Software

The Lumia 630 is the first phone sold with Windows Phone 8.1. Unlike Android, OEMs can’t customize the actual user experience, so I’ll refer you to Anand’s Windows Phone 8.1 review for the whole story here. What OEMs can do though is add to the user experience with apps including custom camera launchers. This is also the first Lumia for sale with the “Cyan” firmware update, so let’s go through some of what this gives you as well as the Lumia apps.

I’ve already alluded to this in the display section, but the Lumia 630 is the first Lumia to offer a brightness slider, and in this case, three levels due to the lack of an ambient light sensor. The three sliders for low, medium, and high brightness have a slightly different scale, so maxing all three will still give a slightly different maximum brightness. It’s a big improvement over the previous choices of low, medium, high, and auto. In the same settings page, you can also adjust the display saturation and hue if it would so please you.

Being a Lumia, you also get access to the large number of Nokia apps which are generally quite good. Nokia also actively courted some developers, giving earlier access to the apps on Nokia devices. With the 630, you have access to all of these (assuming they don’t require 1 GB of memory of course) and some of the highlights I’ll break out below.

When Microsoft acquired Nokia’s smartphone business, the one thing they weren’t able to purchase outright was the HERE branded navigation information. They do retain rights to access it though, and HERE Maps, HERE Transit and HERE Drive+ are available out of the box on the Lumia 630. All are excellent apps with their own slant on how to display the information depending on the usage model. They also offer offline maps which is a bonus for anyone travelling and wanting to avoid roaming data costs but still have access to quality navigation.

Another app from Nokia is App Folder, which does exactly as you’d think. You can add multiple apps and settings to each folder, and then pin them to your home screen. Before Windows Phone 8.1 I used App Folder for quick access to certain settings such as Bluetooth, but now with the action center I find I don’t use it as much. Still, it adds a feature that’s currently missing from the OS and it works great.

The last Nokia app I’ll discuss is a rather unique one called Device Hub. Device Hub simply scans your network for all of the devices on it, and offers suggestions on apps to connect to each device. As an example, if it detects an Xbox One on your network, it will offer up SmartGlass. If it finds a device that you don’t have any installed apps for, it will display a list of options you can use with that device. When it found my A/V Receiver on my LAN, it recommended several DLNA apps. I think it’s a neat app, but my only issue with it is that it’s tucked away under Settings, rather than being an app available in the app list.

SensorCore

New to the platform is an integrated pedometer, and Nokia branded it SensorCore. It’s not the first smartphone to include such a function, but it’s the first Windows Phone with one built in. There is an API to access the pedometer, but for now the only app which can access your step count is the Microsoft Health and Fitness app. As an app, it follows exactly in the tradition of the once Bing branded apps for Windows Phone, and offers a clean, easy to use interface.

Testing the accuracy of a pedometer isn’t easy, unless you want to actually count your steps for a day. I lost count quickly, so instead I’m comparing it to a FitBit One, which is one of the more popular health and fitness wearables.

I’m not sure if the Lumia was under-reporting steps, or if the FitBit over-reports steps, or if it’s a combination of both, but at no time did the two devices ever end up even close to the same count at the end of any day. My feeling is the FitBit easily falls prey to certain movements which skew the numbers high. Driving seems to really send mine to the moon for instance. On a single day, the FitBit accounted for 9470 steps while the Lumia reported only 6500. I was in the car for around an hour that day, so the Lumia number is likely more accurate. Perhaps if I get another device I can test, I can use three, and hopefully two of them will be somewhat close and we can determine a winner.

There have been a number of smartphones come on the market in the last while with a built in pedometer, so it is nice to see the Lumia 630 include one even in a budget device. Whether or not it gets used is up to the individual buyer, but at least they have that option.

Wi-Fi, Cellular, GNSS, Speaker Final Words
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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? Reply
  • Hrel - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    I want to upvote you. Reply
  • 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 http://www.consumertop.com/best-phone-guide/ Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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). Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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. Reply
  • 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. Reply
  • 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.
    Reply

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