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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  • hughlle - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    It's a budget phone, with low specs. If the app store can determine that with 512mb of ram it will not be able to play certain games, why should it let you install it? It seems sensible to me that the store should stop you from wasting your time and possibly data allowance downloading something you can't play. Or do you believe it should ahve been spec'd so that it could play every game in the store? It's a budget phone, i'm not sure what you're finding unacceptable about this, and what has 2014 got to do with anything? I can buy a budget laptop that can't play titanfall, i can buy a budget tablet that can't play real racing. Is the issue solely that it will not let you install it, as opposed to just letting you install it to find it doesn't run?
  • Hrel - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    I want to upvote you.
  • ColinByers - Monday, September 29, 2014 - link

    Me too, this is a budget phone with a OS that's missing most of the really good apps. I recommend going for some of the top Android phones, it's worth the money. /Colin from
  • Malih - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    From what I know:

    - Phones are not laptops, the difference between cheap to game capable laptops is the CPU/GPU, but the only spec that halts game installation is RAM, the GPU/CPU will run most games just fine.

    - Furthermore even the Lumia 525 (which is also a budget phones, released after 625, before 630) started to include 1GB of RAM, but Microsoft seems to be retracting back to 512MB of RAM, puzzling.

    - Thus: a few more dollars (for 1GB of RAM) would enable better experience on this phone, but why aren't they doing that, I feel this is a silly and ancient strategy.
  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    I have a Lumia 525 and a 920.

    1Gb of Ram really should be the minimum across all Windows Phone devices these days, the light sensor too,
    It's one of my favorite features on my Lumia 920 as I'm outdoors allot, the screen brightens up and the contrast and gamma increases so that sunlight readability is a non-issue.

    However with that said, many games and apps which have a 1Gb Ram version also have a 512Mb version, a-la. - Spartan Assault, so for some users, having 512Mb of Ram is a non-issue.

    If we go farther back though to the Lumia 610 on Windows Phone 7.8... That also has a light sensor, which worked fantastically, just unfortunate that the phone due to having only 256Mb of Ram and a single core processor was slow.
  • codecore - Friday, July 25, 2014 - link

    I see that the Chinese versions of these (635 and 638) have 1GB. It'd be nice to get one of these if it were compat with US standards (LTE, etc).
  • Brett Howse - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Just to be clear I didn't say it was bad the store stops you from installing games you can't run.

    What's bad is it is 2014, and this phone has the same RAM as a Windows Phone 7 device from 2010.

    1 GB of RAM would open this device up to the entire Windows Phone store, so I can't see how that would be a bad thing.
  • bhima - Sunday, July 27, 2014 - link

    Its a budget phone yes... but its 2014. I DO expect a budget phone of almost $200 to play every game in the app store because, well, Motorola has already made a phone that can do just that for basically the same money in the Moto G.
  • Notso - Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - link

    I bought the 635 on newegg fo $90. For that price with no contract I think this is a great deal.
  • PsychoPif - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Great review!
    It's nice to see such a indepth review for a Windows phone. Keep up the good work.

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