Nokia Lumia 635 review: Is this budget 4G Windows Phone worth a little extra?

Nokia Lumia 635 review: Is this budget 4G Windows Phone worth a little extra?

Summary: Microsoft has updated the low-end 630 with LTE connectivity and a larger price tag to match.

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  • In June this year, the Nokia Lumia 630 was released — a small, cheap, Windows 8.1 handset of the type that the company has managed to sell in decent numbers. Not long after, the 635 appeared — another small, cheap Windows 8.1 handset. The difference? £30 and 4G connectivity.

    What helped Windows Phone build its (still small) market share was this device's predecessor, the 520. At a reasonable £130, the 635 handset is certain to appeal to the bunch of buyers looking for full-fat smartphone experience without the equivalent price tag.

    One obvious way to keep costs down is with the screen size. At 4.5 inches, it's at the smaller end of the smartphone spectrum, and with 854x480 resolution and FGWA, it's not the sharpest you'll find at this price point, but decent enough. Put next to the 930's Full HD 1920 x 1080 screen, for example, it stands up surprisingly well.

    Image: Jo Best/ZDNet

  • The other major compromise comes in the form of the camera. Nokia has made great cameras its stock in trade, but the 635's feels distinctly low-grade. The colours aren't true to life and closer photos can turn out fuzzy.

    That's perhaps understandable given there's none of the usual Carl Zeiss optics and it's a five megapixel sensor, but it's hard to shake the feeling that Nokia could have done better. The camera hardware specs are almost identical to those found on the Nokia Lumia 520, released more than a year ago.

    There's also no front-facing camera, which means flipping your phone around for a selfie, which is no biggie. It also means going without any videocalling on Skype, which is more problematic — for Microsoft at least, given how hard it's been pushing the service of late.

    There's also no dedicated camera hard button on the side of the device — not a must-have, but it does mean that you'll spend a couple of extra seconds getting your handset ready to snap that spur-of-the-moment image.

    While the hard button and the front-facing cameras feel like acceptable tradeoffs for the price, the quality of the main camera really doesn't.

Topics: Mobility, Nokia, Reviews, Smartphones

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18 comments
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  • LTE does make a difference.

    Once you use it, not having it is painful at best. So for a lot of users, that would tip the balance. As for the two volumes, it makes perfect sense. There are plenty of times where you want to have the PHONE part up but turn the rest of the stuff down (especially if you have a lot of notifications turned on and did not have the mercy of turning off audible alerts (which is also easy to do on here). Otherwise, turning those down turns the ringer down too.
    jwspicer
    • The volume control problem

      has been addressed in the WP8.1 update.
      rkulcar
  • LTE with tethering can be cheaper

    than buying a separate mobile hotspot or adding mobile connectivity to your tablet and laptop.
    Earthling2
  • In the US the 635 is just $99

    I bought one just to leave in the car. Sick of the junk Bluetooth on my S4 never connecting. The 635 is flawless. Also being a uberx driver on the side, pinning common spots to a folder on the start screen is sooo nice.
    everss02
    • That's discounted

      That's the discounted locked price. It's no contract but it's still carrier locked.
      Buster Friendly
  • LTE and all else 635....

    Owned a 635 for a few weeks now. Couldn't be happier. As mentioned above, in the US cost is $99. Could be the best smart phone for the money on the market these days - IMO. Of course, YMMV
    davelpg
  • Dual Sim version

    You need to get the dual sim version.
    In many countries only the single SIM version is sold officially. So search for an import dual SIM version then.
    IE11
  • Better than Cheap Android Alternatives

    Win Phone will smoke Android performance when running on the same hardware. If your going to get a cheap phone, it should at least run well, not be choppy like most cheap Android devices.
    Sean Foley
    • Be sure

      Be sure that WP has the apps you will need. In my case, not.
      mytake4this
      • With over 300,000 apps already in the WP store, chances are that 95% or

        more of consumers will find WP more than adequate for their daily usage.

        Most people don't need 10,000 varieties of fart apps, and most don't need area-specific TV and radio and bank and restaurant and store apps. The vast majority of apps aren't used to begin with, and those that are, are useless to most people.
        adornoe@...
        • Yea

          2,000 fart apps should be enough for anyone.
          Buster Friendly
          • Yet, the Android and Apple people can't have enough

            fart apps.

            Go figure...
            adornoe@...
        • its about quality not quantity

          Yet still no decent Australian banking apps. Once they come out I will probably make the switch. Google is getting to big. Play store and apple store have beter selection of better quality apps. I have an old galaxy s 2 for my phone and a lumia 520 for work. Ended up going with another galaxy s 2 just because it worked better. Have to say Windows interface is so smooth though even on the budget scale phones.
          bleed4me
          • It's ok but

            The 920 still seems like a better phone and you can get it on contract from Tesco's for 12.50 a month.

            For myself I don't see any advantage in paying for a phone and pay as you go just isn't for me.
            Pastabake
    • Re: Better than Cheap Android Alternatives....

      By no means a forgone conclusion.With WP only occupying a minute percentage of the market it seems as a statement of hope.

      Like it or not WP has nowhere near the impact compared with Android and iOS.
      5735guy
      • What relevance is that?

        Market share has no bearing upon the usability and features of an already existing phone.

        Sure the WP ecosystem might not have every tat app but it has more than enough for the average user.

        However, who buys a phone based upon what it might be as opposed to what it is?

        and at the moment even the cheap WP kills all but the more expensive alternatives
        Pastabake
  • Non-Compelling

    Jo, you nailed my issue with your comment about the 630 on one end and the Moto phones on the other. I've got a Lumia 710 on the 635's carrier so it seems like a good upgrade path, but it isn't enough of a upgrade to justify the expense.
    Pronounce
  • But the model number's a bit out of sequence.

    My Lumia 625 still seems a better phone overall, the 630 and 635 seem to have been placed somewhere between the 520 and the 625 but with some of the newer features of a second generation model included.
    Of course 625 can be upgraded all the way with Windows Phone 8.1 and it's still a great phone for the price (even better for the DVLup reward price - free!!).
    joneda