Nokia Lumia Icon

Windows phones are a hard sell. If one of your friends pulls one out of his pocket, you'll probably gawk at its screen brimming with multi-colored tiles and wonder why anyone would choose to be tethered to such a wildly unpopular piece of tech. We live, after all, in a world dominated by Android and iOS devices. They have apps! So many more apps!

As a Windows phone, the Nokia Lumia Icon does not have access to the apps that run your Nest thermostat, FitBit, or Sonos sound system – Windows has 200,000 apps compared to Apple's – but the polycarbonate exterior does conceal some serious hardware.

The Icon runs fast thanks to a spritely Snapdragon 800 processor and long courtesy of an 18.1-hour, full-use battery. Nokia claims that the 5-inch, 1080p HD screen reads better in direct sunlight than any other phone and we have to agree. Sure, you still have to crank the brightness for long outdoor sessions, but you can quickly check an e-mail or Web site without fiddling with settings. The Icon also has an extremely powerful 20-megapixel camera that boasts optical image stabilization and captures images as large as 5376 x 3024. But where it stands out from any other current phone is in audio capture, with four microphones to the iPhone's three. In our tests, it was better at tamping down background noise and picking up speech from the intended subject, while also giving more of a directional, stereo quality to audio. It's a powerful device perfect for those who watch or shoot a ton of video, and anyone who wants to quietly exit the ongoing Apple vs. Android debate. [$199 w a 2-year Verizon contract; nokia.com]

Field Notes
Area Tested: Home, backyard, commuter rail
Days Used: 13
Conditions Encountered: Commuting, movie-watching (Netflix), compulsive filming
Nitpick: That big battery makes the phone quite hefty.