With the introduction of the Lumia 630 and 635 models, we have our first look at the next generation of low cost Windows Phone devices, and the Lumia 630 is a phone with many firsts for this segment. It’s the first phone launched with Windows Phone 8.1 from any manufacturer. It’s also the first phone released after the acquisition of Nokia by Microsoft, though the phone was announced at BUILD prior to the final paperwork was completed on the acquisition. This is the first Windows Phone ever with an optional Dual SIM model. This is also the first Windows Phone which incorporates a SensorCore branded pedometer. It’s the first Windows Phone which replaces the hardware back, home, and search keys with on-screen equivalents, and unfortunately it’s the first Windows Phone which is lacking a hardware camera button, ambient light sensor, and proximity sensor. This is definitely a device of firsts for Windows Phone, but not all of the firsts are good news.

Last year, Nokia released the Lumia 520 and to say that this one device changed the Windows Phone landscape forever would be an understatement. Microsoft was trying very hard to try and capture some of the high end smartphone segment, but with a smaller app store and generally lower specifications than competing devices running Android or iOS, it was a tough sell. Suddenly Nokia released a device which was a capable smartphone and could be had for a low price – often less than $100 off contract. At the time, competing Android phones in that segment would often be running very old versions of Android, have very low specifications, or both, and of course Apple doesn’t play in this segment. Within a single year, the Lumia 520 accounted for over 30% of all Windows Phone devices.

Clearly the high volume for Windows Phone was the low cost, off contract devices. Though Nokia (now Microsoft) still continues to make and sell higher end devices such as the Lumia Icon (930) and 1520 phablet, the low end of the market is where the volume is, and many of the changes to Windows Phone over the last year have been to help drive down costs of the devices by removing the requirements for certain sensors, hardware buttons, and creating a reference platform with Qualcomm to allow ODMs to easily create Windows Phone devices. We are seeing the same thing happening with Android as well, with the low cost segment practically ignored by all OEMs until Motorola launched the Moto G which is a capable smartphone for a budget price, and now with the Moto E they are aiming even lower. The Lumia 520 is still a capable competitor at a low price, but the landscape has changed in the past year, and good enough is no longer enough.

By name, the Lumia 630 is the successor to the Lumia 620. But truly it is a successor to the Lumia 520, as the Lumia 620 still outdoes both the 520 and 630 in features.

Low End Lumias
  Nokia Lumia 520 Nokia Lumia 620 Nokia Lumia 625 Nokia Lumia 630
Display Size 4.0" 3.8" 4.7" 4.5"
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus
MSM8227 Krait Dual-Core 1.0 GHz
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus
MSM8227 Krait Dual-Core 1.0 GHz
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus
MSM8930 Krait Dual-Core 1.2 GHz
Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
MSM8226 Cortex A7 Quad-Core 1.2 GHz
RAM/NAND 512 MB / 8 GB + MicroSD 512 MB / 8 GB + MicroSD 512 MB / 8 GB + MicroSD 512 MB / 8 GB + MicroSD
Cellular Connectivity HSPA+ 21.1 Mbps HSPA+ 21.1 Mbps LTE Cat 3 100 Mbps HSPA+ 21.1 Mbps
Corning Gorilla Glass No No Yes (GG2) Yes (GG3)
Clear Black No Yes No Yes
Glance Screen No Yes No No
Front Facing Camera No Yes Yes No
Rear LED Flash No Yes Yes No
Near Field Communication No Yes No No
Sensors Ambient Light Sensor
Proximity Sensor
Ambient Light Sensor
Proximity Sensor
Ambient Light Sensor
Proximity Sensor
Sensor Core

The 630 loses a lot of features over the Lumia 620 in an effort to hit an even lower price point than the 620 did. It keeps the ClearBlack display (more on that later) but loses practically everything else. The Front Facing Camera is gone, the rear LED flash is no more. Near Field Communication (NFC) was in the 620, but is no longer in the 630. In fact, as seen in the above chart, the 630 even loses out over the 520 with the lack of proximity sensor, and more importantly the ambient light sensor. All of this was an effort to keep the Bill of Materials down to allow the device to be sold for a lower price, and on that front they did do well with the Lumia 630 having an off-contract price of around $160, compared to the Lumia 620 which was about $240 when it launched.

The biggest omission in my opinion though is the lack of Glance Screen support. For those that haven’t used a Lumia with Glance, it arrived last year with the “Amber” firmware update, and first debuted on the Lumia 925. It’s been updated several times, and the most current version of Glance is simply fantastic. With Windows Phone market share not being very high, it’s probably a good idea to go over Glance. The Glance screen is simply the phone displaying some information on the display when the device is powered off.

Lumia 620 Glance (left) vs Lumia 1020 OLED Glance (center) vs Lumia 630 no Glance (right)

With all versions of Glance, the clock and several phone settings such as vibrate or charging would be displayed on the screen. With updates to the firmware, other features soon came such as the ability to display lock screen notifications on the glance screen as well, so you can tell if you’ve missed calls, texts, or other notifications with the device off. With the last update to glance, the detailed lock screen notification for Windows Phone (in my case, my next appointment in the calendar) will briefly appear on the Glance screen when you either turn off the phone, or if the phone senses your hand over the phone. The detailed info goes away at the first Glance refresh to keep the power consumption down. You can optionally enable Glance periodically at an interval, or with a peek mode where it will only enable Glance when it senses your hand over the display.

Glance works by utilizing panel self-refresh to be able to display some items with the display off. This feature is better with AMOLED displays, because they can display a small amount of white text with minimal power draw, but even so Nokia has made the Glance screen optional on LCD equipped devices as well, including the Lumia 620. As for why it’s missing, as with everything it comes down to cost. The Lumia Icon (930) is also missing Glance because Nokia couldn’t source a panel with memory for a reasonable price, but the 630 has the added caveat of not including either ambient light or proximity sensors to disable Glance when the phone is in your pocket. We're not sure if the 630 display includes memory or not but it could certainly be a contributing factor to it being unavailable on this model.

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  • kspirit - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Incredibly detailed and excellent as usual. Thanks for all the info. I'm glad you clarified why the 930 doesn't have Glance. It confused me, because I thought it was something MS was killing off with WP8.1. Good to know that's not the case.
  • kspirit - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Another thing I'd like to add is that the 630's display is not "real" ClearBlack. I have seen and owned devices with those, and my father has a 630, and this is most certainly NOT a CBD. It's marketed as such but there is no polarizer.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    "But again the storage of only 8 GB is no problem at all due to the included microSD card being able to add another 128 GB if needed, and Windows Phone 8.1 supports SD cards better than any other mobile OS."

    Having ran into one major performance problem with using the SD slot on my WP8/8.1 phone, I don't know how true this is in general. Earlier this year I bought a 520 to play around with WP8 and to use as a music player when the risk of breaking it was high enough that I didn't want anything expensive.

    My music collection is currently ~60GB/11,000 tracks so I figured that with a 64GB uSD card (class 10) I'd be able to load everything on the sdcard and be good to go. Unfortunately I found that wasn't the case. I often shuffle over my entire music collection instead of drilling down to a specific artist/album. This turned out to be a major problem on my 520.

    With the original WP8.0 install attempting to do so froze the phone completely for between 5 and 15 minutes before returning to normal operation mode (at this point everything worked perfectly unless I restarted the phone or changed to a short playlist and then tried to go back to the long one). This problem affected XBox Music, Nokia Music and a few free players I found so it appears to be OS related. I tried upgrading to the developer preview build of WP8.1. This fixed the total phone lockup, but gave a new problem. With the giant playlist there is an ~30s delay between pressing next/previous song and the song being played changing.

    With both OS versions this wasn't a problem with small play lists on the SD card or when playing back from internal flash (limited to shorter play lists due to lack of space).

    I don't know if this is a problem with the SD implementation in particular, I'm using a class10 card so my card itself shouldn't be the problem, or due to the total size of the playlist swamping the CPU somewhere. I haven't tried filling the card up most of the way with images or video to see how well those apps behave; but this has left me rather skeptical of WP8's ability to effectively use a large SD card to replace internal storage.
  • silverblue - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    I'm not sure but it may be scanning all your music upon starting the app.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    I don't think so. The app launches as quickly as anything else on the phone does, and WP8 refuses to identify music/etc unless synced using an official app (vs just copied via explorer); and lists everything in the various category based lists (artist/genre/etc). The genre/etc based lists aren't possible without a full index already existing since (unlike artist) they can't be inferred from the file system.

    In 8.0, it was clearly doing some sort of pre-processing step before starting playback (but completely freezing the phone to the point of even hardware buttons being non-responsive is totally unacceptable); 8.1 doesn't do that, but has a major runtime performance problem as a result.
  • Kit Y - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    DanNeely is definitely right on this issue, Windows Phone 8.1 removed the on board music and videos to Xbox Music/Video that is separated from the core platform to allow more timely updates to the music player.

    However, the current music player do suffer from a lot of bugs and slowdown as reported on r/WindowsPhone quite often and major compliant of many uses.

    If I had the choice to make decision to balance cost and the features, I would forgo 4GBs of on board storage in exchange of ambient light sensor and 1GB of RAM, GG3 for Glance Screen and perhaps rename it to 530 as it seems to be a lot more appropriate given it's limitations and the similar launch price of 520 which we should see it to be drop to under $100 in many markets.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    I haven't tried any 3rd party players with 8.1; do you know if the architectural changes provide any scope for 3rd party players to preform better than Microsoft's?
  • althaz - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    The music app is currently being updated pretty regularly and is a LOT better today than it was a month ago.

    That said, there's plenty of scope for a developer to make a much faster app - I'm working on one at the moment. My plan is to make something pretty limited, but I would personally prefer a very basic app that's fast over one that is fully featured but slower.
  • skiboysteve - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    the latest version of xbox music on WP8.1 resolves this exact issue. it now no longer scans for entire folders for music file changes every start up... it must use some indexing thing now. It also does scanning and updating in background if you're on wifi and plugged in
  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Yeah they've been making some improvements on the latest updates. Overall the memory card support in WP 8.1 is great.

    As far as "Class 10" goes... it's almost a meaningless label. Even having a UHS-I rated card doesn't really tell you much. Unless you have read/write and IOPs figures for the memory card in question, it might as well be labeled "random flash card that I hope doesn't blow". I have an ADATA UHS-I microSD card that is rated at 1400/100 IOPs random read/write. Most card manufacturers don't even release those specs because they are so bad.

    I really hope UHS-II picks up steam and they start releasing mSD variants and devices that support it. I've seen some UHS-II SD cards with IOPs twice as high as my card or better.

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