Nokia Lumia 735 Review: The Selfie Smartphone Is The Cameraphone For The Social Media Generation

Add in Nokia’s ClearBlack technology which enhances the deepness of the OLED screen while creating more vibrancy in the colours through the using of reflective and polarizing layers in the screen construction and you have a screen that is unsurpassed at this price point. It’s even strong enough to stay readable in bright sunlight. The screen really is one of the best parts of this mid-range handset.

I’m more worried about the 8 GB of storage. Windows Phone 8.1 needs a shade over 4 GB of storage to be installed and run effectively. Put aside another 1 GB or so for the extra ‘Nokia’ applications such as Here Maps and Mix Radio, and there’s not a lot of space left for the user. Windows Phone 8.1 does allow you to install applications to a microSD card, and with some of the larger games requiring three times the distributed file size to install successfully that’s not going to be enough storage space for most users. A microSD card is an almost absolute requirement if you are expecting to make use of the Lumia 735 for third-party apps, store music and video, or take a significant volume of photos and videos.

I know there needs to be some product differentiation, but the Lumia 735 would be a much more rounded machine if it had 16 GB of storage out of the box. Nokia had a long history of cutting specifications right to the bone, and sometimes beyond. It looks like that instinct is alive and well in Redmond.

Smile For The Smartphone

Rather than try to promote this handset as the best mid-range smartphone out there, the PR team has decided that the Lumia 735 will be ‘the Selfie phone’. Remember when I talked about niche marketing? In a case of ‘I’ll know it when I see it’, this is niche marketing done well.

What makes a smartphone a selfie phone? The first is good hardware, the second is built-in software optimising the experience, and the final area is the third-party apps and services scene. The Lumia 735 scores well in two of these categories.

Lumia 735 (picture: Ewan Spence)

Lumia 735 (picture: Ewan Spence)

The forward facing ‘selfie’ camera on the Lumia 735 is one of the best forward-facing cameras in the business. It’s a five megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens (at f/2.4), and it captures far more of a scene than the forward facing camera of any other leading smartphone. I’d go so far as to say that it rivals the rear camera on smartphones at a similar price. Alongside the physical capabilities of the camera, the wealth of imaging experience in the Nokia team means the raw image receives just the right amount of edge and color processing. There’s a lot of processing going on, and the images (from both cameras) lean heavily towards the heavy saturation favored by smartphone imagery (rather than a more natural muted look). Purists will want to tweak the images but for social media sharing and personal memories both of the 735 cameras are up to the task.

Software wise Nokia’s highly configurable camera software is available. As well as an automatic mode, you can use the manual options to set your white balance, ISO speed, shutter speed, and exposure. These can all be accessed with a single finger, but the width of the Lumia 735 means that using the thumb to change these settings in a one-handed hold is difficult for me. There’s too much of a stretch, and the ball of my hand brushes the bottom-left of the screen.

But it’s the ‘Lumia Selfie’ app that deserves attention. This is an updated version of Nokia’s Glam Me application. It strips out all the settings (apart from the flash) so taking a picture is not a complicated process. Just point, and shoot. The expected filters and cropping happen after the snap.

Obviously the forward facing camera has the screen as a viewfinder, but if you switch to the rear camera, then the Lumia 735?s facial recognition software kicks in. When the app detects a face, a series of beeps will alert you that the framing is on a face. Hold the smartphone steady and a higher pitched set of tones will let you know the picture is about to be taken. It’s a nice touch and works well. Expect with the 735, I can’t see why you would want to use the rear camera when the selfie camera is so strong and capable.

forbes_lumia735_03

Sadly, the Lumia 735 is missing a dedicated camera button, which seems an oversight given the marketing Angle of the phone. This is mitigated by adding ‘Camera’ as one of the four quick-launch app icons in the notifications screen, but it’s a poor substitute for squeezing the camera button to open the app and take a picture that is possible on other Lumia handsets.

The final element is getting the selfie out of the camera. Both the main camera app and the Lumia Selfie app integrate with the Windows Phone sharing menu, and of course the image can be saved so third-party apps such as Facebook and Instagram can upload the image.

Listen Very Carefully

Of course all this functionality at the price point of the Lumia 735 requires some compromise and savings, and I think the audio hardware is the side of the 735 which saves some money. While I have no issues with the sound reproduction through the headphone socket, for listening to music in a room (or going hands free with a speakerphone) the mono speaker lacks power to really occupy a significant space.