Nokia Lumia 635 – first impressions

Lumia 635

This week finally saw the arrival of Microsoft’s latest budget handset, and I got my hands on the international, unlocked GSM model. It’s the first phone to ship running Windows Phone 8.1 which features some nifty new features like Action Center, the Android-like drop-down box for notifications and quick access toggles. There’s also the new Flow keyboard, which is similar in style and performance to Swype/SwiftKey, and Cortana, the digital assistant.

I’ll make it clear outright, because I’m in the UK, I don’t get access to Cortana. Microsoft hasn’t made that available on this side of the pond yet. And that was something I was really looking forward to trying out. [Insert appropriate glum-looking emoticon here.]

Apart from that, I’ve been fairly impressed by the 635 since I received it yesterday. Like most Lumia phones, it looks fantastic. Particularly in the bright orange hue I got my hands on. The edges have a vivid, translucent finish while the buttons and rear panel are a more solid, lighter orange. But what I like most is that, although it’s removable, the rear cover feels like a sturdy, unibody chassis. Those of you grossed out by neon-like colors will be glad to know that black and white options are available.

Lumia 635 c

Despite being all “in-your-face”, the design is actually very minimal. On the front, there’s just a large, black, glossy glass panel surrounded by the bright orange frame. On the back there’s a camera in the center, and a small hole for the loudspeaker on the bottom right corner. The left side edge is completely free of any buttons or ports, the 3.5mm jack is on the top edge, the USB port is on the bottom edge and the power button and volume rocker are on the right edge. These are placed at a decent height, easily reachable with the thumb of your right hand or middle finger of your left.

Once again, it’s a case of Nokia showing us how well it does hardware. It looks and feels fantastic. And its specs aren’t too shabby either. The 5MP camera is okay, and the Cortex A7 based Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor has performed really well in some of the budget Android phones I’ve used recently (Mini 2, Desire 816, Xperia M2), but I’ll get a better idea on how it handles Windows Phone 8.1 in a week or so.

Just based on my first few hours, there are two disappointing features on the Lumia 635. First is perhaps the most noticeable: The display. At 4.5 inches, it’s certainly big enough. But with a paltry resolution of 480 x 854 pixels, it isn’t great. Text is noticeably fuzzy, and overall image quality is nothing like as sharp as what we’re used to from a smartphone. My point: If a Moto G can ship with a 720p panel, why can’t a Lumia 635?

But it’s not all bad, the ClearBlack technology does a great job of making blacks black, and colors are nice and vivid. The only other noticeable downside: There’s no front facing camera. In the year of the selfie, that’s a choice that makes no sense whatsoever. Not that I care personally, I very rarely use my front facing snapper. But it certainly seems like it’s cutting off a massive portion of today’s target market.

All in all, it certainly seems like a great phone. But I’ll bring my full thoughts at a later date, once I’ve spent more time with it.

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  • kev2684

    this wordpress thing is never loading on chrome :|

    • BlackJu

      try IE :)

  • Ordeith

    The LTE Moto G is priced closer to the Lumia 1320, which has a 720p display and a front camera.

    • guest

      But the L1320 is not available on T-Mobile, here on the states it is only available on Cricket/Aio. Also even when the L1320 is unlocked it still doesn’t get LTE on T-Mobile since AT&T locked then the phone to use their network only.

      • Ordeith

        True, but I was responding to the line in the story:
        “My point: If a Moto G can ship with a 720p panel, why can’t a Lumia 635?”
        The LTE 635 is priced much lower than an LTE Moto G, that’s why.
        The 1320 is closer to the LTE Moto G pricing, and it has that 720p panel.

      • BlackJu

        [disqus is really pissing me off] Go to newegg and search for the 1320. Many of the 1320’s they are selling are fully compatible with T-Mobile. Just read the reviews. No carrier branding, full T-Mobile LTE.

        • Pitahson

          Based on the band’s it has, it only works as a 2G device on T-Mobile

        • BlackJu

          not true. The RM-995 version is fully compatible. Forget what the newegg description says; they don’t list it properly. Search for item # N82E16875205407 on newegg and read the reviews. Sorry, but they are not letting me post links here.

        • Pitahson

          Thanks for the correction. Does support hspa and lte on tmo

  • JaswinderSinghJammu

    I have Moto G LTE that I bought from Amazon as a backup device, let me tell that phone is a beast for a little guy. What made is great was that I got a $60 off for opening Amazon CC. I did order a Lumia 635 for my dad to upgrade his Lumia 521. Coming Friday

  • S. Ali

    Great device for people that want a feature phone in a smartphone form factor. Parents will love it, the rest of us have better options. Wait a few months when it will be under $90.

    • IamDefiler

      It’s a smartphone.

  • Evan

    So, just to be clear. This is an unboxing of a different hardware version of a phone that also has a different software version, and is being used on a different carrier? So this has what exactly to do with T-Mobile?

    • BlackJu

      The only differences in the phones is WiFi calling and the frequency compatibility. Cam cannot get Cortana due to the region his phone is set to.

    • The 635 is a 635, regardless of where in the world it is located.

      As an aside, here is a quick comparison between the 625 (left) and 635 (right):
      • 4.7 inches versus 4.5 inches
      • Dual-core versus quad-core
      • 1080p camcorder versus 720p camcorder
      • VGA front-facer (Skype) versus no front-facer
      • Physical buttons versus software button
      • Non-removable battery versus removable battery

      Other than this, these phones are practically identical. i find the 625 to be the better of the two and well worth its $200 price. Canada doesn’t have the 635 yet.

      • DaveTexan

        Hmm…If the 635 and 625 have the same prices, the 625 is indeed better. However, at $199 it is not cheap… I bought a Nokia Lumia 925 brand new at $199 only 2 months ago… It is even better than 625. I got Lumia 710 as a free upgrade 2 years ago. That is likely the last smartphone I have without a front camera. It is a very bad decision to not include even a cheap front camera for Skype(which is a Microsoft product) on the 635. This is 2014…it might have been okay to do without a front camera in 2010 or earlier. Doing so gives 635 a great disadvantage against competition.

  • Bklynman

    This phone lacking couple of thingse Cam pointed out,no face facing camera, it doesnot have a flash for the camera. The entry ill fated Nokia Astound,had double flash,one of the last flip phone they made,the 7510,also had double flash,so why not this one?

  • landmarkcm

    Ya Nokia dropped the ball with this by not including even a flash for the camera! I just switched back to WP. I snagged an awesome deal on the Samsung ATIV S Neo on Ebay for just under 140.00 in mint condition & it works great. I was also surprised at how easy it was for me to update it to 8.1 preview before the “official” push comes to it. WP 8.1 is so much better too!