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

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.