A Nokia Lumia 625 is sitting on my desk. You can’t miss it. The phone is bright orange. The kind of orange that would match a high visibility safety vest. It makes the phone hard to lose.
Once your eyes adjust, you realise the day-glo case isn’t the only thing that makes the Lumia 625 stand out: It has a big screen. The display is larger than any I’ve seen on a Windows Phone 8 device. It is a particularly large screen given the smartphone’s $500 price.
The display measures 4.7 inches diagonally. That’s a little bigger than Nokia’s other smartphones. It compares with 4.5 inches on the $1150 Lumia 1020 and the $1000 Lumia 925.
The display is also bigger than the 4 inch screen sported by Apple’s $1050 iPhone 5S, although at 5 inches across the diagonal the $1000 Samsung S4 is larger.
Big screen, fewer pixels
The catch is the Lumia doesn’t have anything like as many pixels as those other phones: just 800 by 480. That’s roughly 200 pixels per inch which is a lower pixel density than you’ll find on more expensive smartphones. You can buy Android phones at roughly the same price as the Lumia 625 with a higher pixel density.
Giving the phone fewer pixels is not the only display compromise Nokia made to get the price of its phone below $500. Unlike Nokia’s more expensive Lumias, the 625 doesn’t have the ClearBlack technology that makes the screen easier to read in sunlight. And the colours are less saturated. They look relatively washed out compared with the Lumia 920 or 1020 displays.
Which in turn means photos don’t display as sharp, movies look a little blurry and text is not so beautifully presented.
Away from sunlight this is less of a problem than you might imagine. That’s because although there are fewer pixels to form characters on-screen, the slightly bigger size means text is still easy to read. It helps that Microsoft uses special fonts for Windows Phone 8 that are easy to read in all circumstances. You’ll find email and text-based apps are easy enough to read, poorly designed web pages can pose a problem.
An OK camera
It would be silly to put a high-resolution camera on a smartphone with a relatively low resolution screen. While Nokia didn’t drive all the way to the bargain basement for the 5 megapixel camera in the Lumia 625, there are no fancy optics like the more expensive Nokias.
So let’s spell this out before we go any further. If taking and viewing high quality still pictures and video are your thing, the Lumia 625 is not for you. Likewise if you expect to read a lot of text on screen or work outside in bright sunlight, it would be worth investing in a more expensive phone.
On the other hand, if you want an affordable modern smartphone that does all the important things to an acceptable standard, the Lumia 625 is a good choice. It does have two things going for it that sets it apart from the competition: decent software and 4G compatibility.
Nokia Lumia 625, a 4G handset for $500
Only a limited number of handsets work on the Vodafone and Telecom NZ 4G networks. If Nokia’s Lumia 625 isn’t the least expensive 4G handset in New Zealand, it is certainly a contender. That’s increasingly important now that Vodafone’s 4G network is reaching across the country and with Telecom NZ’s 4G network about to go live. I didn’t get to test the phone on 4G – although I will as soon as my 4G Sim arrives.
Whether you like the Windows Phone 8 software or not is partly a matter of taste and partly to do with how you plan to use a smartphone. I don’t aim to revisit the debates on these matters, but I want to make three points:
• First, Windows Phone 8 is a reliable and stable smartphone operating system. After an adjustment from whatever you used before, you’ll find things always work in a predictable and consistent way. In my book it is a better choice than Android for everyone except people who like to tinker with their software and settings.
• Second, If you use Windows computers or work for company that has a lot of Microsoft software, life will be relatively easy. The phone comes with a version of Office and connects to Skydrive where you can quickly get at files.
• Third, it’s true there are fewer third-party apps in the Windows Phone store than in Apple’s iTunes or the Google Play store. On the other hand, there are surprisingly few essential apps that are either missing or don’t have a reasonable alternative.
Inside the case you get 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Krait CPU and the Adreno 305 GPU. Unless you’re something of a smartphone geek, these are unlikely to mean much. What they tell me is there’s more than enough power to do most things you buy a smartphone for. It certainly doesn’t feel underpowered or slow – but that’s after only a few hours. I’ll revisit the Lumia 625 after spending more time with the device to talk about some of the practicalities of everyday use.
I like that the Nokia Lumia 625 has a slot for MicroSD memory – that’s a nice bonus. On the other hand, the Ram is a measly 512 MB, so I guess I won’t be doing much multitasking.
Finally, the case is, well, plastic with curves. It feels nice in the hand and while it is noticeably lighter than the Lumia 920, at 160g it is still fairly hefty for a modern smartphone.
Content Note: This post has been enabled by Telecom NZ , but the thoughts are my own. Scoop TechLab is a project of Scoop Independent Media www.scoop.co.nz. It is edited by Scoop Editor Alastair Thompson.