Nokia Lumia 735 review: Perfectly ordinary

Lurching in the shadows of Nokia's Lumia 635 and 830

Nokia Lumia 735
  • Nokia Lumia 735
  • Nokia Lumia 735
  • Nokia Lumia 735
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5


  • Great cameras
  • The best version of Windows Phone yet
  • 4G


  • Removable back cover is poorly designed
  • Expensive compared to rivals

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 399.00 (AUD)

When you sit down and think about it, $400 is a lot of money for a smartphone, especially when the low end of the smartphone market is ripe with inexpensive treasures priced below $300. Phones like the Moto G come packed with mid-range features and an asking price common to budget smartphones.

This presents a problem for the Lumia 735, for the mid-range phone is being forced to fend its relatively expensive $399 pricetag. Nokia won’t lure people on price then. And it won’t be winning people over with the Lumia 735’s looks either.

The Windows Phone smartphone adopts a shape introduced by the Nokia N9 years ago. Back then the polycarbonate unibody was seductive with curves in all the right corners. Scratch the skin and it would bleed the same colour. It was a clever piece of design for yesteryear.

End of an era: Goodbye Nokia, hello Microsoft Lumia

Though looking at the Lumia 735 nowadays doesn’t bring about the same sense of wonder inspired by its older relative. Its time-and-time again recycled look does little to recreate the magic first experience those years ago.

On screen keys replace the capacitive keys often found on Windows Phone devices. Swiping up in any part of the menu presents them.
On screen keys replace the capacitive keys often found on Windows Phone devices. Swiping up in any part of the menu presents them.

Some charm is taxed with the inclusion of a removable rear cover. The idea is outgoing people will be able to swap covers for chirpy, bright alternatives. This won’t be a frequent occurrence because peeling the 735’s back cover off is a ritual spoiled by contorting corners, and bending plastic to points well beyond comfort.

Looking ordinary undermines the appeal of this smartphone. Selfies by design are meant to mark an occasion, a moment of note in front of beautiful scenery, iconic landmarks or hallmark celebrations. Most of the people intrigued by a smartphone armed with a decent selfie cam will want it to complement the occasion — even their outfit — and on this point, the Lumia 735 simply won’t do.

And that’s a real shame because a genuinely impressive smartphone hides behind its tired skin. The 4.7in display has a 1280x720 resolution for a density of 312 pixels-per-inch. The pixel count is high enough that you won’t notice the individual pixels at work. The display does photos snapped by the Lumia 735 justice by producing bold, vibrant colours and rich, detailed blacks. And it’s the same story no matter which camera is used, whether it’s the wide-angled 5 megapixel front camera, or that of the 6.7 megapixel cam gracing its rear.

Validating the Lumia 735 as a mid-range smartphone are its two proficient cameras. Photos look great in a wide range of lighting conditions, and both cams have a knack for vibrant colours.

There are some underwhelming points of note, though none of which are deal-breakers. For instance, the Lumia 735 is one of a few Windows Phone devices to not have a shutter key. Then there’s the low resolution of the rear camera, which leaves signs of image noise when photos are blown up to their native resolution. Don’t be deterred because these tiny gripes aren’t enough to soil the 735’s photographic talents.

Taken with the Nokia Lumia 735
Taken with the Nokia Lumia 735

The photo above cropped at 100 per cent - Taken with the Nokia Lumia 735
The photo above cropped at 100 per cent - Taken with the Nokia Lumia 735

Glance over the spec-sheet of the smartphone and nothing beyond the front camera grabs your attention. Nokia has focused more on striking a balance between hardware and software, rather than juicing its smartphone with top-notch specs.

This isn’t bad.

Never does the Lumia 735 feel sluggish. The Windows Phone 8.1 operating system glides from one app to another with ease. It’s a combination of the light operating system and the work of hardware that includes a 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage.

For too long phones have been judged on specs alone. The reality is we’ve reached a milestone with smartphones in that top-tier hardware is no longer a requisite for refined performance. Apple’s iPhone 6 stands testament to this argument by packing only 1GB of RAM, and yet it still delivers a compelling experience. The Lumia 735 tells a similar story, only with a price considerably less.

Powering the Lumia 735 is a 2220 milliamp-hour battery which supports wireless charging. The battery is good for a day of day with mixed usage.

The only real qualm reserved for the Lumia 735 is its price. It shares a fair chunk of its feature-set with the metal-boned Lumia 830, which is scheduled to launch next week in Australia. Either the 830 will be too expensive or the 735 won’t look cheap enough alongside its better-equipped Nokia brethren.

Read more: Microsoft prepares Windows 10 launch with Lumia Denim

The Windows Phone 8.1 interface
The Windows Phone 8.1 interface

Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1
Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1

Windows Phone 8.1 powers both smartphones. The latest version of Microsoft’s OS comes with a few additional perks, such as the ability to group home-screen tiles in folders, and the test version of Microsoft’s Crotana personal assistant.

Good Gear Guide noted of Cortana in our review of the Lumia 830:

The version of Cortana available in Australia holds great promise under the proviso Microsoft irons out some of the kinks. Cortana will schedule calendar entries, send texts and draft emails promptly and without error. The personal assistant also has a flair for online searches, even though it doesn’t yet exhibit the same level of maturity showcased by Google Now or Apple’s Siri. Our only qualm is the alpha version couldn’t playback music, even though it recognised the songs and albums we requested.

The jump up from the Lumia 635 to the 735 isn’t great enough to warrant what works out to be a 43 per cent price hike. The only beneficiaries here are those hell-bent on snapping selfies on every corner. Otherwise we’re hard pressed to give the Lumia 735 our stamp of approval amidst such stiff competition, including that from Nokia’s Lumia 635 and 830.

End of an era: Goodbye Nokia, hello Microsoft Lumia

News of Microsoft phasing out the Nokia brand breaks as we conclude this review. It saddens us to think a brand like Nokia, one destined for the hall of fame, will bow out of the smartphone market. The Lumia 735 could be the last smartphone to wear Nokia’s badge, and yet the brand deserved a far better swansong.

Read more: Nokia Lumia 830 review: Punching above its weight

Sample photos

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