Microsoft Lumia 735 (Verizon) Review: the original selfie phone

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The last time we saw a Nokia Lumia on Verizon was last year with the Lumia Icon. That device has been discontinued and Verizon’s Lumia Windows Phone selection has been seriously lacking. Now Verizon has finally gotten a new Lumia Windows Phone in their line up and it’s the Lumia 735. Of course, this device is kind of old too. The original version was unvieled in Berlin in September of 2014. 9 months later, the Verizon version of the Lumia 735 is now available. The Lumia 735 is kind of a mid-range phone by last year’s standards, but in 2015 it still has a few nice things going for it. Last year, of course its claim to fame was the high resolution front facing camera for better quality self portrait photos, but these days plenty of other phones have added that kind of feature. Read on for our full review of the new Microsoft Lumia 735 for Verizon.

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Specs · Hardware · Software · Camera · Performance · Battery Life · Call/Network · Pricing/Availability · Conclusion · Scored For Me

Specs

The Lumia 735 has a 1.2 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7, a Qualcomm Adreno 305 GPU, and 1GB of system RAM along with 16 GB of internal storage. If that’s not enough, you can add up to 128 GB of storage by installing a MicroSD card under the battery cover 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 134.7 x 68.5 x 8.9mm and the weight is 133g. The screen is a 4.7” Monoblock touch Technology ClearBlack, OLED display with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution which translates to a print quality 312 pixels per inch. It’s got an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, proximity sensor, magnetometer, and SensorCore for excersize tracking. The rear-facing camera is only 6.7 megapixels, but the sensor shape is made in such a way that the aspect ratio you choose will crop the sensor differently so you’ll never get that full resolution. The best you can do is a 4:3 aspect ratio which will give you 6.1 megapixels. The front facing camera is 5 megapixels, and you’ll get the full resolution from that if you switch to a 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s all powered by a 2220 mAh Microsoft BV-T5A removable battery. Of course it’s got all the usual stuff as well, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth and even NFC. For Verizon’s network connectivity, you’ve got LTE Band 13/4 (700/1700 MHz), CDMA/1xEVDO Rev. A (800/1900 MHz).

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Best of all, the Lumia 735 comes with Qi wireless charging capabilities AND a removable battery cover. That means you can swap to a different color without an awkward case and still have that sweet wireless charging capability.

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Hardware

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The Lumia 735 feels great in the hand. When I first held it, it reminded me of the original Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone. The sides are round, the back is smooth, and the camera is flush with its body.

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The 720 x 1280 pixel screen has plenty of pixel density for sharp print-quality viewing. It looks really great, and it’s got better viewing angles than the Lumia 640’s screen. Of course the bottom buttons are part of the screen now instead of separate capacitive buttons as well.

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In direct sunlight, of course the screen visibility can suffer significantly, but the Lumia 735 seems to do just a little better on the outdoor contrast than the Lumia 640’s screen.

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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, and they feel a lot sturdier than the same buttons on the Lumia 640. 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.

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On the top is the 3.5mm headset jack and it’s nicely flush with the battery cover which wraps around the front of the phone.

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The front-facing camera on the Lumia 735 is its big selling point, or was back in 2014. This new Verizon version has Microsoft’s new branding instead of the old Nokia branding.

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Of course there’s more Verizon branding on the back as well. The little speaker grill seems out of place though.

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The sides of the screen are very subtly rounded on the edges. It’s a nice touch that makes the screen feel like it’s integrated with the round edges of the plastic covering.

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The Micro-USB port on the bottom is very cleanly placed within the covering. Usually you see a metal border around the port, but this is totally flush with the body and it looks very high-quality.

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On the back is the 6.7 megapixel camera and LED flash. It is flush with the battery cover, which looks great, but that makes it a little too easy to get fingerprints on the lens (which might cause weird light streaks on your photos). Yes, this is a Carl Zeiss lens and there is a single LED flash.

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Thankfully, the Qi wireless charging battery cover is removable as is the battery. The battery is a BV-T5A model with 2220mAh capacity. That’s different from the BV-T5C battery used in the Lumia 640. Like the Lumia 640’s battery, spares are difficult to find, but there are some on eBay for $28 with a $48 shipping fee. That is much more expensive than the spare batteries you can get for the Lumia 5XX series (BL-5J) which you can get for $5 with free shipping.

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Also found under the battery cover is the Nano-SIM card slot and a MicroSD card slot for expanding the storage. The 16Gb of included storage will probably be enough for many people, but it’s great to have the option of adding additional room for apps, music, videos, and photos.

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Software

The Nokia Lumia 735 ships with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 (OS build 8.10.15148.160) as well as Nokia’s “Denim” firmware. 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 735 that we weren’t able to test in our original review. For example, there’s a new feature where you can double tap a blank area of the bottom toolbar between the back, start, and search keys and that will put the phone into sleep mode. Combine that with the double-tap to wake feature and you don’t really need the power button anymore. The settings are also organized differentlly and there’s a search field for quickly finding the setting you want to change. Bluetooth keyboards and Miracast display wireless
connectivity are also now supported. Verizon also includes a number of special apps for some of the Verizon services. In fact, the first-boot sequence was modified to enable a number of new dialog windows asking if you want to sign up for some of those Verizon services.

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The “My Verizon Mobile” is a great way to manage your Verizon bill, plan, usage, etc. It does not have a live tile and the user interface seems very badly designed but it will get the job done. It does not have a live tile to show you your usage stats either, so that’s disappointing.

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Verizon doesn’t have visual voicemail that integrates with the phone app on Windows Phone, so they’ve added an extra Verizon-made Voice Mail app. It has a few extra features too. You have a lot more sorting options, you can upgrade to premium voice mail, you can flag voice mails for follow up, you can save voice mails, and they are also transcribed as text! When you save a voicemail it is stored in the “Music/Saved Voice Mail” folder as an AMR file and a text file.

The Verizon Navigator GPS navigation software is also bundled with the phone. The included free version lets you search for points of interests, view maps and get directions. If you want, you can upgrade the software to enable spoken turn-by-turn directions, live traffic, 3D buildings, etc. The upgrade costs $4.99/month or $0.99 for one day. However, you can use the free HERE Drive+ (which is also included) for offline turn-by-turn GPS navigation.

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Camera

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We’ll talk about the front-facing camera on the Lumia 735 first, since last year, that was its big selling point. The 5 megapixel resolution was twice as much as most other phones on the market at the time. However, as you’ll see in the samples below, more pixels doesn’t always mean better image quality. There’s still lots of noise and lack of detail probably due to such a small sensor size.

The 6.7 megapixel camera on the back of the Lumia 735 is okay. There’s a sharpening filter applied to the images, occasional color issues, poor LED flash performance, but that’s par for the course when it comes to smartphones. Plus the Lumia 735 only supports the Lumia Camera 4.9, not version 5. That means you won’t get the cool “Rich Capture” features for adjusting lighting effects and exposure after you take the photo. It does support live images though.

Comparison between the Lumia 735 and Lumia 735.

Comparison between the Lumia 735 and Lumia 735 rear cameras.

In the above 100% crop sample we can see how the Lumia 735’s 6.7 megapixel image compares to the Lumia 640’s 8 megapixel image. Both are not terrible great. We see a lot of software based sharpening, but the amount of detail (or lack of detail) is similar. Also note a color difference between the two cameras.

Take a look at the full resolution camera samples below. The first two show the difference in resolution between the default 16:9 aspect ratio, and the 4:3 apsect ratio. The 16:9 is 5.3 megapixels, while the 4:3 is 6.1 megapixels! Both are cropping out parts of the sensor, but the 4:3 gets more data in the frame. The next 3 samples are well-lit outdoor shots and the Lumia 735 does pretty well with those. Next is a low light flash test and the Lumia 735 actually lights this scene pretty evenly. The single LED here is much better than the dual LED flash on the LG G4. The next two are a couple of selfies from the front facing camera. Yes, the resolution is a nice 5 megapixels, but there’s lots of noise

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Performance

The Lumia 735 scored 236.56 in WPBench, compared to 245.07 on the Lumia 640, 218.14 on the Lumia 630, 169.25 on the Lumia 521, 234.73 on Lumia 928 or 232.11 for the Lumia 925. The Lumia 735 is not quite as quick as the new mid-tier Lumia 640, but it holds its own against older 900 series flagship Lumia devices.

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Battery Life

In WP Bench’s battery life test under constant CPU stress, the Lumia 735 lasted for about 4 hours 27 minutes. That’s about 30 minutes longer than the Lumia 640 and 1.5 hours more than the Lumia 630. As mentioned earlier, the BV-T5A model battery with 2220mAh capacity is difficult and expensive to find replacements for. It’s not the same as the battery found in other Lumia phones either, so that makes replacements even more difficult.

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Call Quality/Network Performance

The Lumia 735 supports Verizon’s Advanced Calling features, which include HD Voice, Video Calling and simultaneous voice/data access. Unfortunately, the HD Voice and Video Calling features only work with other Verizon Wireless customers who also have the HD Voice feature enabled on a compatible phone. That’s probably going to limit the usefulness of the feature. Otherwise, you’ll just get the normal call quality that we’re all used to.

For LTE network performance, Verizon is doing pretty good. While sitting close to a tower and running the Speedtest.net app, I’ve been getting download speeds of about 18-23 Mbps and upload speeds between 5-7 Mbps. Of course that depends on the time of day, but it’s not quite as good as the 50 Mbps download and 13 Mbps upload speeds I sometimes get with T-Mobile USA.

Index

Pros

  • + 5 Megapixel front facing camera
  • + Qi wireless charging support
  • + SensorCore, pedometor, NFC, Miracast support
  • + Nice build quality
  • + Good screen & pixel density
  • + Removable battery
  • + Replaceable battery covers with multiple color options

Cons

  • No Glance mode
  • Low resolution rear camera
  • No Rich Capture support
  • Spare BV-T5A batteries are expensive and hard to find

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Pricing and Availability

The Lumia 735 is $192 off contract from Verizon, or $29.99 with a 2 year contract, or $8/month on a Verizon Edge plan. Personally, I think $192 is a bit expensive for a 9 month old phone. If the price was a lot closer to the $129 that other carriers are asking for the Lumia 640, then it would be much more competitive. Unless your biggest selling point is the use of Verizon’s network, in which case the Lumia 735 is your best option right now.

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Conclusion

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Verizon’s last Lumia smartphone was the Lumia Icon which was released in February of 2014, almost a year and a half ago. The Lumia 735 is not exactly a worthy replacement, but it’s better than nothing. Honestly, the Lumia Icon could still best many of the other phones in Verizon’s lineup today, especially with the Denim update it recieved in February of 2015. Even if you’ve got an older Lumia 928 on Verizon, the Lumia 735 would mostly be a downgrade for you. Unfortunately, Microsoft has been concentrating on releasing budget friendly smartphones these days, so we’re not seeing anything spectacular here. The Lumia 735 is probably most comparable to the Lumia 640 which is also being released on T-Mobile, AT&T, and Cricket this month. Both phones are in similar price ranges. The 640 has a better rear camera with the excellent rich capture feature and the awesome glance mode, but the Lumia 735 has a better front facing camera, better screen, better battery life, better build quality, and the awesome Qi wireless charging support. Honestly, if the Lumia 735 was priced at $150 instead of $190 with no contract, it would be the better deal. Still, if you have to use Verizon and you’re looking for a Windows Phone, the Lumia 735 is a great device.

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Scored For Me

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!