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Monday, May 05, 2014

Review: Nokia Lumia 521

As previously mentioned, I've settled on the Nokia 521 as my European phone for the year. I ended up using it earlier than expected, however, as I noted that our Ting phone bill rising due to unexpectedly high data charges from my Galaxy Nexus. Since I had a prepaid T-mobile SIM lying around, I deactivated my Galaxy Nexus, went to the T-mobile store, and moved the SIM account into a micro-SIM to install it onto my Nokia.

The move came at the right time, as we ended up going to Yosemite for a few days. Unlike Google Maps, Nokia's HERE mapping and navigation applications work even without a data plan. If you've ever used Google Maps' offline feature, you know what a crippled application it is when bereft of a data plan. You can't search, you can't re-route when you go off course, and god help you if the phone ever rebooted in the middle of the drive. Well, Nokia's HERE Maps and navigation applications are a breath of fresh air compared to that. Even in the middle of a National Park (where no data availability is to be had for any carrier), navigation is a cinch and works. To my surprise, search, and POI (point of interest) locations like gas stations, etc are also available. I'm impressed and very pleasantly surprised. On top of that, you can even download map prior to leaving the country for foreign destinations.

There are a few glitches, but no more than my Galaxy Nexus had. The one big flaw is bluetooth pairing. For whatever reason, audio pairing (as opposed to phone call pairing) is spotty and requires an explicit connection very time. I have no idea why that is, but there's no way to fix it. Fortunately, the speakers of the Nokia 521 are more than loud enough for navigation purposes.

Speaking of phone calls, Nokia here demonstrates that they really understand how to put together phones that work for voice calling. After years of having gotten used to crappy Samsung calls, phone calls through the Nokia 521 are crystal clear, and the 521 receives far better signals than any other T-mobile phone I'd ever had. I had previously assumed that my home was  a T-mobile dead zone, but the Nokia 521 happily receives and makes phone calls in my home. Either T-mobile's network has improved (unlikely) or Nokia really knows how to make a phone that can make and receive calls.

The battery life is also nothing short of amazing. I'd gotten used to never going out the door with the Galaxy Nexus without also carrying along 2 spare batteries in addition to the extended battery that's already in my phone. I broke that habit with the Nokia 521. Not once did I run out of battery during the course of a normal day, and even when cycling out of cell coverage for a day, the Nokia's battery never dropped past 80%. I couldn't believe my eyes the first time I checked the battery life after a day of riding in the Santa Cruz mountains.

All in all, I'm very happy with this phone as a primary use phone, and when my prepaid minutes run out and I come scrambling back to Ting and the Galaxy Nexus, I'm going to miss the Nokia 521 badly. Highly recommended.

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