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Lumia 635: Could this be the low-priced future of Windows Phone?

Mark Hachman | July 22, 2014
The Lumia 635 from Microsoft is a budget Windows Phone that sacrifices some features, but generally meets the basic requirements of a modern smartphone.

The Lumia phones' other selling point has traditionally been the camera, so I was surprised to find the experience with those phone rather middling. Lumia fans will be disappointed to find out that the camera hardware button on the side of the phone has been removed; in fact, the home, back, and search buttons on the phone are also screen icons now. (Only the power and volume rocker switches remain.)

What, no selfies?

As I mentioned up top, the front-facing camera is gone as well. You can forget about taking selfies with this phone. For me, that's almost unforgiveable in this day and age. Sure, there's trimming the fat to save a few bucks. But this is trimming the fun.

The rear camera, meanwhile, is just 5 megapixels--that's a far cry from the 41MP the Lumia 1020 offers. The one unexpected plus is that the notorious shutter lag--the time from when you touch the camera shutter icon to when it takes a picture--has disappeared almost entirely. And I found nothing to complain about save for the fact the photos looked a bit washed out, as the Nokia Camera app (not the other stock "Camera" app) includes all the lovely manual controls. 

Microsoft Nokia 635
Nokia has removed the hardware camera button from the Lumia 635

I discovered numerous other oddities and bugs, too. Although the T-Mobile version of the device supports its LTE bands and Wi-Fi calling, it failed to connect to T-Mobile to register it, popping up a "REG90 Failed to Connect" warning over and over and over. Apps loaded slowly, and although the phone shipped with a Hulu+ live tile, the app wasn't actually installed.

These latter glitches could have been just the vagaries of a test phone. I hope so. Fortunately, the Lumia 635 handles the basics pretty well. Calls were fairly clear, and they connected quickly. My only complaint while surfing the Web was that the low display resolution made pages like difficult to read when the desktop page was preferred. And the camera, while basic, did the job.

I wonder, though, how many Lumia 635s will be returned when consumers discover the lack of a front-facing camera. That's a real blow to the platform, especially when you factor in the lack of first-party apps in the Windows Store. Phones like the Lumia 1020, Lumia Icon, and Lumia 1520 have given Lumia owners something to brag about. Phones like the Lumia 635 will straddle the narrow line between value and mediocrity.


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