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Deep-dive review: The Lumia 635 smartphone -- a study in contrasts

Matt Hamblen | July 25, 2014
Nokia's new low-cost Lumia 635 smartphone makes some unfortunate hardware compromises, but on the plus side it comes with the excellent Windows Phone 8.1.

With low-cost Lumia smartphones, Microsoft is apparently hoping to improve its slim global smartphone market share of just over 3%. However, some analysts have predicted that Microsoft is readying its smartphone business for possible sale or spinoff in the next 18 months, following the pattern of Google after it bought the Motorola phone business and quickly sold it to Lenovo.

The phone is easy to hold, even with a fairly large 4.5-in. display. At 5.1 x 2.62 x .36 inches and 4.7 oz., it is a tad heavier and thicker than the 4-in. iPhone 5S but almost exactly the same weight as the 4-in. iPhone 5C (although it's slightly larger).

The Lumia 635's display has a comparatively low 854 x 480 resolution. Microsoft promotes the ClearBlack display as offering visibility in bright daylight, but that was hardly the case for me. Even at the brightest display setting, I could hardly make out anything on the screen outdoors during daylight, even from inside a car. While it's manufactured of scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3, almost all I could notice when outdoors or in the car were my fingerprints, which were more obvious than on any smartphone that I've ever used.

The plastic back cover pops off easily to reveal the battery and a slot for a micro SD card of up to 128GB. The phone itself comes with 8GB of internal memory and online access to 15GB free OneDrive cloud storage.

There's a Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core S400 processor running at 1.2 GHz, along with 513MB of RAM. There are now a number of phones on the market with quad-core processors from Qualcomm, but they are clocked at faster speeds.

The processor worked fairly well when I played back streaming video, with occasional brief pauses (which I can't positively blame the phone for, since it could be attributable to the slower T-Mobile 3G or 2G network where I live in Virginia — the phone supports LTE 4G speeds). Audio streaming was quite good over many hours of use, and some simple car racing games worked well on the device.

Where I noticed the slower processing was when I switched between apps on the phone and constantly got a "resuming" or "loading" message in the middle of a black screen before the launch of the next app. Sometimes it would take several seconds for the new app to launch, something that quickly became very annoying.

The battery, rated at 1,830 mAh, lasted three days with what I'd call a moderate usage pattern of emailing, taking pictures, Web surfing, listening to music, watching a few short videos, talking on the phone and more. Microsoft rates the talk time at up to 14 hours on 3G, with video playback at up to seven hours, so that sounds about right.

 

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