Honest charm: the Ikea of the phone world
A week with... Nokia Lumia 625
What is it?
Probably one of the last additions to Nokia's Lumia range, a line of well-built smartphones sporting Microsoft's mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8. The brand's future is uncertain following this week's news that Microsoft has finally bought Nokia but, as close to 80 per cent of all Windows Phone sales have been on Nokia hardware, we can certainly expect very similar phones in the future.
This particular handset, the Lumia 625, is more of a budget option, with low-to-middling specs and a price to match. It does, however, come with 4G connectivity to offer superfast internet (see overleaf for more on 4G) and a 4.7-inch screen.
A 4.7-inch screen – is this one of those phablets?
Well, technically no as phablets are 5-inches and up, but the 625 does have the largest screen of any Lumia. Nokia seem to be going for cheap-and-colourful and it's worked surprisingly well. The phone's rounded sides mean it sits comfortably in the hand, and the physical buttons are all placed down one edge of the phone, meaning that there's never any stretching to lock the phone or change the volume.
Unfortunately in order to keep costs down, Nokia has really skimped on the screen, which has a fairly measly resolution and also skips on ClearBlack – a staple in more expensive Lumia handsets that offers striking colour contrast. The good news is that Windows Phone 8's minimalist user interface looks equally good on lower-quality screens. The OS's focus is on bright tiles and simple fonts, making it an actual pleasure to navigate, even at a 480 x 800 resolution.
Wait, this is a Windows Phone we're talking about right?
Yep. And playing with the OS on such low-end hardware shows why sales of Windows Phones are finally rising. The software has been optimised beautifully and feels fluid, even on the 625's paltry 512MBs of RAM. Sure, the phone won't be able to handle any 3D-intensive games and occasionally stutters running multiple apps, but it shows why Microsoft has been able to successfully target first time smartphone users by offering simple, cheap systems.
The problem lies in converting iOS and Android users. Despite its polish, the Windows phone is still flawed: the lack of a decent notification system leaves you continually flicking about to toggle Wi-Fi or just read your texts, and the app store still feels desolate. Big names such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are present, but there are notable absences (including Instagram and YouTube) and some home-grown staples just don't match up to the competition (maps being a prime example).
So is it worth getting or not?
If you're an Apple or Android power-user wedded to your chosen ecosystem, then the answer is no: Windows Phone has undeniable charm, but it's still unfinished.
However, if you've not tried a smartphone before or use yours only infrequently, then it might be worth checking out the 625 and the Lumia line in general. The handsets are cheap but they feel honest and durable – the Ikea of the smartphone world.
And besides, sometimes it's nice not to worry about dropping and breaking your phone – something Nokia has always been reassuring about.
Price: £179 on pay as you go or around £21 on contract
Screen: 4.7-inch, 480 x 800 resolution, 198ppi
Storage: 8GB, expandable up to 64GB with an SD card
Power: 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor
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