- Easy-to-use operating system
- Mediocre battery life
The new Nokia Lumia 635 undercuts the Motorola Moto G 4G on price, but does it offer as much bang for your buck?
In case you pulled a double-take when you first put eyes on the Lumia 635, that may be because, from a visual standpoint at least, it looks identical to the Nokia Lumia 630 we reviewed back in May. To make things even more confusing, both of the units we checked out are green too, but despite the likenesses, there are a few important differences.
Nokia Lumia 635 design: Funky but chunky
This thing is undoubtedly eye-catching. The glossy electric green shell surrounding the back and sides of the phone is one of four colours, including equally vivid yellow and orange options.
In the hand, the smooth finish doesn’t offer the greatest amounts of grip, however the hard lines and sharp edges help alleviate the problem somewhat. The headphone jack sits in an offset position on the top, there’s a microUSB underneath, colour-matched hardware controls on the right-hand side and on the back a small loudspeaker hole and a centrally positioned camera.
The slight curve of the phone’s back serves as a nice contrast to the sheer frontage that feature small slits for the earpiece and microphone as well as, of course, the display. The rounded corners also give the phone a softer aesthetic, and pushing again the top two, will let you pop the entire shell off to swap it out for a different one.
Underneath you’ll find the 1830mAh battery, a microSIM slot and a microSD slot with room for up 128GB of additional storage on top of the 8GB of internal memory.
On the surface, this phone likes bright, fun and a little cute, but its cuddly proportions also make it a little bulky, especially considering the screen size.
Nokia Lumia 635 screen: Bloated bezel
The budget nature of the 635 means that Nokia doesn’t have to try quite as hard to squeeze all the impressive electronic gubbins into as small a space as on, say, the more premium Lumia 925. The chunkier proportions therefore affect the display, or rather the bezel around it, which is noticeably thicker than rival devices in the same class.
When it comes to the screen itself is actually very good. Using LCD technology, its well equipped for outdoor viewing, with a good maximum brightness and as with the external design, it can push out some seriously vivid colours too. At more extreme viewing angles brightness drops off a little, with whites greying out.
At 4.5-inches the FWVGA (854×480) resolution is perfectly suited to everyday tasks – websites and documents are easily readable, pictures aren’t the sharpest around, but don’t look awful and at the size on offer videos are perfectly watchable too. You can see the individual pixels with the naked eye, but for most this won’t cause any major issues.
Nokia Lumia 635 OS: Budget business
As with the affordable Lumia 630, Nokia is pushing hard to promote the business chops that Windows Phone 8.1 offers up and the 635 packs all the same tricks. Office is one of the most recognisable Microsoft tools on-board letting you create or edit Word, Excel and OneNote documents on the go. You can also run PowerPoint presentations too.
There’s OneDrive integration – Microsoft’s cloud storage solution, so you can save snaps and files to the cloud as and when you want for added convenience.
The latest additions to Windows Phone 8.1 include Action Centre, which similarly to Android lets you toggle various phone settings (such as WiFi) from a notifications panel that swiped down from the top of the screen and the new Word Flow keyboard, which lets you drag-to-type words rapidly, although its accuracy needs a little work.
Windows Phone has also reached the point where it supports pretty much all of the most popular apps from iOS and Android out there – Vine, Spotify (with a premium account) and Instagram are all now available on the platform. Offerings like free music streaming from Nokia MixRadio don’t hurt either.
Nokia Lumia 635 performance: Life in the fast lane
The whole hook of the Lumia 635 over the 630 comes with the addition of 4G LTE connectivity. Theoretically capable of downloads at 100Mbps, our real-world tests over EE’s network from central London yielded something at about 5 per cent of that. In day-to-day use however, we did genuinely feel the benefits of 4G when downloading apps, streaming videos and and browsing the web.
Performance elsewhere on the device was mixed, for the most part apps run smoothly and even multi-tasking didn’t cause us any trouble, but simple tasks like scrolling the apps menu created lag as did pushing effects-heavy 3D games like Minion Rush. The quad-core Snapdragon 400 chip is comfortably at home on the 635, but the 512MB is probably the cause of the intermittent performance.
4G has always been known to sap power and if you’re using it frequently on the 635, expect that 1830mAh cell to run dry before the day is out. More balanced usage, opting for 3G or WiFi where possible will help alleviate any battery life woes and the new pre-installed Battery Saver app is usable to have on hand too.
Nokia Lumia 635 camera: Carry a compact
There isn’t much to say about the 635’s camera, like the Lumia 630 it features a lone 5-megapixel rear snapper (there’s no front-facing camera) that’s devoid of any sort of flash. Detail, even in good lighting is poor as is contrast – the darker the environment, the blurrier to shots get, partly the shortcomings of any image-stabilisation.
The saving grace is the Nokia Camera app, which adds manual control in an easy-to-understand interface, offering up far more control over the cameras on similarly specced/priced smartphones.
Oddly enough, the 720p HD video is actually very usable. Colours and brightness appear well manages and auto-focus isn’t too bad either. Overall though, we’d suggest carrying an affordable digital camera if you want shots you’re happy sharing.
Nokia Lumia 635 verdict: A fine 4G phone
It’s not all-smiles when we pick up the Nokia Lumia 635, but despite areas we know Nokia will no doubt work on, this isn’t a bad phone, not by a long shot. It’s cheaper than the Moto G 4G, as we said at the start and packs plenty of features for business types or those after a balanced all-rounder.
If you’re looking for affordable 4G goodness, the Nokia Lumia 635 should be near the top of your list, provided you’re OK jumping into the Windows Phone camp. Otherwise head on over to our Huawei Ascend G6 4G review if you’d prefer a ‘Googlier’ experience.