As a former die-hard Android fan, I’ve been using the Nokia Lumia 820 for one month. Here are my first impressions:

Hardware

The Lumia 820 is a robust smartphone, easy to hold and use. For a non-HD display, the 4.3″ screen is just a pure beauty. I’m not even mentioning its unbeatable responsiveness. On the downside, if you have already held it, you will agree that it’s not a light phone, iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 users will surely confirm this, but in the end, the Lumia 820 is perfectly pocketable and its weight (160g) is not a real problem. Last point on the hardware, many will appreciate the ability to switch shells, this is not pure innovation, but it’s not a perk usually coming with smartphones. Overall, the Lumia 820 is a very nice piece of tech, especially for the price.

Battery life

I was able to reach 35h, connected to Gmail and Exchange in push, Twitter, Baconit, Facebook and the People Hub. I usually spend about one to two hours on calls every day and browse the internet about an hour. Nothing else to say but that I’m very pleased with the battery – the wireless charging makes it even better and if something were to go wrong, you can still replace the battery since it is easily removable.

OS

Windows Phone 8 is the real come back of Microsoft on the smartphone scene. The OS beats Android very easily in terms of simplicity, consistency, stability, fluidity and challenges iOS on the design and file management approach. Then, I have to say that getting used to using Microsoft’s products for everything is not straight forward when coming from another environment, but I guess it would be the same problem the other way around. Microsoft is actually doing a great job; to my surprise, Bing is for instance far better than I thought, and its integration within the OS makes it very powerful and easy to use. Apart from Google maps’ favourite places, I’ve imported from Google what mattered to me (contacts, emails, calendar) so the switch has been pretty painless.From a UX perspective, the OS is great, I can see Windows Phone as the most intuitive OS out there – mostly because of its very consistent user interface. Even iOS users will see in Windows Phone a refreshing user experience. When it comes to performance, the OS is damn quick, fluid and well thought. Some improvements are needed of course, but nothing major.

Apps

So, the current trend when discussing Windows Phone 8 is to stress the lack of apps available on the platform. Well, I beg to differ, there are a lot of apps available for Windows 8, and people claiming otherwise are in lot of occasions friends with an Apple/Android fanboy, have never checked the actual Windows Store and keep repeating what they have been told by their subjective friends. Understandable, but problematic since the lack of apps is not as bad as reported. I haven’t been in trouble finding the apps I wanted so far, apart from two cases: Spotify (they used to have a WP7 version, WP8 is coming) and Instagram (I replaced it by Fhotoroom, which does more than the job). Right now I have on my Windows Phone 8 enough apps for my daily requirement: Amazon Kindle, Amazon Mobile, eBay, Domino’s Pizza, Evernote, Fancy, Foursquare, Facebook, IMDb, Hotels.com, L’equipe.fr, Rebtel, Shazam, Sky Sport News, Skyscanner, Tripit, Twitter, Vimeo,WhatsApp, Yelp and I’ve skipped the utilities. The apps are all looking very good, although it is true that feature-wise they are not always as evolved as their iOS, Android counterpart. From a design perspective, the consistency helps a lot ensuring they all look great and are easy to navigate.

Nokia’s apps

Apart from Nokia Maps, I don’t use Nokia’s apps coming with the phone. Nokia maps is not the best navigation app I’ve seen recently, Google Maps for iOS looks and feels much better, but so far I’ve always made it to my destination, so even if I’m not amazed, I would say Nokia Maps does the job. Interestingly enough – Nokia’s apps can be un-installed, which is a very nice touch – other OS often disallow this kind of action. Although Nokia really promotes its apps and sees them as a USP, I would not recommend buying the phone for the sake of using relatively cool but useless apps such as City Lens or Photobeamer.

Browser

Who would have thought? Internet Explorer 10 is actually amazingly fast, much better than Chrome or the stock Android browser – by far. Of course, if your life relies on Chrome Sync, using Internet Explorer might be an issue, but in most cases you will praise its speed. Some mobile sites specifically developed for Android or iOS are not rendering correctly in IE10, but their desktop version is always spot on. I like the ability to pin pages to the home screen – very convenient to access favourites. Note that, like on iOS, third party browsers will have to use IE’s rendering engine, only the user interface will differ. This is one of the reasons why – Firefox and Chrome – are not likely to make an apparition in the Windows Phone Store.

Camera

I was not amazed at first. It is quite complicated to take nice pictures, but after a few days it gets better – the results are pretty amazing inside, as the flash does a very nice job. Video recording is a great in 1080p however, make sure you get a class 10 micro SD card such as the Sandisk Ultra 32GB Class10. Otherwise you will end up with laggy/jumpy video footages because your micro SD card won’t cope with the to high bit rate. Manipulating pictures through the gallery app is easy and smooth. The camera is definitely a central element of this phone, even if some software fixes are still to be made to allow the Lumia 820 to make the most of its lens.

At work

Windows Phone 8’s Exchange integration is flawless, super fluid, and the mail app is perfect compared to the stock Android or iOS versions. The Lumia 820 is both my work and personal phone and it does handle both environments very well. The calendar is not easy to get used to when Google Calendar has been your reference for the past years, but after two weeks it’s not a problem any more. The integration with Office is obviously much better than on other platforms, but is not perfect since I haven’t been able to open csv’s without a third party – paid – app for instance, or that the edition of Power Point slides is not – understandably – the best way to modify a complex presentation just before a client meeting. Viewing is however very cool and smooth.

In conclusion

If you want a phone that works, has great battery life, a stunning screen, a decent price, that is even 4G ready then the Nokia Lumia 820 is the smartphone you need. If you believe you’re stuck in Google’s or Apple’s environment, then it may be a complicated switch for you. Judging a handset without considering its OS is not easy; the Lumia 820 is definitely a great phone, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be that good with another OS. Undoubtedly, the beauty of the Lumia range sits in the close collaboration between Microsoft and the Finnish manufacturer. The Nokia 820 is the results of two years of partnership, and it appears to be a brilliant phone. Get it, you’ll love it.