The Lumia 735 isn’t just Nokia’s mid-range Windows handset; it’s also the company’s dedicated selfie phone, with a wide-angle, 5-megapixel front-facing camera. This is a big step-up from the usual one or two megapixel front-facing sensors on other similarly priced phones, and the wide-angle lens really helps fit a lot more faces into the viewfinder.
The quality isn’t bad either, with a reasonable amount of detail on show in our test shots and accurate colours. It didn’t cope so well in lower-lighting conditions, though, and there was a lot more noise present in faces located toward the outer edges of the frame. This made anyone on the fringes of each shot look much hazier than those near the front, but this isn’t really a problem if you’re mainly going to be uploading your photos to social media.
^ Apologies for this, but the wide angle 5-megapixel camera does allow for some epic selfies
We were impressed with the Lumia 735’s 6.7-megapixel rear camera as well. It doesn’t have the Lumia 830 and 930’s PureView technology, but the Zeiss optics did a great job of eliminating any extra noise when shooting outdoors. It’s clear there’s some smoothening going on when viewing photos at their native resolution, but on the whole it took very pleasing pictures and colours looked far more natural and less over-saturated than those we took on the Lumia 830.
However, the Lumia 735’s biggest draw is arguably its gorgeous 4.7in 1,280×720 OLED display. The only other Lumia phone to have an OLED screen this year is the Lumia 930, which is more than double the price of the Lumia 735, so it’s great to see one here on a phone under £200. As we’d expect from an OLED screen, colour accuracy was outstanding, as our colour calibrator showed it was covering a perfect 100 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut. Likewise, blacks were truly black at 0.00cd/m2, giving text a much crisper, cleaner look that made it easier to read. It also means that any black backgrounds blend seamlessly into the phone’s bezels, giving it a premium look that could rival any high-end smartphone.
Admittedly, the screen isn’t as bright as phones with LCD panels, but our peak brightness measurement of 305.47cd/m2 gave colours plenty of punch and we could still see the screen clearly when using it outside in the sunshine. It can make taking photos a bit tricky, especially when you’re photographing areas of dark shadow and have the sun behind you, but this shouldn’t be an issue unless you live in a particularly sunny part of the UK.
One thing you don’t need to worry about is the phone’s contrast levels, as this was so high our colour calibrator couldn’t even give us a score. In practical terms, this means you’ll be able to see the screen clearly from even the most acute viewing angles, which is great news for anyone who wants to take advantage of the phone’s Driving Mode or use the Here Drive+ app as an impromptu sat-nav in your car.
Speak to me, Chief
Driving mode turns off all notifications except for calls and texts (or nothing at all, if you prefer) when you connect the phone to a Bluetooth device in your car. You can also use Driving Mode to send automatic replies to anyone who tries to get in touch with you while you’re on the road so they know you’re busy.
It’s a similar idea to the Lumia 735’s Quiet Hours feature, which is set up through Cortana, Microsoft’s personal digital assistant app. With Quiet Hours, you can turn off all calls and notifications at set times of the day, such as when you’re at home in the evening or on weekend mornings. You can still let important contacts get through by adding them to your ‘inner circle’ so you won’t miss important messages from your close friends and family. Anyone who calls twice within three minutes will also be allowed through in case of an emergency, but you can also disable this feature if you prefer.
Meanwhile, Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Siri, and will search the web to answer questions and queries via voice control. It works reasonably well, but as we discovered with the Lumia 830, the UK beta of Cortana still has some way to go before it can match Siri. For instance, when we asked both assistants a list of questions at the same time to see how quickly and accurately they dealt with our requests, they were equally fast, but the usefulness of their answers varied greatly.
Simple questions such as “Where am I?” and “What’s the weather going to be like on Wednesday?” produced smart, personalised responses from both assistants, but ask Cortana “What’s the date today?”, and all you’ll get is a web search for “today’s date” rather than a straightforward answer like Siri.
Cortana struggled with more general questions as well. For instance, when we asked “What’s the latest celebrity news?”, Cortana just did a general search for “celebrity news” which turned up vague hub pages from Now Magazine and Top Celebrity Diary. Siri, on the other hand, gave us specific stories from newspaper sites such as the Daily Star and the Mirror, providing far more interesting results that we might actually want to read.
Siri was also more helpful at making appointments. For example, when we tried making a doctor’s appointment for “Tuesday morning”, Siri immediately asked us what time we’d like to make it for and then whether we’d like to schedule it. Cortana, meanwhile, defaults to 8am and trying to change the time is very long-winded, so we’d recommend keeping your commands as specific as possible.
Trying to change conflicting appointments with Cortana was also a bit of a hassle, as she’d only notify us of a conflict after she’d scheduled the second appointment in our calendar. Siri, on the other hand, immediately picked up the conflict and asked us what we’d like to do.
Cortana’s main strength was creating reminders, as she immediately asked us when and what time we’d like to be reminded about our request, whereas Siri just created the reminder and that was it. You’ll have to be careful in how your phrase your reminders and appointments, though, as neither assistant picked up conflicts between reminders and calendar appointments. There’s certainly room for improvement, then, but it’s important to remember that Cortana’s still in beta at the moment, so we’ll be keeping an eye on how it improves over the coming months.
In practice, the Lumia 735 coped well with every-day web-browsing, but some sections of image-heavy pages such as The Guardian’s desktop home site often appeared as simple blocks of white space when scrolling down the page. The images loaded fairly quickly, though, and it certainly didn’t feel slow or unresponsive when we were panning round the page.
Battery life was good, too, as it lasted an impressive 14 hours and 53 minutes in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to half brightness on the medium brightness profile setting. This is impressive for a phone of this price, and it beats every other Lumia phone we’ve tested this year by a considerable margin, lasting roughly three hours longer than the Lumia 630 and four hours longer than the Lumia 830.
With so many great features, the Nokia Lumia 735 is one of the best Lumia phones we’ve seen this year. It’s much better value than the £295 Lumia 830 and the phone’s beautiful OLED screen, superior camera and longer-lasting battery give it plenty of advantages over the Lumia 630. It wins a Best Buy award.