Introduction

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
Accelerometer
Proximity Sensor
Ambient Light Sensor
Accelerometer
Proximity Sensor
Ambient Light Sensor
Accelerometer
Magnetometer
Proximity Sensor
Accelerometer
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.

Hardware
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  • James5mith - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Glance/Peek does not work on AMOLED screens properly. Either the design of the software is flawed, or the design of the driver (hardware or software) for the screen is flawed.

    Use the Glance funciton on the 1020 in a pitch black room. For the first fraction of a second, you see just the information displayed, as you would expect to on an AMOLED screen capable of only lighting up the pixels needed. But wait! after that first fraction of a second, the phone turns on the entire display to a dull, low-output greyish black. Why does it do this? No clue, I've asked Nokia several times, and never gotten a response. My guess is that they programmed the Glance function to work with LCD displays, so it's sending information to turn on the entire display, even when it's not needed.
    Reply
  • Memristor - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    The screen used on the Lumia 630 lacks ‘display memory’. In order for Glance to work, it needs display memory to maintain the information presented by the program. Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    "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"
    WTF is this crap? This crazy matrix of products, where nothing is clearly superior to anything else is what killed the Japanese CE companies, and MS-Nokia seems determined to follow their lead.

    Have we learned NOTHING from the past 20 years?
    You sell ONE product line, with good, better, best exemplars.
    If there is a compelling reason to do so (consumer vs pro, for example) you make that split clear, and and again offer good, better, best exemplars.

    You certainly don't offer this crazy quilt of better here, worse there crap --- not unless you want half your potential buyers to look at the product matrix, say "fsck this, I'll think about it tomorrow", and never reconsider you again.
    Reply
  • Brett Howse - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    To be fair we're comparing it to last year's offerings. The 620 has more features, but is no longer available.

    Generally Nokia has done a good job of improving devices from 520->620->7... and up.

    It appears they are changing the starting point for this round though with the 630 being lower end than the 620 last year, and having a lower price to match.
    Reply
  • xomiuser - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    I been using the 630/635 with dual SIM since i bought it in may. I am impressed the way 8.1 fully support dual SIM and very easy let you change what SIM card is the data trafic sim card. Both SIM are active on all time, one card is data gateway. For me it helps traveling and i keep my home SIM on while able to use local 3G CIM card where i am. small complain from me that the phone have preloaded location software, for me it means i have Thailand news and TV apps that i dont use much-- good review Reply
  • BMNify - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    You can uninstall any app(even Nokia preinstalled apps) easily on windows phone unlike Android, so just uninstall the apps which you don't use. Just go to App list and long-press on the app you want to uninstall. Reply
  • sprockkets - Friday, July 25, 2014 - link

    You can uninstall any app on android as well. That's been the case since 2011 with the debut of 4.0. Reply
  • BMNify - Friday, August 1, 2014 - link

    Don't lie, i am using Galaxy Tab 3 with 4.2.2 and there are many preinstalled apps which can't be uninstalled. Reply
  • Memristor - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    "As a successor to the 520". I don't think that's correct. Today an image was shown from a Vietnam retailer that shows a Lumia 530, which seems to be the replacement for the 520. So it looks more like the 630 is an all new model that doesn't replace anything, certainly not the 620. Reply
  • Brett Howse - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Until we see more of the products we can't know for certain, but it appears they are resetting the bar for this round, with the 630 being roughly equivalent to the 520, and it is priced similarly to the 520 when it came out as well.

    But we need more data to make an analysis.
    Reply

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