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Review: Nokia Lumia 635 for T-Mobile

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The 635 offers a fairly straight-forward set of media applications and services. To start, the native WP8.1 Music App is on board. It used to be called XBox Music, and in fact the app itself still says that when you open it. The Music app is a one-stop-shop for your music needs. If you've sideloaded music or added some to a memory card, it shows up here. The Music app also acts as a storefront for Microsoft's music service. You can buy individual tracks or albums if you want. This app also includes an FM radio, which requires headphones (for an antenna) in order to be used.


The 635 also includes Nokia MixRadio, Nokia's own content store. It, too, lets users purchase music, and also includes 150 streamable radio stations, personalized music recommendations, and a tool for searching local live performances. Premium features, such as an unlimited number of track downloads, cost $3.99 per month.

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The 635 also has T-Mobile's Live TV app. This app streams TV shows and movies to the handset. It has been redesigned for Windows Phone and actually works pretty well (over LTE). Too bad it costs $10 per month.



The 635 includes both the base Windows Phone camera app and the more feature-rich Nokia Camera app and several of Nokia's camera add-ons.

The basic WP camera app is simplistic to a fault. It includes only the most basic shooting functions and modes, but it opens, focuses, and shoots photos quickly. It's a bummer there's no dedicated camera button.

WP8.1 did introduce at least two new features: burst mode and a customizable viewfinder. The burst mode is capable of capturing photos even before you press the button. The burst mode captures a number of images and then lets you pick which one you like best from the bunch. The functionality makes it easier to get those fleeting moments that can escape in a jiffy. In my tests, burst mode worked well. The same goes for the customized viewfinder. This tool lets you arrange the camera controls so that your five favorite settings are always under your fingers. I like that you can tweak the layout of the controls; it really helps reduce time you might otherwise waste futzing with the settings menu.

The Nokia Camera app is a professional-level application that is beyond compare. It's not suited to beginners, yet here it is on an entry-level phone. It gives users full control over all the possible settings through a unique, ring-like user interface. For example, ISO can be set anywhere from 100 to 4000, shutter speed can be set anywhere from 1/16,000th of a second to 4 seconds, and focus can be set to toggle between macro and infinity. The long exposure tool is particularly interesting because it opens up a wide range of creative nighttime imaging. For people who understand how each of these factors interacts with the others to produce a result, the level of control is unparalleled on a smartphone.

The camera add-ons, or "lenses" in Windows Phone parlance, are Cinemagraph and Glam Me. Nokia Cinemagraph is for creating animated GIFs and Nokia Glam Me is for taking glorified selfies. There's only one problem - the Lumia 635 doesn't have a user-facing camera. You have to aim the main camera at yourself and hope for the best if you want to take selfies. This could be a deal breaker for some.



The 635's 5-megapixel sensor produces average results at best. This phone is not one of Nokia's finer efforts when it comes to imaging. The sensor manages to get exposure right, and the lenses are capable of dialing in focus, but I found white balance to be all over the place. In particular, it had a hard time coping with bright sunlight and often overcompensated. I was able to fix the problems on my PC, but most people won't bother. When the stars all aligned over the 635, though, it managed to take a few perfect shots. It suffices for daily photography needs, but please use something else if you go on vacation.



The 635 is limited to capturing 720p HD video. The video results were better than the picture results. Specifically, the video camera was better able to resolve the white balance issues and produce accurate color. Focus was mostly good, as was exposure (with the exception of really dark and really bright spots.) The 635 suffices for casual use, but not for creating your cinematic masterpiece.

Photo Hub

The Photo Hub stores all images captured on the phone itself, but also syncs with social media accounts, most notably Facebook. The Hub itself is an active place where you can view your own images as well as peruse those of your social networking friends. The photo-managing features are typical for most phones and it's easy to move images between folders or share them with others.

Microsoft made a minor adjustment to the Photo Hub in WP8.1. The camera roll now automatically sorts photos into groups based on data, location, and activity. This makes it easier to see separate events, rather than just a long string of photos in a gallery. The Google+ Photos app does this to a certain degree, as does the iOS gallery app.

I like how easy it is to back up photos to OneDrive. It takes a couple of clicks and every photo/video you take will be uploaded at full resolution to your OneDrive account. This only happens via Wi-Fi so as to avoid potential data charges. Of all the photo backup services, I think Windows Phone's is the easiest to use.


Editing features in the Photo Hub itself are limited to rotate and crop. This is where Nokia's Creative Studio app comes in play. Creative Studio lets users apply various filters and effects to change the tone/appearance of their photos. Creative Studio has a pretty good feature set for those who like to tweak their images after the fact.

Nokia Editing  


T-Mobile kept the number of preloaded apps to a respectable level on the 635. There's the typical set of Windows Phone basics, which are joined by a handful of Nokia-branded apps and just a couple T-Mobile apps. One thing I like about Windows Phones is that you can easily delete any app that you might consider to be junk.


I didn't have any issues with the 635's Bluetooth radio. It connected to other devices easily. The phone calls I made through my favorite headset were good. Music sounded good when pushed to a Bluetooth speaker, but short of excellent since it doesn't support the aptX profile.


Windows Phone 8.1 updates Internet Explorer to version 11, and it's the best version yet. Truthfully, it adds a lot of features that Safari and Chrome have offered for years, but that's a good thing. For example: private browsing. You can now open private browser tabs that are not saved or tracked. Ditto with syncing favorites, tabs, and history between desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Live Tiles now support dynamic headlines from web sites. If you pin a web site — such as phonescoop.com — to the Start screen the Live Tile will update throughout the day each time a new article is published.

The 635 was quick to browse the web, on both 4G LTE and Wi-Fi. It renders both desktop and mobile-optimized web sites just fine.



As this model lacks Glance, the only way to check the time is to press the screen lock button to wake the 635 up. Once you do, the time and date is clearly displayed on the screen along with notifications. The appearance of the lock screen clock cannot be changed, however. For example, you can't set it to an analog clock face.


One of Windows Phone 8.1's biggest features is Cortana, Microsoft's voice-activated assistant. Cortana is similar to Google Now in Android and Siri on the iPhone. You can use Cortana to perform voice searches, dictate messages, and keep track of your flights and/or calendar. I've been using Cortana for several months now and have come to really like it. The reminders feature is one of the best. For example, you can have Cortana remind you to ask about a friend's health the next time you talk to them. When you call that person, the reminder will pop up. Cortana also parses the internet for items related to your interests, such as news headlines, sport scores, the local weather, and more. Cortana controls quiet hours and inner circle. Quiet hours are used to silence notifications during set periods of time, such as at night. The inner circle represents the closest of close contacts, typically family members. You can use Cortana to offer the inner circle access to you even during quiet hours. Last, Cortana can be used to listen to a song and search for it on the internet. I find Cortana isn't as good at this as other third-party apps, though. In sum, Cortana is a great feature worth exploring.



Nokia's HERE navigation suite is an incredibly powerful set of tools that not only helps map out directions, but lets you search your surroundings. HERE Maps offers a wealth of features that go head-to-head with Google Maps. Some of the associated apps include HERE Drive and HERE Transit. These are individual apps that perform specific functions. HERE Drive plots point-to-point driving directions, while HERE Transit helps manage mass transit route planning.

The GPS radio of the 635 itself performs perfectly. It pinpointed me quickly and accurately no matter where I was.


Microsoft Apps

Some of the useful tools on board most Windows Phones — the 635 included — are Office and OneNote. Office needs no introduction. On the 635, you can open/edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, as well as sync them to your personal (or corporate) computers. OneNote is Microsoft's extensive note-taking and -managing app. It functions similarly to EverNote.

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