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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  • cashnmillions - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    I have the 635 after having an HTC DNA and then a Google Nexus 5. So far the phone has grown on me, there are definitely fewer features than some of those Android phones. Win Phone 8.1 takes a bit getting used to. It is simple though and runs pretty smooth. The thing I probably like the most is the size and feel of the phone when you hold it. I will probably switch back to android though in the next year and probably will get a compact or mini version of one of the bigger phones like the Xperia Z1 or S5.
  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    A lot of the mini versions are gimped in terms of specs. Sony is usually better about that than most. Nokia has some good small phones that are higher end than the 6xx series. There's also talk of a 1520 V (smaller version) that might be good those those looking for something compact. Personally I'd be more interested in the 1820.
  • kyuu - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Thanks for the review, Brett. It's great to see real Windows Phone coverage return to Ars. I only wish there were some flagship phones to review. Newest one is the Lumia 930, and that's not even available in the US market.

    Oh how I wish they'd release a successor to the 1020. Hell, they could use the exact same camera module and it'd still be a winner. Just modernize the rest of the phone and address the 1020's chief shortcomings (white balance problems and lack of mSD).
  • Gunbuster - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    The really bizarre thing is they have done a ton of marketing for the 1020 in the past few weeks. It's like no one told them the phone has been out for over 6 months and is soon to be discontinued...
  • skiboysteve - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    return to ars?
  • kyuu - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    Yes...? Unless my memory is completely out of whack (which isn't a possibility I ever discount), Ars hasn't had any real reviews of Windows Phone hardware/software since the initial review of WP8 and the HTC 8X. Note that pipeline articles don't fall under my definition of "real reviews".
  • noblemo - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    This is AnandTech.
  • hahmed330 - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    This is a downgrade from nearly every aspect... Rather cough up 20$ extra buy a Moto G and not be this cheap... Only thing good I can say is well great review
  • VengenceIsMine - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    In spite of the #, this isn't really a sequel to the 620, significantly lower price point. If this thing was at $150 or better $129 then it's a solid phone for the $ but it's currently overpriced. I expect it to drop soon much like the 520 did, that thing came out at $129 but was under $99 within 3 months of release practically everywhere & often below that.

    512mb is definitely the weak point in this phone, kind of unforgivable and short sighted, hopefully now that MS has control they will but a stop to the 512 mb madness. Screen res is ok and performance is actually pretty good for the price point and Lumias are generally pretty well built vs competition in these cheaper market segments.

    Microsoft has to wake up and stop paying $ for Qualcomm in this market segment & get onboard with a cheaper SOC like MediaTek and spend the $ on ambient light sensor and extra RAM.
  • jimjamjamie - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    I thought the 630 was a pretty conservative configuration for Nokisoft. If you compare it to the Nokia X2, the X2 beats it soundly and for a better price. Funnily enough it's only for select markets.

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