Although many have written off Windows Phone as irrelevant and incapable of challenging iOS and Android for market share, there is one corner of the market primed for Microsoft’s mobile OS: The low-mid end. Microsoft’s built something of a reputation for making its OS run smoothly on low-specced devices, giving consistent performance across the range of smartphones.
Right at the bottom of the market is the newest Lumia: The 435. They retail for less than £90 in the UK and can be found for $130 on Amazon. And for the money, it’s not a bad device.
Like most Lumias, the 435 contrasts a brightly colored, plastic rear shell with a black glass front. It makes it instantly recognizable as Lumia. Albeit a small, cheap one. That said, Microsoft deserves high praise for the premium feel of the 435. Although the back is plastic and removable, it feels sturdy, well-made. Like it’s meant to be part of the phone. It has a pleasant, smooth, matte finish which combines with the smallness and lightness to make a phone that’s incredibly comfortable in one palm.
Perhaps the only weakness with the rear shell’s design is the buttons on the right hand edge. They may be perfectly placed for reaching with a right thumb, but they don’t feel convincing to press. They click, but not in a reassured, solid way. More a plastic, cheap click like they might break if you press them too hard. There’s also the fact that the rear shell is difficult to remove. That could be a good thing, if you drop your phone regularly. It’s a bad thing if you’re a serial SIM-swapper.
Although the edges are flat and smooth, the rear does have an ergonomic curve towards the center. And its looks couldn’t be more minimalist. The only objects breaking the smooth orange surface are the solid and simple camera lens and speaker opening. Both perfectly centered to add that classy symmetrical finish we all instinctively love. It’s a little thicker than most phones at 11.7mm thin. But it’s thick in a cute way.
On the front, it’s just a flat piece of glass with rounded corners and the usual three capacitive buttons on the bottom.
In once sentence: It’s a small, comfortable, bright and easily pocketable smartphone.
To compare the 4-inch display to one from a flagship would be unfair. With any budget smartphone, the display is usually the area where costs need to be saved. And it’s true here. It’s a 480x800 resolution screen with a pixel density of just 233 ppi. But it’s still plenty sharp enough for a low end device.
I could pick faults with almost every aspect of the screen. Colors aren’t the most vivid, blacks are more gray, viewing angles and daylight visibility aren’t great either. But again, they won’t be so terrible as to make you regret spending the money.
Going in to more depth, it’s worth noting that colors actually aren’t all that bad when looking at the phone head-on. Particular hues like orange and red are surprisingly bright. But, turn the phone to any angle and everything fades. Orange becomes yellow, purple turns to pink. But it’s the display’s reflective nature that’s its weakest point. Even in relatively low light situations I found myself struggling to see the onscreen content because of a reflection.
And then there’s the expected low refresh-rate which manifests as slight stutter when sliding up and down lists, or between screens. It’s not much lag, but it’s not entirely smooth.
Basic smartphones only need cameras good enough for sharing photos across social networks, and the 435 is perfectly fine at that. The 2MP camera isn’t sharp, vivid or quick. Heck, it doesn’t even let you set the focus point when taking a picture. It’s a case of point and click. Very much like those old disposable cameras you used to get when going on camping vacations as a kid. And that’s okay. Just point and click, and the photo’s done. No having to think about anything. Just don’t go expecting professional finishes to any of you pics.
Performance and Battery Life
When you’re used to phones that respond instantly and load content quickly, it’s hard to then go back to a device which struggles to load even the most basic of things. And, while the device zips around the regular Windows Phone user interface without any issues, it’s when you need to download content and information where it struggles. Opening the Windows Phone app store, or browsing the web can be a sluggish experience. So much so, that I avoided downloading new apps whenever possible. It just wasn’t worth the seemingly endless wait. Saying that, touchscreen responsiveness is good, apart from the very slight stutter mentioned earlier.
Its low-end performance is no surprise really, given that it’s being powered by a Snapdragon 200 series, dual-core 1.2GHz chipset. Saying that, it has 1GB of RAM which should be plenty to make sure at least the basics are running smoothly and without fault.
Without being too critical, the 435’s performance is solid enough for a basic smartphone. And the same goes for the battery life. 1560mAh of power should be enough to get anyone through a day’s use. With it not having a high-res display, and no LTE, or quad-core chip to drain its power, it’s actually quite hardy.
Is this the best smartphone on the market? Definitely not. But, if you’re new to the market and want your very first smartphone, or a basic device for your child or children, you could do a lot worse than picking up a Lumia 435. It’s versatile, durable and performs well.