Today marks the third week since I started using the Nokia Lumia 630, the 2014 low end smartphone by Nokia featuring Windows 8.1 launched in Kenya in early August – having launched globally sometime in April this year. Before laying my hands on this phone, I assure you I hadn’t properly touched a Windows phone before. The closest I had come to a Windows phone was when a neighbor came to ask me if her Huawei Ascend W1 was a good choice for a phone.
After using the Nokia Lumia 630 for three weeks I have a lot to say about the device which I will cover under the following sub-headings:
- The look and feel of the phone
- Basic specs and price
- User friendliness and navigation
- The beauty
- And the ugly
Note that Nokia Lumia 630 is the low end smartphone so don’t expect too much from the device in terms of high end performance. Microsoft’s phone of the year is Nokia Lumia 930 and a comprehensive review of that phone is reserved for a future date.
The look and feel of Nokia Lumia 630
When shopping for things like phones the outward look really doesn’t play part in my decision to buy or not to buy. But after the purchase the comments I receive from female friends make me either retain the external look or change the cover – if possible. After I arrived home with the Orange covered Lumia 630, the comments I received from the three lady friends who were chit chatting in my house were rather appealing.
Then I opened the back cover to insert the SIM card – and that’s the first time I saw the beauty of Nokia Lumia 630.
The beauty of a phone that matters to me is how the phone is designed, not how it is colored. Does it have a strong frame? Are the components properly designed for strength, power and durability? How easy is it to remove and insert the battery, the SIM card and the memory card?
For the first time I saw a phone that is not just properly designed (I am talking of internal architecture), but designed to look elegant, strong, and masculine. Although the outward Orange cover turned the Lumia 630 to be feminine, it’s internal construction is entirely masculine and lovely. I actually felt like I should use the phone without the cover – after all the battery, the SIM card and the memory card all fit so well they don’t need the external cover to protect them further – but well, a phone must have a cover.
Talking about the cover in the Nokia Lumia 630, and basically almost all of the Nokia Lumia phones, it is designed not only to protect the back of the phone but it also covers the sides up the bezel area. If you have used a Samsung device where the back covers does not extend to the sides you know how the phone can peal off at the sides – no, even the cover on most Samsung phones are of poor quality that wear out in months. The cover on Nokia phones, although plastic, is of better quality even on a low budget phone like the Nokia Lumia 630. The picture below shows what I’m talking about.
Although the phone is a low budget phone, the materials used to construct it make it a bit heavy at 134g. The weight together with the look make the phone feel strong and expensive compared to some high end smartphones that I have used. When holding the phone in your hand, you’ll likely forget that you aren’t holding a low end phone – the phone feels at per with the likes of Nokia Lumia 920 and even the big sister Nokia Lumia 930.
Basic specs and price
Since I do not pay much attention to the outward appearance of phones, my interest is always on the specs, price included. For me the cut point for low budget phones is Shs 15,000 and for high end phones I wouldn’t want to go beyond Shs 60,000. If a beautiful phone launches at prices above those ones, I will wait until a successor is in the market. Check out previous articles that covered the logic of waiting a little bit longer before buying a phone:
- Guide to buying an affordable but useful smartphone and
- Six months wait before buying a smartphone will save you money
Nokia Lumia 630 price in Kenya at launch was Shs 16,500 and maybe it is worth considering the specs. First, the phone is fitted with an IPS (In-Place Switching) LCD capacitive touch screen which offers better viewing than TFT LCD touch screens common in most budget smartphones. The screen is also packed with 480 by 854 pixels for a pixel density of 218 ppi, has multitouch functionality and most importantly has a clear black display to allow for better viewing even in direct sunlight. The screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 but for some reason when touching the screen it feels a little bit rough, although not as rough as touching the screen of very low end smartphones from Samsung like Samsung Galaxy Ace.
Viewing images, watching videos and even reading documents on the screen of Nokia Lumia 630 is comfortable, but as long as you don’t read in direct light. In direct sunlight you will need to use maximum brightness but you don’t want to use that level of brightness for long as it drains battery extremely fast. The phone allows you to adjust the brightness by selecting high, medium or low brightness from the action center accessible by swiping the screen downwards top to bottom from any window.
About Nokia Lumia 630’s battery, it is fitted with a 1830mAh, which is pretty good considering that most low budget phones have batteries of less than 1500mAh. The first day I used the phone it drained the battery within six hours and that got me worried, but then I discovered the battery saving options under setting and enabled all of them…nowadays even with heavy use I can stay with the phone even for 14 hours before recharging. After enabling all the battery saving options, you just ensure that most of the time the screen brightness is set to low, Internet is turned off, and no app is running in the background.
Then we have memory and storage. Internal storage capacity is 8GB, but only 3.5GB or thereabout is available for your files, photos, music and videos. However it has an SD slot that allows you to upgrade the storage capacity with up to 128GB. The RAM on the other hand is 512MB which isn’t bad at all given that Windows 8.1 is quite a lean OS. Even when several Apps are opened, the phone doesn’t seem to slow down at all, and it hasn’t hanged on me unnecessarily.
The camera on the phone is 5 megapixel camera that I haven’t actually used except to take two shots of my desk just to learn the available camera settings. The photos that I took look good on the phone’s screen but I haven’t transferred to a comp or a bigger phone to actually see how well they compare with photos from other cameras. Anyway the Lumia 630 isn’t meant for photos as it even lacks the front facing camera. If you are a fan of Instagram and selfies then this is not the phone for you…or you can still use the back camera for those selfies you take without the privilege to focus and preview your face in real time.
The OS is obviously Windows but the beauty is that it is running the latest version of Windows, Windows 8.1. I haven’t used any other Windows phone so I really do not know any differences between Windows phones. Information I have retrieved from WP Central mentions things like the Action Center, Several Apps, Internet Explorer 11, support for Google Calender, smart search on Bing, Enterprise Office and numerous other features as new inclusions or improvements on Windows 8.1. Detailed description of Windows 8.1 for mobile phones will be given in the review of Nokia Lumia 930.
Last on specs let me mention the processor. Microsoft has fitted the low budget phone with a Qualcom Snapdragon 400 chipset, and the processor is quad core cortex A7 that clocks 1.2Ghz. Basically, when I compare the specs of this phone with those of Samsung Galaxy S3 which was Samsung’s flagship phone of 2012, Nokia Lumia 630 is just a few steps from becoming a Samsung Galaxy S3.
User friendliness and navigation
When you get a new phone, what’s the first thing you normally do with it? Make a call? Take a picture? Find the ringtones? I do none of those. I unpack the phone, throw away the user manual, insert SIM card, customize the phone, and then make a call to test both the mouth piece and the ear piece.
Ever since I got my first phone which was a Nokia 3310, I have never asked anyone to show me how to use a phone…and I have never read through the user manual to know how to operate an electronic device. No, I haven’t asked for help even with smartphones. But for the first time in my electronic life I had to ask for help on how to make a call with Nokia Lumia 630 – okay I’m kidding, but at least I asked myself loudly, “how the hell does one make a call with this gadget?” The ladies laughed.
Windows phones apparently are not the phones that you pick up and intuitively start using, you have to take time and learn new tricks as you unlearn the old ones. You have to get used to the tiles, to the different calling method (in Android you just swipe to the right and call or to the left and send a text message), and you have to learn the new places to find your day to day services like M-PESA. The learning can be as fast as a day or if you learn a few things every few minutes, you will probably need two weeks to be thoroughly familiar with the phone. But after you have learned your way through, you can find yourself falling in love with Windows especially for the beauty of design, speed, and efficiency.
After almost one week of self training, I found myself coming to like the phone. The tiles are customizable to your preference. You can resize a tile to be huge, medium or tiny by toggling from one size to the next by long pressing a tile then selecting the resize tool. You can also relocate a tile from one location to the other by pressing and dragging. If you don’t like an app to be pinned on home screen as a tile, you simply press on the remove tool after long pressing the tile. If you remove all tiles, then the app center where apps are arranged in an alphabetical list becomes the home screen. An app can be pinned on home screen by going to the Apps center, long pressing on the app of interest, and selecting pin to start.
The fact that the Windows phone only allows you to save contacts in the cloud (either your Google Account or in a Microsoft Account) is great…although it means you must have Internet access to permanently save your contact. If the phone is not connected to the Internet it will hold the contact in the local storage but once you are connected the contacts will automatically sync.
As much as Windows phones are great and user friendly, there are a few times you may get annoyed especially if you are used to an Android device. For example the inability to swipe a contact right to call and left to send a text message is not cool at all. Also, if you are on dialing screen, Android will let you search for a contact or even suggest contacts as you enter the number. Nokia Lumia 630 (and I believe the entire Windows phones) does not allow this, you have to enter the entire ten digit number to make a call.
The call log also has a serious shortcoming. If you have saved a number as 0722123456, if the number comes as +254722123456 especially with a text message, the name associated with of that number does not get retrieved from the phone book. Or if you sent a text message to the number without the country code but the reply comes with the country code, then you will have two separate threads of messages.
Also the fact that the phone’s navigation buttons are on screen is quite a disappointment. The buttons take a big portion of the screen and still there is no dedicated menu button; instead, Microsoft has included a dedicated Bing search button – yet I believe no one really wants to use Bing.
There are a number of other things I haven’t liked but they are not very important. The most important dislike is Bing. I am not sure if there is anyone who really does search with Bing…the first results for any search term are always very irrelevant so I use Bing to search for Google then used Google to do my searches; you really do not want to use Google Search App for windows – I downloaded the Google Search for Windows and uninstalled immediately – the ads running on that app are quite a distraction.
Nokia Lumia 630 is a great phone as it features specs found in former flag ship devices. If you want to use a phone that allows you to experience the top end enterprise but at a very low cost without compromising on quality, then Nokia Lumia 630 is the phone you need to have. If you also consider Shs 16,500 as too much for a low budget phone, then wait until around December and I’m sure you’ll be able to buy for less than Shs 15,000.