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The Verizon Lumia Icon - Windows 10 Mobile breathes new life into an aging flagship

Microsoft and especially Verizon have rightfully caught a lot of flak over not updating the Nokia Lumia Icon to Windows 10 Mobile. All hope is not lost, however, as over the last few weeks the Upgrade Adviser now reports Microsoft is working with the carrier for an upgrade, and Microsoft's Gabriel Aul did mention it is being "considered".

Seeing as those on Verizon have no real recourse to a modern Windows 10 Mobile experience I decided to dust off my Lumia Icon and install Windows 10 Mobile via the Windows Insider program. I had no expectations and frankly, I did not even know if the Icon was still eligible for the Insider program.

The result? It's so good that I reactivated my Verizon SIM and now use the Icon on a daily basis.

What I did

I had not used my Lumia Icon in a long time, so I rolled it back to Windows Phone 8.1 using the Windows Device Recovery Tool. Once completed and after making sure, I had all updates not on the server I downloaded the Windows Insider app from the Store.

I won't go into doing the Windows Insider program as we have covered that story before.

For purposes of this article, I enrolled in the very stable Release Preview channel. That channel features the most recent version of Windows 10 Mobile that is ahead of production, but not experimental either and is considered safe to use on a daily basis.

The Windows 10 Mobile upgrade experience took me from Windows Phone 8.1 to Windows 10 Mobile build 10586.107. After that initial OS update, an OS cumulative update came through for build 10586.242, which will go out to all production devices next Patch Tuesday, which is on May 10.

I had zero issues and not a single problem during the setup process.

How is it?

I am almost shocked at how good Windows 10 Mobile is on this device. The OS is very fast, smooth and as far as I can tell, everything works including Hey Cortana.

Battery life is likely better with Windows Phone 8.1 as many have attested to in our forums, but I cannot say battery life has been terrible on the Lumia Icon with Windows 10 Mobile either. The phone does not run hot nor have I had any sudden battery drains, and so far it gets me through the day.

Even the 20MP PureView Camera holds up. Sure, I consider the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL superior to the Icon especially in low light and speed, but the Icon's camera is still impressive two years on.

What I missed about the Lumia Icon

Lumia Icon with Windows 10 Mobile

I have been steadily using the Lumia 950 (and less often the Lumia 950 XL) ever since their release late last year. While I think both devices, especially the Lumia 950, have come into their own from all the OS and firmware updates, there are things that I did miss from the Lumia Icon that I appreciate a bit more:

  • AMOLED pillow top display – The Lumia Icon (and Lumia 930 by extension) had a fantastic AMOLED display that felt super smooth. The way the screen slides off on the edges is an excellent experience, and it is much better than the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL displays, which are entirely flat and lack contrast and punch.
  • Build quality – This one is evident but the Lumia Icon – even being thicker – feels better to hold and use with better quality materials. This point is a no brainer but is still worth mentioning.

Still, I can say that I still miss the Glance screen found on the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. That is one omission along with double-tap to wake (which is on the Lumia 930 oddly enough) that the Lumia Icon can never shake.

My advice for Verizon customers

If you are on Verizon and cannot switch carriers but you still want something with Windows 10 Mobile I say grab a Lumia Icon if you can find one and slap the Preview Release on it.

Microsoft and Verizon may release an official update, which only means you may get firmware if needed and being an Insider right now won't change your eligibility for that. If your OS is older than what you have installed (unlikely) you will get the official update. If there is new firmware you now get that too with no resets involved making this a no-risk venture.

Lumia Icon with Windows 10 Mobile

When I compare the experience of the Lumia Icon to the Lumia 950 with Windows 10 Mobile, there is much more overlap than differences. Sure, the Lumia 950's processor gets a boost when rendering images or doing some heavy lifting but for typical Windows 10 app launches, you would think they are the same phone. Whereas running a Lumia 650 next to a Lumia 950 reveals substantial performance differences you won't notice that here with the Icon.

All I know is what started as a little experiment with my dusty Icon turned into a rejuvenated experience thanks to Windows 10 Mobile. If you are on the fence with either buying this device or updating it through the Insider program, I say just go for it and don't look back.

Have you put Windows 10 Mobile on your Lumia Icon? Share your experience in our comments or jump into our Lumia Icon forums to see what others are saying.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • I kinda fell for the Lumia Icon after all of these months. It's fun to re-use this device even in 2016. I really like Windows 10 Mobile and the new UWP apps and they feel right at home on this hardware. Hopefully Microsoft and Verizon will make something "official" even if the phone is not sold anymore. Regardless, if you have this phone now I think you're nuts to not put Release Preview on it and join the rest of us. Even if you have "moved on" to other platforms it's a fun experience and will keep you up to date should you ever switch back in the future or are just curious. Next stop? I need to do this on my Lumia 1520.
  • It's a great phone. But no Glance and no microSD is a deal breaker for me. Windows Central for Windows 10-Microsoft Lumia 640
  • As they were in 2014 ;) Still, there's a lot here to still enjoy even now.
  • I'd love to pick up a Lumia 1520 but they've kept their value surprisingly well over two years on. I need an international unlocked model (I'm on AT&T but I want wireless charging and 32GB) but I can't really find any for much under $300.
  • Hah, even I don't have the 32Gb and international version. That would be a fun phone to use with W10M.
  • I have the 32GB and the 16GB ATT models, but I miss the wirelss charing that my 920 had, but I can't argue as we got them for about $150 brand new and unlocked them. Love the phone and I want to find a true replacment to this phone. Love the speed and screen of the 950XL but I want more power and features lol.   Daniel, what's you're currently most used phone and what's your reason for using it?
  • Got the 1520 international version and using it with windows 10 for a month now and I would say is smooth as butter lol, using version 586.218 safely baby
  • Plenty of 1520s available here in my hood. I might grab one, what would u recommend as the best Nokia to buy and switch to W10?
    I currently have a 925, love it but no W10 :|
  • I got the Lumia 1520 AT&T 16Gb unlocked and local CV FI or Scandinavian.
    Both are fantastic in the Anniversary Update (Beta) of the Windows Mobile 10.
    Waiting for May 10 Patch Tuesday...
  • As an owner of 1520 int. 32gb+64gbSD with release preview W10 I am very happy camper, if only I didn't misjudge the size of the phone, when I bought it. I own 920 that is 1520 predecessor and last year I went for 950 just because of the size, because mini tablet format is kind of too big for me. I am running 950 on fast ring and is kind of ok, but 1520 is rock solid, lasts longer, if only the size....does matter ;-)
  • Look closely on ebay, Unicorns can still be found! :)
  • @Zachary Boddy, the 1520 sure has kept it's value. I had several chances to get it sub £180 (no warranty). But in the end i got the 930 for £115 with warranty. Which is a bargain for what you get. It had been for £80 min - no warranty. Planning on getting another later for redstone testing.
  • Fortunately, I still have mine on ATT. I've damaged my phone last year and they sent me an LG G3, instead of sending me another 1520 replacement. After a bit of complaining, they gave me what I wanted. I'm holding on to my 1520 32gig for dear life. Lol While the 950 is a nice phone, I wasn't impressed enough to upgrade. Although, my son seems to enjoy it and gets a kick out of telling me how much better his phone is than mine. I'm enjoying the newest build and hopefully, it will last me until the release of the next Win 10 Mobile phone. If all else fells, I will buy the 950XL and wait it out. Lol Not knocking other platforms, but I'm pretty vested in the ecosystem and I like being able to use most of the apps and media across my devices. Yep...still holding onto my original Surface Pro 128GB. ;)
  • Did verizon ever let the Icon properly handle group texting? the Lumia 928 would recieve group texts as individual texts. As someone who ends up in lots of different SMS groups, this really was the biggest downside of verizon for me.
  • I don't use group texting that much, but last time I shared in one a few months ago it worked fine on my Icon.
  • Yes it handles group texting perfectly
  • Yes it works as it should with group texting. I am on W10 though. I don't remember how it was on 8. I do recall that was an issue but I think it was intermittent. Haven't had that problem at all since at least a year ago.
  • Been using group texts since circa 2010 on vzw
  • Yes, on my Icon with Win10,group text has always worked. I never had this issue with group texts, even in Win 8. I think this was not ever a real issue.
  • Group texting works fine on my 928, always has, they don't come through as individual texts
  • The 1520 was ahead of its time. It checked a lot of boxes not found on phones of the day. I liked mine, but I am not a phablet person, so the 950 was a long time coming.
  • I just sold my 1520 at $180, it is 32G version but with ATT.
  • I've got an international unlocked version I can part with. What price are you looking for? The only problem is that it has the stuck airplane mode problem. I bought a replacement part that supposedly fixes this but didn't end up having the proper tools to fix it. If you're interested, let me know. You'd get the phone with the replacement part and you'd just have to install. I can't, however, guarantee that piece will fix the problem or not. 
  • $50 for that airplane phone - I'm going to make fake phone calls on airplanes for fun!
  • You can enable the t-mobile band for good 4G if that's your sticking point. I found a refurbished one on ebay for $180 and have never looked back! I actually actively disable the LTE bands now because the 4G is rock solid.
  • I could never ever get 'Hey Cortana' to ever activate on my 1520.3 ..  the voice detection bit would not work - eventually gave up on windows 10 and went to iOS. Did they ever fix this?  
  • That phone is still good even to today's standards; yes the lack of Glance and MicroSD is a considerable drawback. Unless you have a good mobile rate plant.
    A thing I envy about you guys is the enormous chance you have to get an unlimited internet plan for a relatively low price, compared to our carrier's rate plans in MX... That being said >>> If I had the chance to have unlimited internet access for a fair price, that phone can easily be my daily driver. I have a bigass large music library stored in cloud services like Google Drive and OneDrive (+40GB) so the lack of memory would not be an issue to me.
  • 40GB is not big ;)
  • +40GB
    Actual size is around 187GB between mp3 and wma track files (vast majority are wma's) I've treasured since I started to burn mi CD's collection back in 1998. 
  • My collection is around that size also.  A bunch of lossless rips and 320mp3's. Backed up to OneDrive and Google Drive.
  • Nokia Lumia 730 No glance Screen add this Feature next update
  • I agree! If the 930 had glance and SD card this phone wold live on for ever! W10 is great but so buggy and battery now only lasts half a day with only limited use. In need of another update!
  • Have to agree with you on that one. I ended up getting a band to make up for lack of Glance. Anything to keep the old girl running! My daughter has it now and even the camera is still up there with the best. At a recent Rudimental gig, we both took pics, and although there was a difference, the 930 wasn't that far behind my 950xl!! Hey MS, rebuild them as a midrange!
  • Totally agree, with such a devastating lack of WPhones, why not re release the 930 and 1520 etc. They must owe next to nothing, what a great way to offer quality phones very cheaply. Beggers belief really they don't do this. Maybe not so good for the Merican market, but the rest of the planet would be very greatful.
  • I've been faithful, and using preview since it started, but I want Redstone builds!
  • on Icon? Use the Windows Insider app. I dare you...
  • Umm... Duh. I said I was using preview since it started. Obviously I'm already using the Insider app. I'm on the same build Dan discussed in the article.
  • The only issues with windows 10 mobile on the one m8 are, Cortana seems to crash a lot and the default camera app's hdr mode leaves really weird dots in pictures
  • Yeah, no idea on that. Then again, I can see giving Icon (and others) just enough Windows 10 until a newer device comes along (fingers crossed).
  • Daniel, if the Icon and/or 735 do get officially updated to 10586 builds by Verizon, what does that mean for them going forward (to Redstone 1 and beyond)? Is it a "once you're on 10, you're good to go for the near future" sort of deal due to Microsoft segregating the radio stack? As we've now heard, VLC will apparently require Redstone, so if that's going to be the trend with new UWP apps, it seems that an "official" upgrade to 10586 would be a pretty short-lived victory if it's pulling teeth with Verizon again this summer.
  • The hardware just has to be on Microsoft's eligible devices list to get Redstone as far as I can tell. I have the 735 from Verizon and it updates to the fast ring Redstone builds. So, I imagine if I was on the release preview ring, it would get the production Redstone build when it's finished as well... Probably. The Icon not being on Microsoft's eligble hardware list, can't upgrade to Redstone, only the current W10M build. That being said, my conversations with Verizon's support wasn't productive, so I wouldn't hold my breath that they'll push the update officially, you'll just have to get around it using the insider app.
  • Oh, wow, thanks for the response - I didn't realize that the 735 had Fast Ring access, so that's great news. I'm not necessarily interested in official support, I just want to get on the Redstone train without having to switch carriers. How are the Fast Ring builds running on your 735?
  • Runs perfectly fine! I'll admit its not quite as snappy in performance as the Icon, but its a VERY viable W10M phone for Verizon. I actually like it better than my Icon, mainly for its size and SD expansion. Battery life is great.It could use just a little more processor and better camera for those that expect that in today's phones. But given the price.... can't knock the 735 one bit
  • It's been mixed. The performance leaves a bit to be desired, and the Groove app has freaked out on me a couple of times, refusing to play music till I restarted the phone. Also, the OneDrive app doesn't seem to want to sync changes to the camera roll (I think it's uploading new photos but it doesn't want to delete them). But, the UWP apps are infinitely more useful on W10M/Redstone than they are on 8.1, so I'm toughing it out with a little instability. There's a couple of flaws with the current release preview build also, like using Cortana to set an alarm can sometimes wipe out all your alarms, but I haven't had that happen on the Redstone build yet.
  • I thought the issue with the icon wasn't a MSFT non support, but more to do with Verizon, as a carrier branded device? Rumour has it, and Gabe has offered a 'we're working on it' quote, so maybe the two have got their heads together and thrashed it out
  • Nice article. I know when I put the release preview on my Icon it was like a new phone
  • Hey Daniel, I've been trying it out on my icon but strangely my screen keeps turning off then on again. It hours out for a second then turns on for like 5 seconds and it repeats. Have you had this problem.
  • I've never had that issue but still dealing with a nonresponsive touch screen on reboot that requires several soft resets to get it working again.
  • I've had that issue as well but the going in and out is staying to get to me.
  • Since the last two builds that problem has gone away for me
  • Last summer I ordered a mugen power case for my l929 did the trick for both 8.1.1 & mw10. & a few months ago got a moto turbo charger(during a mobile nations sale)
  • Hey Daniel somewhat off topic but since you mentioned using the AT&T Lumia 950 as your main device, I'm curious are you getting or heard of random shut downs or reboots on the latest consumer release? (non insider build) I have the last week or so, and never experienced this since I got the phone for Christmas. I'm beginning to wonder if the phone itself is damaged vs. issues with the OS or firmware? I'm currently running OS Build 10.0.10586.218 and Firmware 01078.00038.16025.39033 on AT&T
  • Not somewhat off topic, completely off topic. This is one for the forums.
  • I have random reboots on my 950 and 950xl usually when making skype call or opening photos just after taking a picture.
  • I love my Icon, and it really has been running good on 10586.242 this last week or so. But, I've already decided to move to ATT so I can get the 950xl with all the new toys, I'm super excited about the new camera specs, as that was the main reason I got into Windows Phone in the first place. Plus, my battery is just plain toast on my Icon, it normally will last me half a day with very light use. I keep it plugged into a battery pack all day at work so it will stay charged. That pillow top display is something I see myself missing, but after messing around with my new 640 and seeing the Glance screen and Double-tap, I don't know how I went without those features all this time.
  • The 950xl doesn't have double tap to wake...
    So you'll be missing that for a while longer!
  • Ah, good to know. At least I get Glance, which is my favorite of the two things.
  • Thanks!  You just made me miss my Lumia 930.  It was a great phone.  The only reason I sold it was because I couldn't get 4G LTE on Tmobile.
  • I recently bought a brand new (sitting out the back in a storeroom and still shrink wrapped), unlocked Lumia 930 32Gb from Vodafone NZ for a very cheap $135USD ($199NZD). It is running very sweetly on 586.242 — does everything except the Glance Screen of course, but does have double-tap to wake; also doesn't run hot like it did on WP8.1. Loving it!
  • Had a 930, it had double tap to wake, it's the icon that oddly enough doesn't have it. The article points this out anyway!
  • W10M works great on a 1520.  
  • The latest Fast Ring build of Windows 10 Mobile runs without any major issues on the 1520.
  • the latest got my <Scandinavian version in a boot loop. but less than a hundred retries fixed it on WDRT.
    Now on stable build waiting for May 10 Pa<tch Tuesday.
    My friend has my A-t6t 16GB - Install failed. - waiting for May 10 ...
  • I have switched to iPhone 6 from the Nokia Icon... I do have windows 10 thanks to Daniel I have updated to the latest version.... I really only use it for the camera, e-mails, and updating instagram, as I can take less steps to do so.... Other than that the camera is still great, better than the iPhone... I only wish I could do live stills because the way it was in 8.1 it was easy... IDK how to do it in Windows 10.. Any ideas??  
  • With version .218, the experience with the Lumia 930 is very good. The responsiveness and scrolling are incomprehensibly better on the 930 than on the 950. Just don't understand how it's possible... screen? firmware?
  • Wait, are you saying you have double tap to wake on your 950? I couldn't find a way to get that on my 950, and I cannot express how much I miss it!
  • you cannot, at MS they are considering to update the 950 and XL but they have not decided yet, missing that feature too.... If you didn't know we have double tap to sleep though :D just double tap on the windows bar (enable it in settings if it's off)
  • Why on earth they would remove great features like double tap and super sensitive touch is beyond me.  Up in canada, we NEED super sensitive touch.  And double tap to sleep is pretty useless imo haha  
  • I've been an Insider on both the Icon and 1520.  And I agree: the Icon is fun now!  The 1520 did okay but...there were more problems.  Lately I've been using the 1520 with the official build as my main phone and the Icon as my Insider phone.  However I just bought the 950 XL and 950 in the BOGO deal.  I've found Hey Cortana more responsive on the 950 XL than on either the Icon or 1520.  Maybe it's my imagination....
  • Dude even build 14332 runs awesome with the 1520. I can't imagine how stable it'll be with the release preview.
  • Dan, WHY haven't Windows Central reported on Intel's axing of mobile chips?
    All of these other articles are just odd - and are ignoring the elephant in the room.
    If there are no x86 processors to power the Surface Phone, then surely that whole project is DOA?! If that is the case, then what future is there for this platform?!
  • I was looking for a good used Icon when I heard it may not be eligible for Redstone, even preview builds. I than made to agonizing decision to move on to this here Samsung S7.
    Verizon won Microsoft lost. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Good read, Daniel.  I have been using my 930 (international version on AT&T) as my "test" phone.  I still like the feel of the 930, and have had no problems with the latest builds.  It just feels more like a "flagship" phone than my 950.  Granted, I am only getting 3.5G, but I honestly don't notice much difference.
  • Thanks Daniel.  I've been using Windows 10 on my Icon for a few months now and it's been great.  However, the recent doom and gloom has given me second thoughts and is tempting me to move to another platform.  Your article has given me the boost I need to stick it out just a bit longer and reminds me of just how much I'd miss.  Looking at the comments it looks as if I'm not the only one.
  • Although you can download Windows 10 Mobile, it isnt the current build. They stop releasing the most recent builds for the Icon when they offically launched Windows 10 Mobile. This is part of the reason MaryJo left. I broke my Icon and I am not going to leave Verizon for a phone, although I really wanted a Lumia 950XL. I am currently using the iPhone 6s and I understand Mary Jo's argument better now. On Windows I simply stopped looking for apps. Although there are more, it is nothing like iOS. Although I still perfer Windows 10 mobile to iOS, its hard to say I can actually come back to the platform unless there is a sudden explosion of apps avaiable. It may sound silly but it is like only eating cornflakes for years and then suddenly someone gives you t