With more consumers paying full, unsubsidized prices for their smartphones, low-cost devices are more important than ever. Perhaps that’s why Nokia announced the Lumia 630 and 635, a pair of budget handsets with classy Nokia design language and the new Windows Phone 8.1 operating system on-board. We had a chance to go hands-on with the Lumia 635 and were intrigued by its attractive chassis, but less than impressed with its low-res display and mediocre specs.
The Lumia 630 and 635 are nearly the same phone, with the $189 Lumia 635 sporting a 4G LTE radio while the $159 Lumia 630 has a 3G radio, but otherwise identical specs. There’s also a $169 version of the Lumia 630 that has dual sims. Of course, those are just the unsubsidized MSRPs. AT&T, T-Mobile, MetroPCS and other carriers may offer their own deals on the Lumia 635 when that phone starts selling in the U.S. later this year.
On the inside, both phones sport a modest 1.2-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor, just 512MB of RAM and only 8GB of internal storage. The 4.5-inch LCD display has low, 854 x 480 resolution and, in our brief experience, terrible viewing angles; the colors completely inverted when we viewed the screen from the side. The icons and tiles seemed really large and not particularly sharp, perhaps because there are so few pixels. Unlike most Windows Phones which have hardware back, home and search buttons, the Lumia 630 and 635 have software navigation buttons that take up a small portion of the screen real estate.
Users looking for Nokia’s legendary camera technology might want to look elsewhere. The Lumia 630 and 635 comes with just a 5-MP rear camera that only shoots video at 720p. Even worse, there’s no front-facing camera at all so, if you plan to conduct video chats or take selfies, you’re out of luck with these phones.
While its components fail to impress, the Lumia 630 and 635 have an attractive, colorful chassis that’s available in orange, green, yellow, white and black. The back panel, which also covers the sides of the phone, is user replaceable and Nokia plans to sell the different panels so you can change the color of your phone. Out of the box, the Lumia 630’s back panels are matte while the Lumia 635’s panels are glossy, unless you get the white or black models.
Surprisingly, the Lumia 630 and 635 are much more expandable than the high-end Lumia 930. Where the Lumia 930 has a sealed-in battery and no way to expand its memory, the two budget phones have a user-replaceable battery you can access when you pop the cover off and a microSD card slot for increasing your storage capacity.
Overall,we found the Lumia 635 we tested fairly snappy, but the phone’s biggest merits are all on the outside. With an aggressive price, the Lumia 635 could be an attractive, if scaled-down option for budget-minded consumers.