Price: £16 per month, £299 Pay As You Go, £299.99 SIM Free
Reviewer: Alex Walls
Another Lumia launch and the 720 slides into the spot between ‘budget’ and ‘HOW MUCH?”
Nokia seems to have gotten a bit excited about its Lumia range as there are now five devices in the line up, starting with its flagship, the 920, right down to its budget offering, the 520. The Lumia 720 slips in right after the 820, itself the lower specced and priced version of the 920, so like its budget sibling the 520, the Lumia 720 is a step down from a step down.
The 720 does however handle itself better than the 520, despite running with the same processor and RAM.
Good lookin’ screen
The 720 measures in at 127.9 by 67.5mm, 9mm thick and weighs in at 128g; that’s thinner than both the 820 (9.9mm) and the 620 (11mm), its step up and step down siblings respectively, and lighter than the 820. More importantly, it feels comfortable in your hand, unlike the 920, which could feel like a brick given its weight and size. However those Lumia corners are present and, although rounded, will still mean the edge of the device pokes into your hand when answering calls.
The 720 features a polycarbonate body in your choice of colours which feels a bit slicker than the 520’s exterior; however after a week or so of living in a bag, the 720 had developed a small chip in the top left hand corner and scuffs on the back plate, so durability seems to be an issue. The cover colours do help to differentiate the phone from the general ‘black slab’ market, however.
The Lumia 720 has a 4.3-inch screen with 800 by 480 pixel resolution at 217 ppi pixel density; those aren’t the most impressive specs out there, even for a mid-range handset, but it’s the same resolution as seen on both the 820 and the 620 (although not the same pixel density on the latter), and it’s immediately noticeable when switching from using the 520.
Although the 520 has the same resolution and a higher pixel density, the 720 has a few more bells and whistles for its screen, including Gorilla Glass 2.0 and ClearBlack technology; text and detail in pictures and video on the 720 is clearer and more crisp and colours slightly more vivid. Gorilla Glass should mean the screen will stand up to most hazards of everyday life; while the casing was a little battered by the end of the review period, the screen came through triumphantly without a scratch.
The Lumia 720 runs with a Snapdragon dual core 1 GHz processor with 512MB RAM — the same chipset as the 520. However, the 720 runs like a breeze, flicking through apps easily, running games without lag or freezing, loading on the browser smoothly and downloading apps and games without crashing. When compared with the 520, the 720 performed much better; the 520 would sometimes freeze when trying to load apps or complete a task and seemed to have trouble keeping time.
However the 720 wasn’t completely without fault; at initial start up, the device crashed and wouldn’t re-start for over half an hour. This crash wasn’t repeated, but it was unnerving to experience straight off the bat.
The device is running Windows Phone 8, the operating system Nokia has loaded onto its Lumia flagship, the 920. While the 920 has a 1.5GHz dual core chipset with 1GB RAM to handle this load, the 720 is running with the same power as its most budget brother. The question is whether that operating system is a bit too much for the lower end devices to handle; What Mobile has found the 520 and 620 to struggle occasionally with tasks.
As to why the 720 ran better than the 520, despite having the same chipset and memory, it could be due to a number of factors, according Dr Mike Short from the Institution of Engineering and Technology. These included possible network congestion differences, if testing the devices at different times, possible server differences, if loading apps from different sources and a possible difference in receive sensitivity (eg a difference in antenna). Trying the two devices on flight mode, they did both seem to run smoothly without lag or any freezing.
The 720 has 8GB of internal memory, which seems a little on the low side, but it does have expandable memory options via a swappable microSD card.
The usual complaint about Microsoft is that its app offerings are just not there. The average user will be able to find most of what is needed, but generally the hottest new releases are not offered on Windows Phone 8 first, meaning that third ecosystem placing is still up for grabs.
The major app offerings are there, for your basic requirements: Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, even Spotify is on board these days, thanks to a recent launch on the platform. Microsoft even has a YouTube offering which isn’t just a link in a browser, an improvement since previous reviews.
However, for recent releases, or less than mainstream apps, you’ll generally be out of luck. Games are a particular black hole, with none of the offerings that I love and cherish on offer, however Nokia did say that Temple Run 2 would be coming to their new device, the 925.
As ever, though, Nokia’s own app offerings are pretty solid. HERE Drive is a turn by turn navigation offering for drivers which works well; on a previous test drive it guided us correctly across London, apart from one exception when it tried to make us turn right at a no-right-turn intersection and then tried to loop back around in a large circle instead of recalculating an easier route for our current path. This aside, the service was useful and has the added, excellent, bonus of offering routes for download, meaning you can use them offline when travelling abroad, to avoid hefty data charges or indeed the equally high charges of map books in book shops and street stalls.
Nokia’s mapping service, HERE Maps, is also useful, giving directions, map views, pin options and general mapping services, again with the option to download offline.
Another solid offering is Nokia’s Music, the Finnish answer to Spotify, which has various genres of music in playlists, available for streaming, with a handy data warning about only streaming while connected to Wi-Fi, to save on data costs. The playlists are varied and can be downloaded for listening offline, to mix up your usual musical palate. The only annoyance is the restriction on skipping more than six songs in an hour — this used to be attributed to licensing rules but is now removable with an upgrade to the (paid) Gold service.
Other Nokia offerings include Local Scout, which highlights nearby attractions such as restaurants, bars and things to see, as well as Smart Shoot, a camera setting which takes multiple shots and chooses the best one.
The Windows Phone 8 operating system is, as ever, intuitive and very easy to use. Its home screen is a series of swappable tiles which launch the given program or application and a swipe to the right brings up an alphabetized list of apps and functions on your phone.
It’s a good looking OS that’s bright and colourful; it’s also perfect for first time users or people who want to access content in a hurry. You’ll need a Microsoft account to sign into some of the app offerings, such as the DRIVE function, but that’s a simple enough matter; either resurrect an old Hotmail email or create a brand new, less embarrassingly named one. Worth mentioning again is Windows Phone 8’s Transfer My Data option, which pretty seamlessly syncs your contacts with a nearby phone via Bluetooth. This is very handy when swapping between devices and something that, surprisingly, a lot of the big players don’t seem to have a wonderful handle on, perhaps because they don’t want to make it too easy for you to swap platforms.
Set up on Windows Phone 8 is a painful operation if you’re a Mac user; you will need OS X Lion or a later version of the Mac operating system in order to download the Windows Phone app, which will then let you sync your music, photos and videos, but not the Digital Rights Management protected content found on iTunes, including TV shows and movies.
If you’re a Windows user, it’s an easier operation; you’ll just need Windows 7 or 8 to download and use the app.
The Lumia 720 comes with a 6.7MP camera, complete with Carl Zeiss lens and auto flash. Nokia has made much of its camera technology, and the Lumia line is meant to showcase it, with the Lumia 920 previously the top of the line, and now the Lumia 925 outshining it.
The 720 comes with the Nokia Smart Shoot option, which allows you to take several frames of a scene and choose the best one. However, you do have to choose the best one at the moment of capture, which can be annoying if you’re trying to take several photos of different scenes quickly. It also comes with various editing options such as Creative Studio, which are useful but nothing hugely groundbreaking.
The 720’s camera lives up to the Lumia name (as have the whole Lumia range in general), it takes clear, crisp photos with good detail and bright colours, although with a slight tendency to be overblown when it comes to colour saturation. The 720’s low light capabilities are good, particularly when compared with other devices; detail is visible, as are colours.
The front-facing 1.3MP camera looks fine, with good detail and colours.
The 720 is billed for 13.4 hours of 3G talk time and during testing, with moderate use including texting, calling, playing games, streaming video, checking emails and browsing, the device lasted beyond 13 hours, so this talk time is accurate.
The 720, aside from some power issues and a seeming inability to take a knock or two, is a solid mid-tier device.
At a £300 price point, it’s not the cheapest option out there, however, and there are still limitations with Microsoft’s app selection, as well as some power issues at start up.
With the Lumia 620 coming in at £70 cheaper, it becomes a question of whether you really want those extra camera capabilities. The 620 also sports a decent camera and some pretty impressive specs of its own, so it’s not a bad alternate option.
A fairly solid mid-tier offering that suffered some setbacks at start up. The 720 differentiates itself from its brothers with more features from its camera, such as a Carl Zeiss lens, and a (slightly) better performing screen and processor.