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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.

Another useful feature is the 15GB of free cloud storage that you get on OneDrive. Automatic backups are possible via your data stream or Wi-Fi, and you can limit uploads of photo and video files to Wi-Fi only. It's also easy to share a document with someone else via messaging or email from the cloud with just a few taps.

OneDrive capabilities are a reminder that Microsoft has made cloud computing a centerpiece of its future strategy. Another Microsoft priority is expanding on the ability to use Office software on any device, including Surface tablets, laptops and smartphones running Windows Phone.

The Lumia 635 comes with an Office app that let me create, access, edit and share Office documents and OneNote notebooks. With the app, I was able to create a Word document on the phone, save it, send it to OneDrive and thus share it with other devices. It all worked well, and I really appreciated the value of widespread adoption of Office software on an inexpensive phone, especially combined with the quick shape-writing capabilities of Word Flow.

The phone also comes with a few camera-related apps that try to make up for the inclusion of a single 5-megapixel camera.

Aside from the deplorable Glam Me selfie-taking app mentioned above, there's an app called Smart Sequence, which captures a burst of photo frames to get the best facial expression for each person in a group shot to be combined into a final shot. Another app called Storyteller makes it easy to tell a story with photos and videos, after the phone itself has grouped a given set of photos or videos by time and place. You select two or more pictures and tap a merge icon to create a slideshow.

Nokia Cinemagraph blends photos with simple animation, which might be useful to liven up a presentation or a personal message. I took a photo of my dog Scout and with some quick onscreen touches, the result was a brief animation of her head turning side-to-side, almost in time lapse.

At a Glance

Nokia Lumia 635

NokiaPrice: $99 prepaid on AT&T until Aug. 8th, $140 after; $7 a month on T-Mobile ($168 total)Pros: Great new features in Windows Phone 8.1 include Cortana digital assistant, Word Flow, Action Center, Here Drive+Cons: No front camera, hard to read outdoors with low-resolution display, plastic case feels flimsy

In addition to these camera apps, Microsoft has pre-installed Skype on the phone, but only for calling and texting. (Remember, there's not a front-facing camera for videoconferencing.) T-Mobile also supports Wi-Fi calling on the Lumia 635.

A note: I've read complaints that Windows Phone is deficient in offering only about 300,000 Windows Phone apps, less than a third of what's available on Apple's App Store or Google Play.

 

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