Microsoft isn't short on Windows Phones at the lower end of the price and hardware spectrum but that didn't stop the launch of another. The Lumia 435 is the new entry level point for a Lumia Windows Phone.
It's a crowded space, though. With even some of its own stable mates to compete against, does the Lumia 435 have what it takes?
Let's find out.
Design and hardware
The Lumia 435 isn't supposed to appeal to those looking for a high-end handset. It's supposed to appeal to those new to Windows Phone or smartphones in general. And it mostly ticks the necessary boxes. While it's a little boxy in appearance, the dull shape is offset by the colors. You shouldn't be buying this phone in black when there are green and orange ones to choose from.
Comparisons have been drawn between the Lumia 435 and the Nokia X, and those would be pretty accurate. If you put the two side by side (and not counting obvious differences like logos and Windows Phone buttons) you'd be hard pushed to see the difference. It's short and a little chunky, but still likeable. It's not difficult to hold and even less so to throw in a pocket or in a bag.
So, to the specs. Here's what's makes the Lumia 435 tick:
- Single and dual-SIM variants
- Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Denim
- 4-inch WVGA LCD (800 x 480)
- 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 CPU
- 1 GB RAM
- 8 GB storage
- MicroSD card support (Up to 128 GB)
- Removable 1560 mAh battery
- 2MP rear camera (fixed focus)
- 0.3MP front-facing fixed-focus camera
- Four colors: green, orange, white, black (swappable covers)
Basic specs for a basic Windows Phone. But at the same time, perfectly capable. One of the things we like the most is that Microsoft has chosen to include 1GB of RAM even at the lowest end, seemingly bringing an end to the days of 512MB RAM devices and the associated app issues that go with them.
Poor camera hardware aside (and we'll look at the camera closer further on), there's a lot to like. The display is bright and colorful and it's pleasant to look at. More so than the Lumia 530, which it'd be easy to say this replaces as the entry level choice.
And with microSD card support up to 128GB, you can have a Lumia 435 with more total storage than Apple's most expensive iPhone. Oh yeah.
Software - Lumia Denim
There's no Lumia Camera 5 to be had here, but it's still important to note that the Lumia 435 launches on the latest Denim firmware from Microsoft. Besides under the hood improvements over previous versions, Denim brings forward facing features like Live Folders and of course, Cortana (in supported regions.)
If you want to know more about Lumia Denim or Cortana, check out the handy links below.
With relatively low end hardware, how is the software performance? As you'd expect from Windows Phone, it's very good. You won't be playing any super graphically intense games at their best, but largely everything works pretty well. You can play some of those games at reduced frame rates, but it's not the experience you'll get on something with more horsepower. A good example is Vector Unit's Shine Runner. On higher end hardware you get some really slick water splashes and effects, which you just don't on the Lumia 435. But you can still play the game, and pretty smoothly at that.
The Lumia 435 doesn't seem to slow down much, either, when you're flipping between apps, or have a whole bunch of live tiles on the go. It's testament to Windows Phone that it runs this well on low-end hardware.
Mobile photography fans need not apply, since the Lumia 435 isn't going to scratch that itch. With just a 2MP rear shooter with no flash and fixed focus, to call it average would be polite, even given the entry-level target.
The best thing we can say about it is that it's there. The Lumia Camera application is far too intense for a phone such as this, but with perseverance you can shoot something semi-respectable. It's not the worst camera in the world, but working with fixed focus is pretty tough. Being able to change a few basic setting does help, though.
But ultimately with so many good cameras in the Lumia range to choose from on both current and past models, if the camera is important you'll still be better served elsewhere.
Here's a few sample shots:
There is also a front facing camera, a leg up on the likes of the Lumia 530 and even the 630. It's very low resolution, though, and the image and video quality follows suit. But it's better than not having one at all.
Other points worth noting
- Battery life: You should just about make it through the day even though it's a pretty small 1560mAh. Strangely, even on Wifi all day, the Lumia 435 drained its power pack much quicker than other Windows Phones like the Lumia 635. But, it's also replaceable. So if you're going to be hammering it you've always got the ability to swap out for a fresh one instead of having to carry a USB battery pack.
- Dual-SIM: There will be single SIM versions available in markets such as the UK, but the one we've reviewed (from Vietnam, if you're interested) supports dual-SIM. Not uncommon, and welcomed in markets where this is an important spec.
- The speaker on the back may be small, but it's certainly loud. It's not the best quality sound you'll ever hear, but you will hear it.
- The Lumia 532: It's worth mentioning that the Lumia 435 and Lumia 532 are in many ways the same phone. The biggest differences are the quad-core CPU and 5MP camera on the Lumia 532. But the design and most of the hardware is the same across both.
- Expect the Lumia 435 to hit Europe in March, with an official U.S. launch as yet unconfirmed.
- Since the original hands-on we've been offered a pro tip to get the back cover off. It's still pretty awkward, but prising it off around the top and then pushing in on the camera seems to have slightly better results.
The bottom line
If all you want is a cheap, capable Windows Phone and price is the most important thing, the Lumia 435 will suit you well. It's a fun little phone that's well built, compact and won't break the bank. There are trade-offs whenever you buy a budget device and in this case it's the camera. But you do get a full 1GB of RAM, which is probably more important on a device of this type right now.
But the Lumia 435 is also a great advert for Windows Phone as a platform. Hardware restrictions aside, it'll provide the same software experience as its bigger, more powerful siblings. It's every bit as smooth as a Windows Phone costing more than twice as much in every day use.
And of course, it'll also get Windows 10 later this year. The Lumia 435 is setting a new bar for the entry level Windows Phone, and it's done pretty well for itself.