Hands-On With Verizon’s Really-Not-That-Thick Nokia Lumia 822

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I’ll admit it:when those first leaked images of the Verizon-bound Nokia Lumia 822 started making the rounds, I hastily decided that the device was a bit too thick to be worth using in this age of super-svelte smartphones. Now that I’ve gotten a chance to play with the device in person during the aftermath of Microsoft’s Windows Phone, I find myself rethinking that judgment.

Don’t get me wrong: at 11.2mm thick, the 822 is awfully plump compared to some of the Windows Phone 8 handsets on display here, but its curved back and glossy finish means that it’ll never resist as you attempt to pull it out of your pocket. If anything, the version I played with was even thicker than normal because someone had swapped the stock backplate with the wireless charging plate, but the end result was a device that was still very comfortable to hold. As you can probably tell from the photos, I played with the white variant, though Verizon was quick to note in its release this morning that a (duller) grey version would also launch later this fall.

That said, looks aren’t everything. The 822 allowed me to gracefully scroll though Windows Phone’s long app lists and fired up apps with aplomb, thanks to both the 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and Windows Phone’s general snappiness. From what I could tell, the 8-megapixel camera fared nicely on the strangely-lit stage, but I suspect it’s neat little features like Nokia Cinemagraph that will really drive usage of the device as a point-and-shoot.

The kindly Nokia rep I sat with for a few moments was eager to show off some of the technical enhancements (particularly those found in the camera, like the shake-resisting floating lens), but was quick to note that most of them were absent in the 822. A bummer for sure, but it makes sense — Nokia has always been very careful with how it positions its handsets (remember the days when it used arbitrarily chosen letters to define the intended target market for their phones? Fun stuff.)

At $99, the Lumia 822 is an interesting little beast. Simply calling it a “respectable” or “above-average” device isn’t quite giving it the credit it deserves — though a solid chunk of the device’s appeal is thanks to Windows Phone 8. Those of you who haven’t yet taken the plunge on a smartphone yet and are stuck with Verizon should keep this little guy in mind… at least until we figure out what the ATIV Odyssey is.