Nokia Lumia 620 review

Pros

  • Swappable coloured shells
  • Some good free apps
  • NFC
  • MicroSD memory expansion

Cons

  • Disappointing camera
  • App store still needs attention

Nokia’s Lumia range of Windows Phone-based handsets has just been rounded out with a budget model, the Lumia 620. Its £230 SIM-free price sits very attractively in the range, which currently comprises the 610, 710, 800, 820, 900 and 920. Soon there will be a Lumia 510 too.

Nokia doesn’t build all its Lumia handsets to look the same. In fact, the opposite is true. The Lumia 620 has more rounded corners than some, and unlike others in the range it has a coloured border and backplate too.

In this instance Nokia allows you to change the colour of the border and backplate, choosing between several different pop-on shells that are designed to help increase this particular phone’s appeal to the youth market.

Nokia sent me five shells to experiment with. Combine the shell colour with one of Windows Phone 8’s 20 stock backgrounds and accent colours then select a black or white background for these to sit against, and you can produce a highly personalised look.

An interesting feature of these shells is that you can choose between a shiny or matte finish. The lime green one I was sent is shiny, the rest matt. And Nokia has used what it calls a ‘dual shot’ technique to produce the shells. Effectively this creates a double layering to the finish so that the outside of the shell is sometimes a clearly different colour to the inside. This is most noticeable in the lime green shell, which has a yellow inner rim. I have to say, I rather like it.

The build of this handset is quite robust considering its budget nature. The build is solid, and the shells are well made and not flimsy, with their wrap around design making them a bit tricky to get off but providing plenty of protection for the phone’s edges.

Moreover this phone is small. The 3.8in screen looks average by modern standards, and its 800 x 480 pixels certainly are middle of the road. But the display is sharp. Nokia’s ClearBlack technology helps the screen seem strong, but some of the readability credit has to go to Microsoft too. Windows Phone 8’s blocky user interface does not lend itself to small graphics and fonts, which can look blurry on lower resolution screens.

Importantly, it is easy to reach across the screen one-handed. Much as I love larger screens, one-handed use is a really appealing feature. Still, a screen of this size is not well suited to activities like lengthy video watching, or reading complex websites that need a lot of scrolling. Windows Phone 8, with its smaller quarter size tiles, allows you to cram more information and shortcuts into the Start Screen than the previous version did, and that’s all to the good on an unskinnable user interface.

It has to be said that the Lumia 620 is a bit thick at 11mm, but being unable to reach the sub 9mm level of some phones is unlikely to be a deal breaker for most of us.

There’s a micro-USB slot on the bottom of the handset and a headset slot on the top. There are three side buttons on the right edge – a volume rocker, power switch and camera button that, in true Windows Phone style, launches you into the camera itself even from the lock screen. None of this is unique or special, but the buttons all feel responsive and I’ve no complaints.

When it comes to the core specifications Nokia has done well to try to come up with a handset that packs some punch for its price. The Qualcomm Snapdragon processor is a 1GHz dual-core effort that I felt did well despite only being supported by 512MB of RAM. And much to its credit Nokia has managed to get NFC into the mix. While this technology has yet to find its level in the wide outdoors, buying the Lumia 620 will mean that when it does take off, you will be ready.

Windows Phone was once completely against expansion of the internal memory, but those days are gone. The 8GB of internal memory can be built on with a microSD card, and you can get to the slot, which sits under the shell, without removing the battery. As is standard with Windows Phone you also get 7GB of SkyDrive storage – and can configure the handset to back-up photos there automatically.

Nokia has put great effort in to making Windows Phone 8 its own, and Lumia handsets incorporate a number of apps you can only get with Nokia. With an unskinnable user interface this is a sensible approach, and Nokia implements it better than others.

There is a VGA front-facing camera that’s obviously not designed for taking stills you want to keep. The 5-megapixel main camera is not up to much, either. It needs good lighting to produce shots that are worth keeping and all too often my test shots were dull and gloomy.

However, Nokia allows you to enhance the camera with free software extras it calls Lenses. You can download these direct from within the camera app. Smart Shoot takes five photos and lets you select the best one to keep. Panorama helps you take panoramic photos. And Cinemagraph lets you add animated elements to stills. The camera also gets used for Nokia City Lens, a Layar like app that shows local information on top of real views grabbed through the rear camera.

Other Nokia apps include Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive (for in-car navigation) and my favourite - Nokia Music. Whenever I get a Nokia Lumia to review I like this particular app a little bit more. Free streamed music organised by genre is simply the killer app for me as far as the Lumia range is concerned.

These apps are great, but the bigger app picture is still not perfect. Microsoft could do well to put more effort into encouraging developers to support its smartphone platform. If it is apps you are after, and thousands of them, then Android and iOS are the platforms to stick with. And if there is some specific app you really like, my advice is to check that it is on Windows Phone before switching affiliation.

Nokia has scrimped a little on the battery that, at 1,300mAh, is a bit underpowered. If you play a lot of music or use GPS you may need to look for mains power at some point during most days. But lighter users could get through a couple of days between charges. Battery life woes are not unusual with smartphones, but the rest of what is on offer here is rather impressive.

Verdict

Nokia has done a good job with the Lumia 620. It’s crammed Windows Phone 8 into a small chassis that has swappable backplates for added appeal. The company has also included the free add-on apps that help distinguish the Lumia range. With NFC on board for future-proofing, too, the Lumia 620 deserves success.

Specifications

Manufacturer and model

Nokia Lumia 620

Network

GSM 850/900/1800/1900

HSDPA 850/900/1900/2100

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.0GHz dual core

RAM

512MB

Internal memory/Memory expansion

8GB/microSD

Display

3.8in, 800 x 480 pixels

Main camera

5-megapixel

Front camera

640 x 480 pixel

Wi-Fi

Yes

GPS

Yes

FM radio

No

Battery

1,300mAh

Size

115.4 x 61.1x 11mm

Weight

127g

OS

Windows Phone 8