The Lumia 720 is a mid-range Windows Phone 8 handset - bigger and better built than the cheaper Lumia 620 and Lumia 520 phones,but a lot less expensive than the Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 Windows phones it most resembles. As such this could be a critical release for Nokia and Microsoft: a Windows Phone 8 smartphone that is high quality but affordable. See also: Group test: what's the best Windows phone?
Lumia 720: build and design
The Lumia 720 resembles the flagship Nokia Lumia 920. It's a rectangular slab with rounded corners and an all-in-one style uni-body design. Next to the iPhone 5 it feels chunky and plastic - but not in a bad way. All Nokia's WP8 devices are robust to the point that you would feel happy to carry them in a pocket or the bottom of a bag. The 720 was immune to scratches in our time carrying it around in the company of keys and coins. But unlike the similarly tough BlackBerry Z10 the Lumia 720 is unmistakably classy.
Design is a personal thing, but we even prefer the 720 to its more expensive and bigger Lumia brethren. The 720 is smaller, thinner and lighter than the 920 - it's 128g rather than the 920's too-heavy 185g, and only 9mm thick.
The Lumia 720 is available in a range of colours. We took a look at the white model at MWC, which looks seriously sleek, and the model we have been testing recently is a cool and classy looking all black. The front is glass and the back a plastic composite.
The 720 has the premium feel of the 920 with excellent build quality, too, and all for the reasonable price of €249. There's no official UK price yet but we expect it will sell for around £200-250 on a SIM-free basis - it's currently fetching around £300 on Amazon.
Lumia 720: specifications and performance
We are impressed with the specifications at this price point. The Lumia 720 is powered by a Qualcomm 1GHz dual-core processor with 512MB of RAM. It's a typical lineup for a mid-range phone and on the basis of other WP8 handsets it should be perfectly capable of running Windows Phone 8. Certainly that was our experience: Windows Phone 8 feels slick. Navigation around the system happens without lag although menus and lists tend to judder somewhat if you scroll slowly - a regular complaint with Windows Phone 8.
Windows Phone 8 does not have much support from software developers, of which more later. But in this section this means that the benchmarking apps we typically use to test Android and iOS devices (and Windows 8 PCs) aren't available for Windows Phone 8.
Onboard storage is a relatively paltry 8GB, but there's a microSD card slot that lets you add up to a further 64GB.
The 4.3in IPS screen is a nice size which most users will find comfortable - it makes Windows Phone 8 look good and work well - unlike the smaller Lumia 620 on which the tiles are too small. The 720's resolution of 480 x 800 is nothing to shout about, but it gets the job done. The Lumia 720 uses the same ClearBlack display technology which has impressed us on the other Nokia devices offering brilliant contrast. It offers great performance outdoors, even under - wait for it - sunlight. Once again you can use regular gloves because the screen is so sensitive.
Nokia makes some big claims for battery life, and we have to say our initial testing backs this up. Nokia claims a maximum 3G standby time of up to 520 hours. We charged up the Lumia 720 on Friday afternoon and after admittedly intermittent use over the weekend still have more than half the charge on Monday morning. You can comfortably get more than a day's use out of the Lumia 720. This is because of the healthy 2000mAh capacity battery. See also: Group test: what's the best smartphone?
Lumia 720: camera
Photography lovers will be pleased with the above average 6.7Mp rear facing camera with a CarlZeiss lens and a large f/1.9 aperture. It, along with the 1.3Mp front facing camera, are able to shoot video in up to 720p quality – in keeping the name of the phone at least. We'll be testing the Lumia 720's camera over the next few days and will update the review when we have done so.
Lumia 720: software
The Windows Phone 8 OS runs well on the Lumia 720 – during our time with it anyway. You also get the advantage of exclusive Nokia apps like Cinemagraph and Creative Studio. It's a nice package if you don't want to opt for the big guns, iOS or Android. (See also: Windows Phone 8 review.)
The most prominent feature of the software is the new Start Screen made up of 'live tiles'. You can fit more on the screen compared to version 7.5 Mango because most tiles can be one of three sizes. The bigger you make a tile, the more information it can display. The Start Screen is highly customisable by rearranging and resizing tiles however you want them.
Further customisation comes in the form of colour themes. These set the colour of the tiles on the Start Screen. There are, however, only 20 themes and certain tiles, like Games and Office, remain a fixed colour. The Start Screen can look brilliant but you can also end up with quite an ugly mix of colours.
A swipe away from the Start Screen is the vertical list of installed applications. Beyond this you're stuck with the way Microsoft has laid the OS out. There are beautiful animations which escort you round the OS but it's not an especially intuitive mobile operating systems to navigate.
It can be easy to get lost in the system - the back button and recent apps don't always take you where you expect. It's worth trying out before you commit to see if you can get on with it.
Xbox SmartGlass is a cool app for those with an Xbox. It provides a 'second screen' experience where you can control the console from the handset and interact with certain games during play. Since Window Phone 8 is Microsoft's mobile OS it's no surprise that there's integration with Office too.
Those with children will find the Kid's Corner feature a boon. This essentially puts the device into a separate and customisable mode specifically for kids. You choose what your child can do on the phone without having to worry about them wiping it or accessing inappropriate content.
Lumia 720: connectivity
Connectivity is well-rounded with dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, A-GPS and NFC (near-field communications). It's not a 4G phone so you'll still have to opt for other Lumias to get that. Wireless charging isn't built-in but a snap on cover will add this feature.