Nokia Lumia 630 review: a budget smartphone for the calorie counter
Nokia has had a lot of success making really high quality mobile phones at very inexpensive price points. This was true 20 years ago, and these days Nokia (now in the form of Microsoft’s handset division) is trying to translate that success to the smartphone market. Of course smartphones are far more complicated than the mobile phones of the 90s and they’re more expensive to make, but as Nokia proved with the Lumia 520, it’s still possible to make something that works very well without costing $600.
The Nokia Lumia 630 is another one of those inexpensive smartphones that cuts out a lot of high-end features in order to reduce costs, but doesn’t cut out so much as to make things completely unusable. It’s mainly an upgrade to the Lumia 620 with a couple of nice improvements including a built in pedometer to help the calorie counters out there. Read on for our full thoughts on this new sub-$200 Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone.
Specs · Hardware · Software · Camera · Performance · Battery Life · Call/Network · Pricing/Availability · Conclusion · Scored For Me
The Lumia 630 has a quad-core 1.2Ghz Snapdragon 400 processor with 512Mb of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage. About half of that is taken up by the operating system, bundled apps, and your synced email accounts data. That’s not a lot of room for very many third party apps, music, pictures, and videos, so thankfully a Micro SD slot is under the battery cover. You can add up to 128 GB of storage that way and what’s excellent about Windows Phone 8.1 is that you can now move or install apps to the SD card.
The phone’s size is nothing particularly impressive, with a height of 129.5 mm, width of 66.7 mm, and thickness of 9.2 mm. The weight is a comfortable 134 grams. The screen size is also average at 4.5″, but the resolution is only 854 x 480 pixels with a 221ppi density. This particular model is the European single-SIM version which does not include North American LTE bands, but we hear a similar Lumia 635 will be arriving soon with better North American network support.
The Lumia 630 also includes a 5 megapixel camera on the back, but there’s no flash, nor is there a front-facing camera. It’s also missing a proximity sensor on the front which means the screen doesn’t shut off when it’s up against your head. An ambient light sensor is missing as well, which means the screen brightness won’t adjust automatically like many other smartphones these days. There’s no NFC or wireless charging either, but it does have an internal pedometer, which we’ll talk more about later. Powering it all is an 1830 mAh BL-5H battery; unlike the Lumia 520’s easy-to-find BL-5J, replacement BL-5H batteries aren’t easily sourced.
By all counts except for one, the Lumia 630 is a budget phone. There’s nothing particularly exciting about it. It’s an average form factor. It’s got a good sturdy polycarbonate build that doesn’t feel particularly premium quality, but it still seems like it could handle some accidental drops without problem.
The screen is an odd 854 x 480 pixel resolution because it includes the 3 navigation buttons at the bottom which are normally implemented separately as hardware capacitive buttons on other Windows Phones. This is Gorilla glass, by the way, but the viewing angles, color production, and pixel density isn’t as good as other higher-end phones.
Note the reduction in contrast from this angle. Don’t expect to be amazed by the screen on such an inexpensive smartphone.
If you get too close to the display, pictures will look like you’re viewing them through a screen door as the pixels are quite noticeable.
On the right side there’s a power button and an up/down volume control. The buttons are easy to find with your fingers and they’ve got great tactile feedback. However, a dedicated camera button is missing, which is extremely unfortunate. To launch the camera, you’ll have to pin its tile to your start screen, or add the camera quick action to the Action Center. Unfortunately, the action center’s top-edge screen gesture is very poorly placed at the top of the screen.
On the bottom there’s the micro USB port for charging and syncing. You can also see a tiny hole on the edge where the phone’s microphone is located.
The left side has nothing but smooth plastic, but it’s important to note that these edges are very flat with a subtle angle. That’s a very good thing because too often, phone manufacturers get obsessed with making phones feel thin. When it’s too thin, it becomes difficult to hold and use.
On the top is the 3.5-millimeter headset jack.
On the back is the 5 megapixel camera. Again, there’s no flash here, so you’ll only want to use the camera outdoors with a good amount of light.
Under the battery cover is a Micro-SIM slot. Some versions of the Lumia 630 offer dual SIM card slots which allow you to have two separate mobile phone accounts on the same device.
Here’s a look at the Micro-SD slot. You have to remove the battery to access it, but being able to add up to 128 GB of extra storage for apps, music, videos, and pictures is an excellent thing to have.
Compared to the Lumia 521, the Lumia 630 is much thinner. We feel that the rounded backing of the Lumia 521 makes for a more comfortable feel in hand, though.
Still, the extra thinness compared to other low-end Windows Phones makes the Lumia 630 fit well in the pocket.
The Nokia Lumia 630 is the first smartphone to launch with Windows Phone 8.1 as well as Nokia’s “Cyan” firmware update. You can read more about the operating system in our Windows Phone 8.1 review as well as our Windows Phone 8.0 review, but there are a few new things in the version of the operating system on the Lumia 630 that we weren’t able to test in our original review.
The coolest thing about the Lumia 630 is the new pedometer hardware built in. You can turn on the “motion tracking” setting and the phone will keep track of your walking and running at all times. It currently works with the Bing Health & Fitness app (included) and you can pin a live tile to your start screen for constant updates on how many steps you’ve walked and how many calories you’ve burned. It’s much better than GPS-based exercise tracking programs since it still works indoors.
This feature should also be coming to some existing Nokia Lumia phones when they get the “Cyan” firmware update and hopefully we’ll see it in future phones as well. Currently, only the “Health & Fitness” app from Microsoft has tied into the built-in pedometer feature, but it’s likely that others such as Fitbit, Endomondo, or MyFitnessPal will add support. Another issue is that our calories-burned and steps-taken statistics don’t seem to sync with the Bing Health & Fitness apps on my other Windows Phones and Windows tablets. That’s no good.
The Lumia 630 has an SD card slot under the battery cover, so that means we’re now able to take advantage of Windows Phone 8.1’s new features for storing content and apps on the storage card. You can even move many (but not all) of the pre-installed apps to your SD card in order to free up space in your main memory. This is extremely important since the Lumia 630 has only 8 GB of built in storage. Being able to add 128 GB means you can put far more videos, music, photos, and apps on this device than many of the other so-called “high end” Windows Phones out there. We moved a lot of apps and installed the very storage-heavy “Halo: Spartan Assault” to a 32 GB storage card and everything worked just fine. We didn’t notice any performance problems or stability issues in doing things this way, however it is possible that stability issues could occur if you load a corrupt Micro SD card into the phone.
Another small but notable change here is the screen-based back, start, and search collective. Previously these buttons were always placed below the screen as hardware capacitive or tactile keys. On the Lumia 630, they’re part of the screen and you have some options to change their colors. You can make it so the navigation bar is the same color as your theme, always dark, or it can match the app’s background. That last option means it will be light in the email program when you’re reading a message since that turns everything white.
The phone includes Nokia’s HERE Drive+ free GPS navigation program with support for downloading free offline maps of many countries around the world. Another feature that’s probably worth the cost of the phone is the Nokia Music app. You can download up to 4 custom radio mixes for offline listening. Then when you get tired of those, you can delete them and download 4 more. It’s unlimited offline music! The catch is you can’t rewind any songs. You have to listen to the whole playlist, though you can skip about 6 per hour. Still, that’s free music with no data plan.
We’ve already mentioned the 5-megapixel camera, which is about on par with the other inexpensive Nokia cameras. Not having a flash on this phone forces you to confine your picture-taking to decent lighting conditions: stick to bright light, and you can actually snap some decent photos with this camera.
Take a look at the samples below. The first image is an example of low-light photos taken with the Lumia 630. That’s right: with no flash, no image stabilization, and very little ISO adjustment capabilities, your low-light photos will be mostly black. On the other hand, outdoor photos with plenty of light can turn out to be not bad at all. Sure there’s some noise if you look close enough, and you may see a bit of artificial sharpening, but the colors look good and we haven’t seen any major chromatic aberrations.
The Nokia Lumia 630 scored 218.14 in WPBench, compared to 169.25 on the Lumia 521, 234.73 on Lumia 928 or 232.11 for the Lumia 925. The Lumia 630 certainly performs pretty nicely in the benchmarks, but the new Windows Phone 8.1 operating system makes things feel a little slower than previous versions of Windows Phone, since version 8.1 required many apps to be rebuilt so that they could be installed and updated separately from the operating system. That means things like the Music app are much slower and even the Calendar has a splash screen that you have to look at before it gets to your information.
In WP Bench’s battery life test under constant CPU stress, the Lumia 630 lasted for about 2 hours 47 minutes. That doesn’t sound like much, but in real life with three or so push email accounts added, some average web browsing, Facebook usage, and pedometer walking, the battery lasts well through a day, maybe a day and a half.
While the Lumia 630 does have a removable battery that you can swap out for a fresh one while you’re out and about, as mentioned above, the battery type is not a particularly easy-to-find or inexpensive variety. One of the huge advantages of the Lumia 520 and 521 was that they used a Nokia BL-5J battery which is very easy to find for around $4. Replacements for the Lumia 630’s BL-5H are very rare, which kind of defeats the purpose of having a removable battery.
Call Quality/Network Performance
Voice calls sound about average on the Lumia 630. The speaker doesn’t seem to be as loud as the older Lumia 520, but it works. The Lumia 630 doesn’t have LTE support either, so you’ll be stuck with HSPA network speeds, however the Lumia 635 variant will have LTE support when it’s released.
- + Built in pedometer can track every step you take
- + Windows Phone 8.1 makes much better use of the Micro SD card expansion.
- + Removable battery
- + Replaceable battery covers with multiple color options
- + Comfortable ergonomic form factor & design
- + Nokia HERE Suite (global offline GPS navigation)
- + Nokia Music (free unlimited offline music playlist downloads)
- – No flash, or image stabilization
- – Low resolution screen with mediocre outdoor visibility
- – 512Mb RAM means some apps won’t run
- – No compass for augmented reality apps
- – No wireless charging option
- – No NFC
- – No ambient light sensor or auto-brightness
- – No proximity sensor
- – No glance mode
- – No camera button
- – Spare BL-5H batteries are hard to find
Pricing and Availability
The Lumia 630 is a budget device, so it’s available in the nice and low $150 range. That’s not as inexpensive as the Nokia Lumia 520, though, which we’ve seen in the $45-$70 range without a contract.
While we love those new sensor core features for GPS-independent exercise tracking, the Lumia 630 is a tough sell with so many other hardware features lacking (or simply absent). If you’re going to go with a budget Windows Phone, we’d recommend going all the way and looking for a $45-$60 Nokia Lumia 520.
Furthermore, since this phone is selling in the $150 range, if you want something better than a Lumia 520, you can find the Nokia Lumia 925 in the $200 range (with no contract) these days. That’s only a little more expensive than the Lumia 630, but it has many more high-end features like a much better screen, optical image stabilization and a flash on the camera, wireless charging capabilities, front-facing camera, LTE, etc. As phones like the Moto E have proven before, a compelling price point isn’t always enough.