chunkier than its predecessor, the Lumia 925, but then its screen is half an inch bigger.
At 9.8mm thick, the 930 isn’t the slimmest phone around, but then it’s not trying to be.
We’re fans of the new look. It has a pop art feel to it, with the brightly coloured back (orange on our review model, though it comes in green, white, and black too) contrasting nicely with the industrial feel of the aluminium band.
The back is matte rather than the shiny plastic of the iPhone 5C. This means it isn’t as slippery.
While it might not be up there with the likes of the HTC One (M8) in terms of build quality, it is a very solidly put together handset, and feels like it’s built to last.
The new design positions the SIM card tray on the top of the handset, too. This is unusual, but makes it a lot easier to access. (We had to have our fingernails sewn back on after prising off the back of the Moto G.)
The downside is there’s no room for a memory card slot. But 32GB of internal storage plus 7GB Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage should be plenty for most people.
As we say, we’ve seen Windows Phone 8.1 on Nokia/Microsoft’s budget handsets before, but this is the first flagship to come with it.
Windows Phone 8.1 has three columns of live tiles compared to two on Windows Phone 8.
This comes in handy for gleaning info at-a-glance, especially on the 930’s bigger screen.
Action Centre comes as standard – this is a notifications bar you access by dragging down from the top of the screen.
iOS and Android have had the same feature for a while now.
The 930 also has a bunch of Nokia’s own software pre-loaded, including Nokia Beamer, Here Drive+, MixRadio, Nokia Camera, and Nokia Storyteller.
These go with the usual Microsoft accoutrements, like access to the Windows Phone App Store, and Xbox Gaming.
Cortana, Microsoft’s Siri-style personal assistant, is conspicuous by its absence.
It’s only supported in the US at the moment, and Microsoft is keeping schtum on when us Brits can have it wait on us hand and foot.
On the hardware side, the Lumia 930 is certainly impressive. It uses the same 20-megapixel camera as the ginormous Lumia 1520 – this is one of the best mobile snappers we’ve ever played with.
Colours are vivid, flesh tones natural, and snaps are packed with detail.
Like other Lumias, there’s a dedicated camera button on the side that jumps straight to the viewfinder. It doubles as a shutter button too.
This shows Nokia is serious about imaging on a smartphone, and the proof is in the pudding, as they say.
The Lumia 930 comes with wireless charging as standard, and there’s even a free wireless charger bundled in the box.
Though it was missing from our review unit, so sadly we weren’t able to test this feature.
Just like Swype, a feature called Text Flow lets you type by dragging your finger across the keyboard instead of typing individual keys.
The upshot is that it's much faster to bash out messages, and means it works just as well as third-party options.
So what else? The 930 is 4G, and has a 5-inch 1080p screen with a very narrow bezel.
All in all, it does everything you could want it to. But what’s it like to use?
Inside, a quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor buddies up with 2GB of RAM to deliver blisteringly fast performance.
These specs aren’t the best of the best: some handsets use the slightly faster Snapdragon 801 chip, and the Galaxy Note 3 has 3GB of RAM.
But in real-world use you’re not going to notice any difference. Apps are speedy to open, and the 930 zips through menus quick as you like.
Games ran without a snag as well. Call of Dead: Modern Duty Hunter & Commander ran just fine in all its alien-blasting glory, while we could practically feel the wind in our hair while playing Asphalt 8: Airborne.
The 5-inch 1080p screen is nice and bright, and its size makes it ideal for showing off photos. But it’s not a patch on the 5.5-inch 2K monster on the LG G3. Then again, what is?
With pretty intensive use (plenty of video streaming, and some gaming), the 930 needed recharging by tea time, which is about par for the course nowadays.
The good news is if you buy it before the end of July from a participating store, you’ll get another wireless charger thrown in for free, so you can have one at home, and one at work.
One more thing to note: the back of the handset did heat up quite a bit while we were playing games, which is something to be aware of. Though it was fine while we were doing other processor-intensive tasks like streaming video.
Windows Phone has come on leaps and bounds in recent months.
The Lumia 930 might have been bested in the specs department, but it’s a great all-rounder that’s more than capable enough for all but the most demanding of smartphone users. And it has a unique and stylish look to boot.
It’s the best Windows Phone handset around right now, and a serious contender for flagship of the year.