Nokia Lumia 635 review

The only 4G smartphone in its $279 price range worth buying

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Nokia Lumia 635
  • Nokia Lumia 635
  • Nokia Lumia 635
  • Nokia Lumia 635
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Well built
  • 4G connectivity
  • Competitively priced
  • Windows Phone 8.1

Cons

  • Low resolution screen and camera

Bottom Line

The beauty of the Lumia 635 is someone with a flagship smartphone could pick this little Nokia up and still have all their needs met. The screen and camera idle at mediocre, but between the quad-core CPU and the rich Windows Phone 8.1 software, this proves to be one of best-rounded smartphones on sale.

Would you buy this?

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Nokia’s Lumia 635 is proof inexpensive smartphones can be lookers. The 4.5in Windows Phone device is unapologetically original in its styling. Nothing about it screams “Apple and co”. Design attributes are only borrowed from Nokia’s illustrious past as a smartphone heavyweight.

Design attributes are only borrowed from Nokia's illustrious past

The shape of the smartphone is an homage to Nokia’s N73. Like its forefather, the Lumia 635 has a trapezoidal body for a comfortable fit in the hand. The body itself is made from coloured polycarbonate plastic. Scratch it you’ll be met with the same rich colour.

Former Windows buttons have been swapped out for on-screen variants. Only a volume rocker and power button rest on the side of the Lumia 635.

Scratch and shatter proof Gorilla Glass 3 protects a 4.5in, 854x480 resolution screen. It has a low 218 pixel-per-inch density — a bit of a sore point for the Lumia 635 — but the Windows Phone operating system is designed well enough to look good no matter.

None

It’s Windows and better for it

The Lumia 635 is the third smartphone in Australia to ship with the latest Windows Phone 8.1. Improvements include the addition of a notification drawer (a shameless Android rip-off), wallpapered live tiles and overall improved performance.

The Windows Phone 8.1 live tile interface, messaging and dialler
The Windows Phone 8.1 live tile interface, messaging and dialler

Years of refinement has meant Windows Phone has come into its own as an operating system. Microsoft and Nokia’s close partnership has resulted in the tight integration of hardware and software and this is particularly evidenced by smartphones like the Lumia 635.

Why would an Apple or Android user turn their back on their existing ecosystem?

The software is gesture fluent, rich in animations and downright refreshing to use. It has reached the point where Apple and Android users will be wanting for nothing at a device level. The only drawback is Microsoft’s relatively limited application support.

Microsoft’s app Store has grown from 7000 to more than 250000 applications. Most of the apps Apple and Google users rely on will be found and, based on our experience, those featured are more enjoyable to use.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Why would an Apple or Android user turn their back on their existing ecosystem, writing off the dollars they’ve spent on applications and going to the bother or migrating their data across? There is no compelling answer other than the novelty of using a new, almost completely fresh operating system. Tech-savvy folks tiring from Android and Apple will appreciate Microsoft’s take on smartphones.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all have Windows Phone apps, but SnapChat does not. Similarly the Commonwealth Bank and St George have Windows Phone apps, but customers of ANZ and Westpac will have to settle for mobile sites
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all have Windows Phone apps, but SnapChat does not. Similarly the Commonwealth Bank and St George have Windows Phone apps, but customers of ANZ and Westpac will have to settle for mobile sites

The Lumia 635 comes preloaded with Bing Health
The Lumia 635 comes preloaded with Bing Health

The little engine that could

There was a time when Windows Phone held back Nokia smartphones because it failed to support cutting edge specs. Now the operating system has passed a critical point where the Windows software makes even inexpensive smartphones wonderfully rich in features.

Every task happens under the guise of svelte Windows animations

Nokia’s Lumie 635 has a Snapdragon 400 chipset with a 1.2GHz quad-core CPU and a 4G modem. There’s 512MB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage and popping off the removal back cover reveals a microSD slot compatible with 128GB cards.

Most Android smartphones would suffer from just 512MB of RAM, but the Lumia 635 maintains a brisk pace. Every task happens under the guise of svelte Windows animations. Rarely do you encounter software lag telling of the Lumia 635’s modest hardware.

Powering the smartphone is a relatively stout 1830 milliamp-hour battery. The battery bodes well due to the smartphones small and low resolution screen.

Good Gear Guide used the Lumia 635 as our primary smartphone for calls, texts, emails and web browsing. We made use of social networks, the music player, streamed Youtube clips and watched movies. Few photos were taken and we paired the smartphone to a Bluetooth speaker often. The Lumia 635 endured these gruelling condition for 36 hours on average before needing a charge; a refreshing result from this pocket-rocket smartphone.

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Lonely 5 megapixel camera

Consuming photos and videos on the Lumia 635 is easily done, but creating content is another story entirely. The Lumia 635 has a 5 megapixel camera only; there’s no flash and there’s no secondary front facing camera.

Someone with a flagship smartphone could pick this little Nokia up and still have all their needs met

Photos are great when the lighting is right as the little Nokia has an aptitude for colour and an eye for detail beyond its price range. But this simpleton snapper struggles in poorly lit environments and is further let down by a lack of sophisticated shooting modes, such as HDR. More often than not photos captured by the Lumia 635 will be destined for social networks alone.

The Lumia 635 records 720p videos at 30 frames per second. Unfortunately vidoes are characterised by too much image noise and the jagged stutter of a low frame rate.

Captured with the Lumia 635
Captured with the Lumia 635

Captured with the Lumia 635
Captured with the Lumia 635

Captured with the Lumia 635
Captured with the Lumia 635

Sliding the camera toggle left opens manual controls
Sliding the camera toggle left opens manual controls

Final thought

The beauty of the Lumia 635 is someone with a flagship smartphone could pick this little Nokia up and still have all their needs met. The screen and camera idle at mediocre, but between the quad-core CPU and the rich Windows Phone 8.1 software, this proves to be one of best-rounded smartphones on sale. It is well designed, full of great software features and is simply fun to use. Internet pundits particularly will relish the Nokia Lumia 635 because it’s the only 4G smartphone in its $279 price range worth buying.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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Read more on these topics: Windows Phone 8.1, Motorola, Lumia, 635, Nokia, Moto, g

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