Nokia is coming to the end of the road as a name in phone making, and the brand will likely get subsumed into owner Microsoft in the not too distant future. With Nokia phones already well and truly part of the Windows Phone stable, you won't be surprised to learn that the Lumia 735 runs Windows Phone 8.1. Nor will its general looks be any surprise – it is a straightforward Nokia monolith.
But there are some pleasant surprises under the hood that lift this £190 handset above the ordinary. A 5 megapixel wide angle front camera for taking high quality selfies is Nokia's own selected highlight, but Cortana, Microsoft's much talked about digital assistant, is also here, making a belated arrival in the UK to join Apple's Siri.
Then there's the fact that this is a 4G handset, sports NFC and can handle wireless charging (if you buy the stand). The presence of an FM radio is nice too, and music fans can take advantage of the rather fabulous perennial favourite of mine Mix Radio for streamed music on the go.
That's a neat set of features for a sub-£200 handset, and they're accompanied by the usual suspects Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS. Wi-Fi doesn't run to 802.11ac, though – you just get b/g/n support, but that won't trouble most of us.
The back of the Lumia 735 is made from grippy polycarbonate, and the backplate wraps around all four sides bringing the colour scheme into the edges and to the front of the handset. That didn't matter much with the black handset I was sent, but if you prefer white, orange or – my favourite – green as your phone's colour, then it matters a lot. The frame of bright colour round the front and sides of the phone looks great – and is rather distinctively Nokia Lumia.
It is a bit tricky to get the back off this phone, and a little sticker on the rear tells you to use your fingers rather than a sharp implement to do this. The point of a knife will make unsightly divots in the shell, and indeed the knife might slip and cut you. There's a definite knack to getting the backplate off the phone, and if you are keen on swapping out memory cards you'll want to master it, as there's a microSD card slot under the backplate as well as the slot for your nanoSIM and a removable battery.
That microSD card slot can accommodate cards up to 128GB in size. The Lumia 735 ships with 8GB of storage, but there's only 3.4GB of that free for your own use, so getting a nice high capacity card might be a good idea. This being a Windows Phone you also get 15GB of OneDrive storage of course.
The 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor is not top of the range, and while players of Bejewelled and its ilk should be quite happy here, fans of the latest, resource hungry games might want to look elsewhere. The same kind of comment goes for battery life. The hardened gamer or dedicated music fan may well deplete the 2,220mAh battery before a day is up, but less demanding users will probably find they can get through a day, perhaps with an early or mid-evening boost to help things along.
Windows Phone 8.1 features the now familiar live tile display with its ability to squeeze more tiles into the available screen space than Windows Phone 8. You can max this out to 60 tiles before you do any vertical scrolling, though every one will be the smallest size possible to squeeze that number in. You can also now drag tiles on top of one another to create folders, which you can name, and you can set up 15 folders on the home screen before any vertical scrolling is needed. So, this is good flexibility, and you can always flick left to see a full A to Z list of all the apps that are on board.
The screen measures 4.7in and its 1,280 x 720 pixels give it a pixel density of 312ppi. That's not head turning, but the AMOLED does its job well enough and colours are bright – though a bit overstated for my taste. You can fiddle with the colour profile with pre-sets or sliders to fully personalise things. I also found the 'white' background to text is a bit yellowy, and the relatively low pixel density means text is a bit fuzzy too.
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I mentioned Cortana, and what you get here is the UK beta. It'll get updated as time goes on, though already it lets you both control the handset and do web-based searching – up to a point. When I asked it to 'find my nearest cinema' it popped up a list really quickly. When I asked it to 'run Twitter' it opened the app up for me. When I asked Cortana to 'call mum' it found her and asked which number to use before placing the call. When I asked it to 'navigate to Trafalgar Square' it took three attempts before Cortana decided to route me to a solicitor I'd never heard of instead. As a beta Cortana isn't bad, but I did find it frustrating at times.
So, that selfie camera. Its 5 megapixel capability sits out rather proudly against the 6.7 megapixels of the main camera and both take a decent photo – though if you are used to HDR you'll miss its absence here. The front camera gets its own app – Lumia Selfie – and a wide angle lens that lets you cram your friends into the frame. If you're not content with that, you can apply filters both to the images as a whole and to faces, to 'enhance' their appearance. It's a great idea from Nokia as it makes this handset a real steal for the selfie fan.
A range of other apps add more value to this handset, including Here Drive, Here Maps, Nokia Beamer for screen sharing, and more, while enhancements to Windows Phone 8.1 such as the ability to double tap to wake the handset up are evidence of the OS becoming more competent as time goes by.
Nokia might be pitching the Lumia 735 at the selfie fan, but in doing so it misses a potentially larger market. Well-built with lots of app extras, an operating system which is become more user friendly and flexible, and higher-end features like wireless charging, 4G and NFC to its name, the Lumia 735 is, for this reviewer, the best of the lower cost Lumia range. Indeed, it's a pretty good sub-£200 buy across the board.
|Manufacturer and Model||Nokia Lumia 735|
|Processor||1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400|
|Memory||8GB (3.4GB accessible)|
|Display||4.7in, 1,280 x 720 pixels, 312ppi|
|Main camera||6.7 megapixel|
|Front camera||5.0 megapixel|
|Size||68.5 x 8.9 x 134.7mm (WxDxH)|
|OS||Windows Phone 8.1|