Nokia Lumia 735 Windows Phone review

Perhaps the most 'fun' smartphone in Nokia's 2014 Lumia line-up - this is, after all, the phone codenamed Superman - the Lumia 735 has loads to offer not only fans of Windows Phone 8.1, but also those who like to post their best pout on social media. Read our review of the ultimate Windows selfie phone, the Nokia Lumia 735. (Also see: Best Windows Phones 2014.)

Who would have thought that the humble selfie would be such a trendsetter in 2014? Perhaps we should have listened to the Oxford English Dictionary when it gave the term its Word of the Year award in late 2013, having found a 17,000 percent increase in its usage. Then again, it's not so much of a surprise: what are smartphones for if not social media (don't say making phone calls and sending texts), and what is social media for if not showing off your best pout? Also see: Best smartphones 2014 and Best budget smartphones 2014.

Nokia's Lumia 735 might not be the ultimate selfie phone - that accolade goes to the more recently announced Android-powered HTC Desire Eye and its 13Mp front-facing camera - but with a 5Mp wide-angle front camera and dedicated Lumia Selfie app (we'll talk more about this under 'Cameras') it is the best selfie phone for Windows Phone users. And with the recent Windows Phone 8.1 update, Microsoft can expect an increasing number of those. 

We have always loved the design of Windows Phone, with its brightly coloured tiled interface offering information updated in real time, and a simple side-swipe opening a single alphabetical app list that makes finding whatever you're looking for a cinch. But apps and features have long held back Windows Phone.  

Nokia Lumia 735 review

With 320,000 apps at the last count (and more than 500 new apps per week) the Windows Phone Store still can't hold a candle to Google Play or Apple's App Store, but for most of the tasks you want to complete you'll find apps, and many of the big-name brands are now covered. 

With proper notifications and the addition of Cortana, Microsoft's voice assistant, Windows Phone is closing the gap between itself and its competitors - at least so much that it can now see them on the horizon. (Also see: 30 funny things you should ask Cortana.) 

Of all the Lumias introduced by Nokia over the past few months - also see our Nokia Lumia 530 review, Nokia Lumia 630 and 635 review, and Nokia Lumia 930 review - the 735 is perhaps the most fun. This is the phone that was codenamed Superman - need we say more? 

The £189 (SIM-free; see: Best SIM-only deals) Lumia 735 is better-specced than the cheap and cheerful Lumia 530, 630 and 635, and less expensive than the serious Lumia 930 but with many of the same high-end features, including 4G, NFC and Qi wireless charging. (We're still waiting to get our hands on the Lumia 830 - keep an eye out for our review.) Note that outside the UK a Lumia 730 Dual SIM variant is also available (see best dual-SIM smartphones UK 2014). 

Nokia Lumia 735 review: Design and build 

That fun element extends to the Nokia Lumia 735's design. Our sample arrived in a bright orange polycarbonate plastic case that's so glossy it just feels shiny. Perhaps not a great match for sweaty palms, but teenagers love shiny. What am I saying; I'm in my thirties and I love shiny. The Lumia 735 is also available in white, grey and bright green. 

It really doesn't look like it, but this case is removable, allowing access to the nano-SIM and microSD slots, plus an also-removable battery inside. You'll soon be able to buy replacement covers for the Lumia 735, meaning you can switch from grey or white to orange or green depending on which side of bed you got out of. However, with the Qi wireless charging tech built into the case, these will likely be more expensive than standard Nokia shells. If it doesn't go without saying, this phone is neither water- nor dustproof, unlike many new handsets to market. 

Given the removable shell it's understandable that the screen isn't quite edge to edge, allowing the orange plastic to extend to the front where it looks great against the jet black screen. This panel is ever so slightly raised, too, making the Lumia 735 easier to pry apart but spoiling the smooth finish somewhat. We doubt that it's raised enough that the glass could chip, however.  

The Lumia's sizing is spot-on, at least for our female hands. Thanks to slim bezels, Nokia has managed to squeeze a 4.7in screen into a chassis just 68.5mm wide and 8.9mm thick. Despite that shiny finish, it's easy to hold and use one-handed, and even if you should drop it the Lumia 735 feels pretty sturdy, with no flexing or rattling evident under pressure. 

There are just two hardware buttons - a volume rocker and on/off switch on the device's right edge - while the Back, Home and Search Windows Phone trio feature in a bar that's dragged in from the bottom of the screen. The latter took a little getting used to, and very nearly resulted in us accidentally deleting photos within the Photos app. Once you get the hang of it, though, it becomes second nature.

You'll also find a 3.5mm headphone jack on top and a Micro-USB charging port at the bottom. On the rear is a 6.7Mp camera with LED flash, plus the mic and speaker. 

Nokia Lumia 735 review: Display  

The Nokia's display might be 'only' an HD panel (1280x720 pixels), but its 316ppi density is really very good for a sub-£200 smartphone and not far off the 326ppi of the high-end iPhone 6. There is some evidence of graininess, particularly when you closely inspect the live tiles, but it will be sharp enough for most people's tastes. 

In fact, we think this OLED display is really rather impressive, with colours popping - almost a little too much, although you can alter these in the settings - and text clearly defined. Contrast is particularly good, while brightness can go so high it hurts your eyes. Viewing angles are superb, and the touchscreen sensitivity can't be faulted either. 

A double-tap of the screen automatically wakes the 735, or you can press the power button on the Lumia's right side. 

Nokia Lumia 735 review

Nokia Lumia 735 review: Hardware and performance 

The operating system a smartphone runs has a lot to do with its performance on current hardware, and our perception is that Windows Phone needs lower-spec hardware than does, say, Android, to operate at the same level. We say 'perception' because our usual performance benchmarks don't run on Windows Phone and this is merely our subjective opinion. Also see: What's the fastest smartphone 2014?

The Nokia Lumia 735's 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and 1GB of RAM would be mildly disappointing in a mid-range Android smartphone, but in our experience the Nokia is plenty fast enough for most users. Although it might not be the best phone for gaming, there is no sign of lag when switching between apps or media, and web browsing is fast.  

The exception to this, as we noticed with the Lumia 630 and 635, is in opening the Nokia Camera app. Taking around seven seconds to launch it can mean you miss the moment, and the lack of a dedicated camera shutter button to open the camera app from standby doesn't help. By comparison the Lumia Selfie app took around four seconds to open.  

The Lumia Denim update, already seen in the Lumia 930 and coming to other Nokia smartphones in Q4 (according to rumours around the end of October), is supposed to offer faster photography - "wicked fast", says Nokia - so there's still hope on the photography front for the Lumia 735. 

The one benchmark we could run is SunSpider, in which the Lumia 735 scored 1217ms. This puts it slightly ahead of the £50 more expensive Android-powered HTC Desire 610 with which it shares the same processor and RAM combination. 

Nokia Lumia 735 review: Storage, connectivity and extras 

In common with that HTC Desire 610 you get just 8GB of internal storage with the Lumia 735, but pleasingly there's support for microSD cards up to 128GB in capacity. And because this is a Windows Phone, you also get 15GB of free cloud storage via OneDrive. 

Given the £189 price, we're impressed to see Qi wireless charging, 4G LTE and NFC on the Nokia Lumia 735's spec sheet. The wireless tops out at 802.11n, but the latest 802.11ac standard is far from widespread. 

The Lumia 735 also features A-GPS and GLONASS, which brings us to one of our favourite software features on Nokia phones: HERE Maps and HERE Drive+. The latter offers free turn-by-turn and voice-guided navigation on- or offline in 95 countries.  

Another great preinstalled app is MixRadio, which offers unlimited ad-free music streaming - again, on- or offline. If only Nokia had bundled a pair of headphones in the box. They would have been a good match for the FM radio, too, and it's a shame because the rear-facing speaker isn't particularly amazing, with some distortion noticeable. 

Nokia Lumia 735 review: Cameras 

The Nokia Lumia 735 has a 6.7Mp-rated rear camera with Zeiss optics, autofocus and a single-LED flash. Nokia lists a 4x digital zoom, 1/3.4in sensor, f/1.9 aperture, 26mm focal length and a minimum focus range of 10cm. This camera also shoots full-HD (1080p) video at 30fps. 

It's a reasonable camera for the price, and although we were generally happy with our shots we often found that unadulterated they incorporated more noise and blurring than we'd like. You can tap the screen to focus on a specific area, then tap the camera icon to take the shot. You also get the chance to mess around with such things as white balance and ISO during composition. Photos are automatically saved to the Photos app; by comparison the selfie camera gives you the option to save only those that meet your approval. 

Nokia Lumia 735 camera

You can open these shots in Nokia Camera after the event to rotate or crop the images to a different aspect ratio. More interesting, though, is Nokia Creative Studio, which lets you do fancy things such as change the focus and apply filters, remove red-eye, alter the colour temperature, brightness and so on. Your photos really do look better for it. 

Nokia Lumia 735 camera

Nokia Lumia 735 camera

Plus you can download various camera add-ons (known as lenses) to bolster the camera's ability, including Panorama Lens, Nokia Refocus and Nokia Glam Me. Notably missing is an HDR mode. 

Of course, the main star of the show is the 5Mp front-facing 'selfie' camera with f/2.4 aperture. Its wide-angle lens also makes it good for 'groufies'. Five megapixels is pretty high for a front camera - the highest on a Windows Phone anyway, if now mirrored by several Androids. Not only is it good for selfies, it's also good for video chat. And while at 5Mp it isn't crystal-clear, who wants to post a crystal-clear image of their face - blemishes and all - to the web? Just don't move the camera too soon after snapping the shot - you'll end up with a blurred mess. 

As we mentioned, Lumia Selfie will save an image only when it meets your approval. You can change the aspect ratio to suit your desired sharing medium and rotate the image before doing so. You then swipe left and right to choose a filter, and long-press to compare it to the original. If you have a favourite filter Lumia Selfie will save time by automatically applying the last-used effect to your next selfie. 

Next up are options to enhance the photo, and these work incredibly well. If you're the sort of person who never takes a good selfie, the Nokia Lumia 735 is the phone for you. Among the enhancements - all applied via sliders - is the ability to enlarge your eyes and make them stand out better, alter the toning, soften the image, make your face slimmer, add a smile and whiten your teeth. You can make the sort of changes most people would love to be able to do in Photoshop, but don't know where to begin. 

Nokia Lumia 735 selfie

Once saved, you can share your selfie with Facebook or Twitter, OneNote, messaging or email. You can also use the phone's built-in NFC to beam it to another compatible device. 

Nokia Lumia 735 review: Battery life 

We're amazed to see Qi wireless charging built into the £189 Nokia Lumia 735, but while a charger is supplied in the box it's a standard USB- rather than wireless device. Another plus point is the removable battery, which is reasonably high-capacity at 2220mAh.  

We're just putting the finishing touches on our in-house battery life tests, but we wouldn't argue with Nokia's claim of 10.5 hours browsing over Wi-Fi. You'll easy get a day's use out of this smartphone.

Follow Marie Brewis on Twitter.

Nokia Lumia 735: Specs

  • 4.7in (1280x720, 316ppi, 16:9) ClearBlack OLED display
  • Windows Phone 8.1
  • 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core CPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB internal storage (plus microSD support up to 128GB and 15GB free cloud storage)
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 4G
  • NFC
  • Qi wireless charging
  • 5Mp wide-angle front camera
  • 6.7Mp PureView rear camera
  • nano-SIM
  • Micro-USB
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 2220mAh removable battery
  • 68.5x8.9x134.7mm
  • 134g
  • 4.7in (1280x720, 316ppi, 16:9) ClearBlack OLED display
  • Windows Phone 8.1
  • 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core CPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB internal storage (plus microSD support up to 128GB and 15GB free cloud storage)
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 4G
  • NFC
  • Qi wireless charging
  • 5Mp wide-angle front camera
  • 6.7Mp PureView rear camera
  • nano-SIM
  • Micro-USB
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 2220mAh removable battery
  • 68.5x8.9x134.7mm
  • 134g

OUR VERDICT

The most fun Nokia on the market, the Lumia 735 really is an ideal smartphone for selfies. At just £189 we can picture many a teenage girl - and boy - adding this great-value Windows Phone to their Christmas list. Given the low- to mid-range price its performance is sufficient, and we appreciate the extras such as microSD support, Qi wireless charging and 4G LTE. We just hope the Lumia Denim update fires up that camera a bit quicker.

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