Nokia Lumia 735 First Impressions

Nokia Lumia 735 First Impressions

The selfie/Skype phone

While the Nokia Lumia 830 has garnered a ton of attention for bringing flagship features to the middle of the market, Microsoft is launching another interesting new middle-tier smart phone this month. Well, two, actually: The Lumia 735, which I'll be reviewing, and the Lumia 730, which is a dual-SIM version of the 735. Here are my first impressions.

First, please be sure to check out my Nokia Lumia 730/735 Preview, which is based on my hands-on experience with both devices last month, and IFA 2014: Microsoft Devices Announces New Lumias, Accessories, Firmware, in which I describe what I think is the most fantastical aspect of this device: This phone is so impossibly light it feels like an engineering sample. If you're familiar with the older brick-like Lumias this phone resembles—I'm looking at you, Lumia 920—this phone is a revelation, and it's hard not to imagine how much more successful Nokia might have been had it gone with this design instead of solid polycarbonate.

Well, the past is the past. Here's the reality of the Lumia 735 today: It may look exactly like a Lumia 900/920 or whatever, but the "body"—the colored part—is in fact an easily removable cover that lets you access the innards—SIM card (or cards in the 730), micro-SD expansion and the removable battery—and replace the cover with another colored cover. (Green, white, orange and black are available.) Take that, iPhone 5C.

And seriously, I can't stress this enough: When you pick up the 735, it almost flies upward because it's so light. It's like it's made of helium. Something this solid shouldn't be this light. It just doesn't seem possible. What a wonderful form factor. People are going to love this phone, if only for this one reason. It's just neat.

Lumia 735 (top) and Lumia 830 (bottom)

What most people—Microsoft included—are focusing on with the 735 (and 730), of course, is the so-called "selfie" camera, though Microsoft has wisely started touting its Skype capabilities as well. That is, the Lumia 735/730 has a fairly standard 6.7 megapixel ZEISS camera on its back, a unit that should sound familiar to anyone who pays attention to Nokia Lumia models. But it features a unique wide-angle 5 megapixel front-facing camera that, yes, is uniquely capable for you selfie fans because it allows for much wider pictures that include more people or more background scenery. Oh, it works well for Skype too.

So I'll be testing that, of course. Or someone in my family will. I can't stand taking selfies.

Beyond that camera, and the incredible light and thin form factor, the Lumia 735 is mostly middle of the road.

There's no wireless charging built-in to the case that comes with the 735, but you can replace the case and get wireless charging (and a new color, if desired). The processor is the same 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 found in the Lumia 635 and 830. And like the 830, it provides 1 GB of RAM, but only 8 GB of internal storage (vs. 16 in the 830), and a 720p OLED screen, which is gorgeous. Nothing unexpected, and a not-so-subtle positioning of this device firmly between the Lumia 635 and 830.

The 2014 lineup: Lumia 530, Lumia 635, Lumia 735, Lumia 830

If I were to complain about anything up front here, it's that the distinction between the 730 and 830 is so arbitrary. Why can't the 830 also feature the 730's wide-angle front-facing camera? That kind of obvious step-up would make sense, but now you have to decide what's more important: The impossibly light form factor and incredible front-facing camera in the 730 or the slightly thicker 830 with its superior rear camera.

The 2014 lineup: Lumia 530, Lumia 635, Lumia 735, Lumia 830

But I'm splitting hairs here. The Lumia 735 is gorgeous in its own right, and will absolutely appeal to anyone who values a thin and light form factor—seriously, it's amazing—above all. Oh, and that selfie camera. I know those people are out there.

More soon.

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