Review: Nokia Lumia 635

It's not the cheapest Windows Phone you can buy, but it might just be our favorite in the affordable category. Here's why.

The Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 were announced by Nokia during the Microsoft Build 2014 keynote. These two smartphones were among the first in the world to come with Windows Phone 8.1 and the Lumia Cyan firmware out of the box. In the Lumia lineup, the 63X series sits above the Lumia 530 and potentially represents a tremendous smartphone value. In the United States, you can get the Lumia 635 for anywhere from $100 to $140 off-contract. That's a killer price.

We recently reviewed the Lumia 530, a Windows Phone you can get for just $70. While it makes a handful of compromises, you can't ignore how cheap it is. Is it worth spending a little bit more and getting the Lumia 635? Let's find out.

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Great display for the price. Widespread availability. Good design. Backs can be swapped at will.Relatively low storage space, no front-facing camera, no dedicated camera button.
Not the cheapest Lumia, but our favorite in the low-end range. Overall solid Windows Phone that only makes a few sacrifices to be so affordable.

What's the difference between the Lumia 630 and Lumia 635?

The Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 are the same for all intents and purposes. The difference? The Lumia 630 can support up to two SIM cards at once. A feature very useful in emerging markets where a user might switch cell providers for lower prices or when they wish to use their phone for personal and business calls. The Lumia 635 comes with the ability to only support one SIM card, but is LTE-enabled, which the Lumia 630 is not. For our review, we're looking at the Lumia 635, but everything said here will apply to the Lumia 630 as well. From here on out we'll just call refer to the device as the Lumia 635. Enough chit chat, let's find out what the Lumia 635 is all about.


The Lumia 635 is an attractive looking phone. Its 4.5-inch display means it's comfortable to hold for the majority of people. It's not too big and not too small. Think of 4.5-inch devices as the Goldilocks of phone size. It's curved corners, slightly curved back, and bright colors make for a phone we can't stop admiring.

Not only does it look great but it feels good in your hand. The rear shell comes in a variety of colors and finishes. We're using a bright green with a matte finish. Despite the cover being plastic, it's not slippery and won't be jumping out of your hand anytime soon. Other colors you can get for the Lumia 635 include yellow, orange, black and white either in matte or the shiny 'candy' versions (seen here in yellow).

You're not spending a lot of money when you buy a Lumia 635, but easily get more than you pay for when you hold it in your hands.


The Lumia 635 is an inexpensive Windows Phone, but it's not exactly cheap on specs. Below are the specs for Lumia 635, run through them and make sure you keep in mind this phone can be yours for around $100 off-contract.

  • Windows Phone 8.1 + Lumia Cyan
  • 4.5-inch IPS LCD display with ClearBlack and Gorilla Glass 3
  • 854 x 480 display resolution (800 x 480 + virtual keys)
  • 1.2 GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor
  • 5 MP rear camera, no LED flash
  • 8 GB internal memory (3.33 GB free); microSD expandable up to 128 GB
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 4G LTE
  • 1830 mAh replaceable battery
  • 5 x 66.7 x 9.2 mm
  • 134 grams

The Lumia 635 comes with the Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor and 512 MB of RAM. In terms of performance that means the Lumia 635 can easily handle the majority of apps and games in the Windows Phone Store. We fired up some demanding games, like Age of Empires: Castle Siege, and had no trouble playing on the Lumia 635.

If you get the Lumia 635 and you also pickup support for SensorCore since the Snapdragon 400 processor is inside. SensorCore is useful for allowing your Windows Phone to collect motion data with minimal impact on battery. Your steps, motion, GPS data and time can be continuously recorded to your phone without destroying your battery. For instance, you can use the official FitBit app to count your steps even if you do not own a FitBit device.

We're smitten with the display on the Lumia 635. The Lumia 635 is a budget phone, but Microsoft was able to include their ClearBlack technology into the display. This feature allows the 4.5-inch IPS LCD to offer improved readability outdoors. ClearBlack also works to make blacks darker and colors pop a bit more. This isn't a high-end phone, but we have no problem looking at the screen on the Lumia 635 for long periods of time.

The resolution of the screen ends up being a usable 800 x 480 as the 54 pixels on the bottom are reserved for the virtual back key, Windows key, and Cortana key. The resolution and display size work together to make a viewing pleasant viewing experience. You won't see any pixels unless you actively try and look for them.

This is a budget device, so you don't get a whole lot of storage right out of the box. There's 8 GB of included storage with the Lumia 635, but only about 3.33 GB of that is free since things like the operating system take up space. Thankfully there's support for one micro SD card up to 128 GB in size. Although you don't get a lot of built-in storage when you boot up your phone for the first time, you can quickly add as much as you want with a micro SD card (purchased separately). Music, video, photos and most apps and games can be installed directly to the micro SD card.

Some misses in the hardware department include omission of a few sensors. The Lumia 635 comes with no proximity sensor and no ambient light sensor. What are these sensors primarily used for? The proximity sensor is useful for telling your phone how close it is to your face during a phone call. Meanwhile, the ambient light sensor allows your phone to adjust screen brightness automatically depending on the light in your environment. This lack of ambient light sensor just means you'll need to adjust the screen brightness manually on the Lumia 635. Not a major loss.

We are missing the dedicated camera button on the side and a front-facing camera. You won't be taking selfies with the Lumia 635 unless you turn the phone around to use the rear camera. We can do without the hardware button on the Lumia 635, but wish there was a front-facing camera included. While we hardly use it, we know it's a feature that could easily make the Lumia 635 most appealing budget Windows Phone for younger demographics. Those who take a lot of selfies might want to look at the Lumia 730.

Nokia though has somewhat solved the selfie problem as you can download their free Lumia Selfie app from the Store. This app lets you use the rear camera to take self-shots, and it uses an auto-face detection algorithm with an audible alert to snap a photo for you. It is a highly clever app, and you can get some exquisite photos since you are a using a 5 MP camera.


You get a 5 MP rear camera with the Lumia 635. It features auto focus, 4x digital zoom and a minimum focus length of 10 cm (3.97 inches). There's no flash, so don't count on using the camera in low-light situations. Camera results are average and won't necessarily blow you away. This is a budget device with a budget camera. You can take respectable pictures and post them to your social networks, but don't expect technically beautiful photos.

Below are a few camera samples from the Lumia 635.

Battery life

Inside the Lumia 635 is a modest 1830 mAh battery. It's replaceable, and you can carry a spare if you're worried about running out of juice. But you most likely won't need to carry an extra battery around. We were able to squeeze a full day's worth of use with the Lumia 635 easily. You should have no problem getting through your day of phone.

Where to buy

You can now find the Lumia 635 (and Lumia 630) in most international markets. We'll link up a few places where you can get the Lumia 635. Price will vary by retailer and region.

Accessories for the Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 can be found in the Windows Central Store:

The bottom line

The Lumia 635 might be one of our favorite budget Windows Phones around. It's not as cheap as the Lumia 530 or BLU Win JR, but the display quickly makes up for the price difference. Do consider the Lumia 530 or BLU Win JR if your budget is tight, however we recommend the Lumia 630 over the two if you can afford it.

Already have a high-end Windows Phone like the HTC One M8 or Lumia 1520? The Lumia 635 makes an excellent back-up phone in case your primary device takes a nasty spill. We're also a fan of bringing the Lumia 635 to places we normally wouldn't want to bring our expensive Windows Phone. Places like the gym, or mountain biking are where you might want to grab a Lumia 635 as a secondary Windows Phone.

Is the Lumia 635 a low-price winner? Yes. You get an attractive Windows Phone with enough money left over to buy some lovely accessories, apps and games.

Need even more information? Dive into our Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 support forums to ask current owners what they think of their phone.

Sam Sabri