[alert type=alert-blue]Technical details[/alert]
OS Windows Phone 8.1
Processor 1.2GHz quad-core
Screen 4.7 inches
Resolution 1280 x 720 pixels
Memory 1GB RAM
Micro SD compatible? Yes
Camera 6.7MP rear-facing, 5MP front-facing
Dimensions 134.7 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm
Battery 2,200 mAh
The Nokia Lumia 735 marks the end of an era. Following its buyout at the hands of Microsoft earlier this year, the Finnish manufacturer now finds its mobile division drawing to an end. Consequently, the Lumia 735 is one of the last handsets to carry the legendary Nokia mobile branding. As part of its buyout agreements, Nokia can no longer manufacture smartphones for at least a couple of years. In our fast-paced tech world, even two years can seem like a lifetime, so a comeback seems unlikely.
Fortunately, Microsoft has already placed a firm grasp on the Lumia brand, which will soon be known as Microsoft Lumia. It’s strategy has been to push the phone in emerging markets, which ties into its focus on affordable devices in the West.
Aside from its flagship, the solid Lumia 930, most of Microsoft’s releases this year have been budget phones like the 530 and 630. The strategy has worked as the tech giant recently reported a turnaround in profits. Meanwhile, it’s also been improving its Windows Phone OS with ongoing updates – the latest, version 8.1, adds a digital assistant in the shape of ‘Cortana’.
Building upon its experience and keeping up with industry trends, Microsoft’s latest – and Nokia’s last – is the Lumia 735. A selfie phone with a best in-class 5MP front-facing camera, the Lumia 735 also offers specs to match the new Moto G. If this truly is the final handset to bear the Nokia brand, then it’s a fitting sendoff.
The Lumia 735 is larger than its budget predecessors the 530 and 630. It’s 4.7-inch HD display is the same size you will find on the Apple iPhone 6. It benefits the device in almost every department, allowing users to access more information via the Windows Live Tile UI and visually when watching HD videos.
Elsewhere, Nokia has kept things simple. As we’ve come to expect from the bright Lumia range, users get a colourful back cover, which can be easily popped off and replaced with an alternative (at present, orange, green, white and black are the variations available). The handset has two port holes (for the mini USB charger and headphones) and two physical control buttons (a large volume control and a smaller power button).
Despite its large black bezels, the Lumia 735 fits perfectly in the hand. The tacked on plastic back cover may not be to everyone’s liking, especially those used to premium devices such as the HTC One M8 or iPhone 6, but we personally like its bright, rigid aesthetic. The phone’s rigidity is another area in which it diverts from the form factor of its budget Lumia counterparts, which contain smoother, curved corners. Surprisingly, despite its larger size, the Lumia 735 is slimmer than the Lumia 630 and weighs the same. It’s also lighter and slimmer than its nearest rival, the new Motorola Moto G – a major victory for Microsoft in terms of form factor.
We’re big fans of high resolution displays. When the original Moto G introduced 720p HD display to the entry-level market, it should have served as a game changer for the rest of the industry. Unfortunately, the likes of Microsoft and Alcatel continued to churn out budget handsets with non-HD screens.
Thankfully, the Lumia 735 has made the jump to HD, matching the display on the Moto G in terms of resolution. The step-up to 720p combined with the larger screen is a godsend that enhances the device in every single aspect. Scrolling through image-heavy apps such as Facebook benefits from the clearer display and now you can watch HD videos on your entry-level Windows Phone device too – not to mention the sharpness it brings to games.
The 1.2 GHz quad-core processor housed inside the Lumia 735 is the same as you will find in the new Moto G. Still we found that the phone was not as smooth in terms of its UI as Motorola’s second-gen stunner. That’s not to say that it’s slow, in fact most apps run reasonably well. The same goes for web browsing using Internet explorer (there’s no Chrome here but even fans of Google’s browser will be hard pressed to find any major faults with Microsoft’s built-in platform).
In terms of gaming, we tried out the powerful new racing title from Gameloft; Aslphalt Overdrive, and found that it performed relatively well on the device, with very little lag and average loading times. Consequently, the same went for a smaller game such as Jetpack Joyride, which is nonetheless fast-paced. The endless runner ran well and, as expected, didn’t have anywhere near the amount of loading times as its larger counterpart.
Aside from the HD display, another new feature that made its presence felt on the usability of the device was 4G LTE connectivity. As a result, you can now browse apps, play games and upload those selfies online at fast mobile broadband speeds. It was a feature that we felt was sorely missed on the new Moto G. Like the rollout of HD on entry-level devices, the same should go for 4G, which has already appeared on even cheaper handsets such as the Alcatel OneTouch Pop S3 and EE Kestrel – proving that it can be delivered on a budget.
Talking of selfies, that is the Lumia 735’s unique selling point. It makes sense to market it based on its 5MP front lens – which, as far as we can tell, is the best in its class. As we’ve seen thus far there’s a lot more to this phone. However, if it’s selfies you’re after then the 735 won’t let you down. Not only does the front camera deliver clear images that can be saved in a high quality format, it can also be accessed directly from the home screen via the Lumia Selfie app.
When it comes to using the front snapper, the emphasis from Microsoft is on having fun. That’s evident in the funny editing tools at the user’s disposal – these allow you to add comical effects to your self-portraits, such as enhancing and enlarging eyes, making faces slimmer, toning and making teeth whiter. The editing tools are enough to bring a smile to the face of even the most cynical selfie haters – like us. Additionally, you can add a range of filters to images in post, a feature that should be familiar to Instagram fans. The Lumia selfie camera is still an infectiously fun tool, which will particularly appeal to the younger users Microsoft is targeting.
As is usually the case with affordable handsets, cut backs need to be made somewhere. Here they come in the form of the plastic build and downgraded rear camera. The latter clocks in at a poor 6.7MP, less than the 8MP found on the Moto G. As a result, image quality is affected and, unless you plan on taking selfies alone, that will affect your overall experience. The rear camera does offer more settings, including a range of capture modes (night, sports, pro) and the ability to modify brightness, sensitivity and shutter speed, among other tools. Once captured, images can be edited using a lens blur option and customised using a similar set of filters.
The arrival of Windows Phone 8.1 is a genuine upgrade to the struggling OS. It allows for extra customisation options for the Live Tile UI, photo collections by date, location and activity, a word flow keyboard with shape writing in the vein of SwiftKey, and an all-new notifications centre, which can be accessed by swiping down from the top of the screen.
Most distinguishable of all the new additions in version 8.1 is the arrival of Cortana, Microsoft’s very own personal assistant. The digital voice assistant feature has become widespread since Apple introduced Siri on the iPhone 4S in 2011 – even BlackBerry now has its own assistant as part of its recent OS upgrade. However, everyone was expecting something special from Microsoft, and it has delivered.
Despite being in beta mode in the UK (probably while the devs work on its localisation settings), we found Cortana to be fast, user-friendly and reliable. It’s incredibly easy to set-up. Initially Cortana will ask you a few questions in multiple answer format. Once you’ve made your selections, you’re good to go, and thereafter every time you open Cortana it will display a range of information and news stories catered to you – our Cortana feed was (obviously) news-heavy.
Testing Microsoft’s new wiz kid, we asked Cortana a range of questions, ranging from trivia to queries about the week’s weather forecast. Additionally, we also made local enquiries concerning restaurants and cinema listings. Overall, we found that the digital assistant came up trumps in every category and it also had no problems recognising music via its audio recognition software – unlike the problematic Firefly feature on the Amazon Fire Phone. It had no problem understanding our questions and delivered its findings promptly. Users can also employ Cortana to write texts, make calls and calendar entries. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it’s a brilliant tool that Windows Phone users should make the most of.
Despite receiving a useful update, the same ‘lack of apps’ criticism still applies to Windows Phone. This combined with the downgraded rear camera are the only two faults we could find with the 735. This device is proof of Microsoft’s turnaround of Nokia’s handset business. Microsoft has doggedly been pursuing the entry-level market and with the Lumia 735 it may have finally cracked it. The Moto G’s Android UI still has the upper hand over Windows Phone, especially with the impending release of Lollipop, but in most other areas Microsoft has caught up to its bestselling rival and – with the addition of 4G on the 735 – in some ways surpassed it.
Microsoft has produced a genuine rival to the bestselling Moto G in the form of the Lumia 735. With the introduction of a HD display and 4G LTE, It would be an injustice to refer to the device as just another selfie phone. However, if that’s what you’re after, it offers plenty of fun ways to capture images of you and your friends with its 5MP front snapper.