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Review: Nokia Lumia 735

By Leigh D. Stark | 5:31 pm 13/03/2015

Smartphones can be found for all manner of price points, but you generally don’t get a decent camera unless you spend in excess of $400. Nokia wants to change that, though, releasing a model that sneaks in under that tag and brings at least five megapixels to both the back and the front. Selfies ahoy!

Features

One of the last handsets to feature the name “Nokia”, the Lumia 735 takes a familiar look and feel from 2014 and plonks it into the mid-range, providing enough technology to satisfy most customers, without asking them to sacrifice an arm or a leg.

Inside this handset, you’ll find a Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.2GHz, the familiar Adreno 305 graphics chip, and 1GB RAM, all of which works with 8GB storage and a microSD slot if you need room to move.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 is the operating system of choice here, ready out of the box, though Windows 10 should work with this phone later on when it arrives.

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Beyond the basics, you’ll also find a 4.7 inch high-definition (HD) display used on this handset, arriving with a pixel clarity of 312 pixels per inch and a layer of Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3 protecting everything.

Cameras are one of the big features here ,with a 6.7 megapixel camera on the back accompanied by an LED flash, while the front camera relies on a 5 megapixel sensor. Both of these cameras are capable of capturing Full HD 1080p videos, too.

Connections are pretty standard, that said, with LTE 4G, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP and LE (Low Energy), GPS, Near-Field Communication (NFC), and of course the wired connections offered by microUSB and the 3.5mm headset jack.

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Ports are few and far between, and are really only the two listed above, the 3.5mm headset jack up the very top of the handset and the microUSB charge and data transfer port at the very bottom, with a nanoSIM and microSD slot found underneath the removable plastic casing on the back.

Buttons are also a little different, with none of the regular soft buttons found on Windows phones here, and only two hardware buttons. These are located on the right edge, and are found in a volume rocker with the power button underneath. Microsoft’s typical soft buttons — back, home, and search — are instead handled by software on this phone, and can minimise when not in use.

The battery is rated at 2200mAh and is removable. Wireless charging is also supported from the casing, provided you have a Qi-compatible charger.

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Performance

When it comes to picking a new phone, you’ll find quite a few options out there.

First there are the tiers: do you want entry-level and budget, something mid-range, or top of the crop at premium and flagship?

From there, you have to pick the operating system you’re going for, with a choice between the two most popular environments — Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS — generally helping you make the decision.

But what if you want something different? What if Android and iOS just aren’t doing it for you, and what if you have an Xbox at home, rely on Windows for everyone, and want it to seamlessly work together for a mid-range price?

For that, you have to turn to Windows Phone, and the last few Nokia devices before they switch into a new masthead and work under the “Microsoft” name.

The Lumia 735 is one of these gadgets, and is very likely the last Nokia-named phone we’ll see for a long time, as Microsoft takes over the Nokia branding and makes the phone its very own.

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In this model, Nokia has taken some of the technology from its Lumia 830 and squashed it down into something a little smaller, bringing the quad-core Snapdragon 400 clocked at 1.2GHz and the 1GB RAM is relies on, support for WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and wireless charging, and pushed it into a different and more minute body.

It’s not much smaller, with the 5 inch display of the Lumia 830 only dropping to 4.7 inches in the Lumia 735, but at least Nokia has kept the screen resolution the same, with the high definition 1280×720 resolution sitting pretty here, even with a clearer pixel contrast amount, with 312 pixels per inch getting mighty close to what you’ll see on the iPhone 6’s 4.7 inch screen, and even slightly higher than the Lumia 830’s 294 ppi.

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In the hands, it’s a very familiar experience for previous Nokia phones, with a plastic body that feels unibody but isn’t — we’ll get to that shortly — appearing in a bright colour on our review unit, the fluorescent green Nokia was pushing last year alongside orange as a replacement to the cyan and yellow it had been using before this.

Almost a nod to those phones, the Lumia 735 feels like the phones that predate the metal-wrapped Surface inspired Lumia 830 and 930, with plastic wrapping around most of the body until we reach the screen.

It’s familiar and easy to pocket, and people who like soft curved edges will find it most pleasing.

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As we noted before, this isn’t technically a unibody piece, unlike other Nokia handsets that were crafted from the same block of polycarbonate.

Instead, this feels like one, but you can remove the rear casing by pulling back on the corners of the phone, revealing a phone with a removable battery, microSD slot, and nanoSIM slot, too. Inside the back cover, you’ll find pins that connect to the casing, with these bits used to activate the Qi wireless charging.

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Using the phone is pretty much on par with other Windows Phone handsets: seen one Windows Phone, you’ve practically seen them all, with up to three columns of live tiles available to you on the main home screen, the app menu alongside this, and now as part of Windows 8.1 a dropdown with notifications and power control for switching WiFi, Bluetooth, brightness, and anything else you’re keen to push.

Performance here is about on par with other Nokia phones, namely the 830, and the phone is snappy to use, letting us open apps quickly, jump to the menu, and use the phone without much obvious lag.

The screen is also very bright, with plenty of colour pushed out here and solid viewing angles, solid blacks, and clear text thanks to the close-to-Retina pixel clarity.

Cortana -- Microsoft's version of Apple's Siri -- is included as an alpha on the Lumia 735.

Cortana — Microsoft’s version of Apple’s Siri — is included as an alpha on the Lumia 735.

One aspect of the Lumia 735 can take some time to get used to, and that’s the soft buttons: in this handset, they’re not part of the body design like they are on most other Windows Phone handsets.

Rather, there are no printed soft buttons join the 735, with these being on-screen, similar to what Android phones have been doing for a couple of years now.

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There’s still a point of difference, though, as these icons will eventually disappear, with a swipe up from the bottom bringing them in for a few seconds, and then some time of no use making them go back from where they came.

We’re not sure if we’re huge fans of the way Nokia and Microsoft have taken this implementation, though we suspect it’ll get easier as time goes on. You don’t need a button for search all the time, and that has been a button we’ve long suspected would eventually go, though the home and back buttons are very useful, especially for a simple operating system like Windows Phone 8.

With that in mind, it is easy to swipe up and have the icons appear, and once you’ve done this a few times, it’ll stay in the back of your mind for when you need to use it, so don’t worry if the buttons disappear, because you can bring them right back when you need to.

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One thing that does impress is the battery life, with two days possible from this mid-range model of Nokia, and that’s pretty freaking good.

When you consider that the top-end Nokia 930 doesn’t hit this at all, that’s a pretty solid effort, with our two days consisting of making phone calls, taking phone calls, emailing, web surfing, taking pictures, listening to music, and general use of the phone.

Power users will see a little less, and closer to the one-and-a-half day mark, but that’s still a top result for a phone that can be seen on shelves for less than $300.

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Mobile speeds also aren’t half bad, with the 4G connectivity ranging from 8Mbps to 47Mbps, speeds that will change depending on where you are and what telco you’re operating on.

Wireless charging is also a neat feature that’s included in the package, and tested on the charger used with the Lumia 1020, we found the phone had no problem getting juice.

If you have a wireless charger or abhor the idea of a world filled with microUSB cables (or at least a desk or night stand with them), the inclusion of Qi charging is useful, especially since other handsets — including some made by Nokia — have made people by external cases to get that support.

The cameras are also interesting, though they’re certainly not the best of all the devices out there.

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Not wanting to play the megapixel wars, Nokia’s 6.7 megapixel shooter on the back is certainly acceptable, though not the best on a phone you’ll find.

Images out of this shooter often appear soft up close, lacking clarity, though from afar, most photos will work for the average user just fine.

Image sample from the Nokia Lumia 735

Image sample from the Nokia Lumia 735

Indeed, this is a mid-range phone, but at least Nokia has left some of the pro-camera shooting modes from the other Lumia models available here, so if you know what you’re doing, you can at least try to control the aperture, shutter speed, or ISO a little.

You’ll also find some slowdowns here when shooting using the camera, something we noted when we tried taking pictures outside.

It’s almost as if the Lumia 735 displays the world through its camera at a delay, running at a slower frame rate, and surprising us with a bug we haven’t seen on many phones, even models that undercut this one in price.

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A lack of a physical camera button is also a little frustrating, especially when Nokia has previously included this on almost every phone model with the Lumia name.

We know that the company has started to drop it from the budget models, but sitting in the mid-range and with a model number above the 6xx generation, we are a little miffed by the exclusion of the camera button.

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At least the camera up front helps to make this phone redeem itself, bringing a 5 megapixel selfie camera to the table, something even the high end Windows Phone handsets haven’t been able to manage thus far.

Again, the shooter here isn’t the best you’ll see, and while we were able to get some sharpness, it doesn’t appear to be of the best quality. But hey, 5 megapixels is something so… you know… go selfie away.

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Conclusion

For the most part, Nokia’s Lumia 735 is a decent little mid-ranger that performs quite well and offers the megapixels for someone who really loves a selfie or two. The battery life is one of those things totally worth noting, too, with two days no problem for the average user, and a solid day for the power user.

If selfies and battery life is what you’re after, we’d take a look at what this phone has to offer, if anything just because it’s also likely the last “Nokia” branded phone you’re likely to see.

Price (RRP)

$399

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Great screen for a mid-range phone; Fairly solid performance; Excellent two day battery life; 5 megapixel front-facing camera; Upgradeable storage via the microSD slot;

Product Cons

No dedicated camera button; On-screen hardware soft buttons aren’t always there to help you get out of menus and apps; Fairly ordinary camera performance, lacking clarity up close; Camera can show some lag in what it shows on screen;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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