Review: Microsoft Lumia 735 for Verizon Wireless
Jul 2, 2015, 3:30 PM by Eric M. Zeman
This mid-range Windows Phone is a solid addition to Verizon's smartphone lineup. It boasts a 4.7-inch screen, 6.7-megapixel camera, and quad-core Snapdragon processor. Toss in Microsoft's productivity apps and good battery life, and the Lumia 735 is a balanced performer. Is anything holding this phone back? Find out in Phone Scoop's in-depth report.
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Is It Your Type?
The Microsoft Lumia 735 may not be the least expensive Windows Phone in Verizon's lineup, but it may represent the strongest overall value. If you're looking for the best combination of low-cost hardware and high-productivity software, the Lumia 735 has you covered in spades.
Lumia smartphones all share a similar design aesthetic. The branches of the family tree are rather short. While they are easy to differentiate from competitors' handsets thanks to their plain-yet-compelling shapes, Lumias are also beginning to blend into one another. To my eyes, the Lumia 735 is a shrunken Lumia 920 (which, by the way, is from 2012).
The 735 is a dark gray slab with flat top and bottom edges, rounded side edges, and a back surface that tapers ever-so-gently from the center toward the sides. It is formed by a polycarbonate shell with a matte finish. Sadly, this matte finish displays fingerprint oils, which mar the look a bit. I like the shape of the phone, but — as with nearly all Lumias — I wish it were a bit thinner. It's not setting any records at 10.2mm thick.
There's no denying the phone has a clean look to it, but it might be nice if it were available in colors other than dark gray. Lumia handsets often come in at least two or three shades, but not so with the Lumia 735. You're stuck with neutral gray.
The 735 is really nice to hold and use. The 4.7-inch screen means Microsoft was able to keep the overall size of the phone in a comfortable zone. It fits well in the hand and the curved sides really help when you grip the phone tightly. The weight of the phone is pleasingly light; in fact, it's almost too light. The 735 is compact enough that shoving it into your pockets won't be troublesome.
Build quality is about where it should be for this class of phone. A single plastic shell forms every surface but the actual display, which means there are no seams along the back or side surfaces. The shell joins the edges of the display tightly and it feels good. I think Microsoft/Nokia have delivered polycarbonate phones in the past that come across as stronger, but the 735 doesn't feel chintzy, cheap, or weak.
Lumia phones often have thick bezels surrounding the display, and the 735 shares that same characteristic. There's a slit cut into the glass above the screen for the earpiece speaker and the user-facing camera is plainly visible next to it. The 735 uses on-screen buttons, so there are no hardware keys below the display. Microsoft and Verizon's logos are just barely visible in the glass.
The 735 has only two physical buttons and they are both on the right edge. The screen lock key is positioned in the middle and the volume toggle is above it. They both have a glossy black finish that lets them stand out just a little bit visually from the surrounding matte gray. Finding them with your thumb is a breeze, as they have excellent profiles. Travel and feedback is excellent. I am bummed to report there is no dedicated camera button.
The headphone jack is on the top edge and the USB port is on the bottom.
Removing the rear shell is a bit of a pain. Since it wraps around to the front surface of the phone, it takes some effort to pry loose. You have to pull out the battery if you want to change SIM cards or add a memory card. Some people prefer to own phones with changeable batteries and memory cards; the 735 checks both boxes.
The Lumia 735 from Microsoft is a solid mid-range handset.
The 735's LCD display panel measures 4.7 inches across the diagonal and has 720p HD resolution. This is a really nice size/resolution combination. The 921,000 pixels are packed in tightly and provide sharp edges to text, icons, and graphics. Lumia handsets have always enjoyed good contrast and deep blacks and the 735 is no different in that respect. Colors are accurate and look great. Outdoor viewability is generally good and viewing angles are superb. The 735's display is very good.
The 735 was a champ on Big Red's LTE network in and around New York City. It remained connected to 4G during the entire review period and never slipped to 3G. I was able to connect most calls on the first dial. The 735 didn't miss or drop calls while I reviewed it. Data speeds were decent, but not the best I've seen from Verizon. Apps were particularly slow to download from the Windows Store when on 4G, but email and social networks performed quick enough to keep my impatience at bay.
Phone calls via the 735's earpiece were impressive. Volume was excellent, and voices were clear and sharp in my ear. I was able to hear calls in relatively noisy spaces, such as a busy restaurant at lunch and walking down NYC streets full of lumbering construction vehicles and blaring taxis. You'll be able to keep the volume set at about 60% most of the time. Those I spoke with through the 735 said I sounded a bit muted.
The speakerphone offers plenty of volume, but clarity suffers a bit thanks to distortion. Calls are clearest when the volume is at about 6 or 7, but then they aren't as easy to hear in noisy environments.
The ringers and alerts can be jarringly loud. The vibrate alert is weaker than I prefer.
The 735 has a 2,200 mAh battery. The power cell has just enough juice to get from breakfast to bedtime without issue. I consistently scored 17 hours of heavy use with the 735. Dialing back media and camera use increased battery life to about 20 hours of uptime. (The LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi radios were on at all times.)
Windows Phone has a basic battery saver tool and it can extend the battery a few more hours at the expense of performance.
The 735 supports Qi wireless charging, so you can place it on a charging pad rather than worry about plugging it into the wall.
The Lumia 735 runs Windows Phone 8.1 with the Lumia Denim update. In other words, it has the most up-to-date version of the operating system available. Microsoft hasn't specified if the 735 will be upgraded to Windows 10 Mobile later this year.
The lock screen includes the clock, date, calendar appointments, and notification previews, but not Microsoft's Glance feature. The lock screen also supports various backgrounds, such as Bing's Photo of the Day, your local weather, health and fitness data, or recent Facebook photos.
Windows handsets have a single home screen. Rather than offer multiple screens for apps, the Start screen is one extraordinarily tall screen you scroll through. Essentially, you can add as many Live Tiles (icons/widgets) as you care to stuff on the screen. Live Tiles are available in varying sizes, which allow for near endless possibilities for arranging them on the display. The Start screen also supports folders for consolidating apps into one place.
Swipe to the left to access the full alphabetical list of apps. The app menu can't be customized in any way.
Microsoft added a notification shade to Windows Phone that behaves much likes those in Android and iOS, but it isn't quite as flexible. It handles the basics, such as actionable notifications and toggles for select functions.
The newer Settings menu in Windows Phone 8.1 is more organized and easy to grasp. Settings are broken down into categories which makes the individual controls quicker to find. It's still a rather long list, but at least there's now some semblance of sanity.
Qualcomm's quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor powers the Lumia 735. It's paired with 1 GB of RAM. Together, these give the 735 more than enough juice to run Windows smoothly.
Calls and Contacts
Microsoft has long neglected the phone app, which is a simple affair at best. Opening the phone app shows the call history. Voicemail, the dialpad, your contacts, and the search function can all be accessed via plainly visible buttons. Swipe to the left to access the Speed Dial tool. Settings let you adjust some advanced functions, like automated responses.
Windows Phone sprinkles a healthy dose of social networking into the People Hub thanks to its integration with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. As far as contact apps go, the People Hub is as usable as any other. You can easily import contact lists from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, or other databases. One panel in the hub shows your own most recent social network status updates and the responses to them, which is rather neat.
The 735 includes the base set of messaging tools that are part of Windows Phone. The email app is decent, but not as feature rich as what's available to Android and iOS. It does play nicely with any standard email service, however, and (naturally) syncs with Exchange for work accounts.
The SMS app is relatively bare bones. It's a fine tool for sending simple text, picture, and video messages, but it doesn't do much else these days. I do like the overall look of the app, which is very clean.
Skype is also onboard. It handles internet-based calls and IM. It's a solid app that works well. What's better, Skype works across platforms and devices, so you can easily transition from Skype conversations on your Lumia 735 to a tablet or PC.
Facebook is pre-installed, but Facebook Messenger and Twitter are not. Those apps are available from the Windows Store, as are other third-party messaging tools like WhatsApp.
The Lumia 735 includes several media apps and services. To start, it offers the extensive catalogs of Microsoft Music and Video, which both hook into its XBox entertainment empire. You can also sideload your own music and videos.
MixRadio is also aboard. MixRadio was created by Nokia, temporarily owned by Microsoft, and later spun off to a company called Line. MixRadio is a really good (free) alternative to services like Pandora or Slacker for listening to streamed, curated playlists on the fly.
Slacker Radio and Verizon's ever-present NFL Mobile app are also preinstalled. Slacker is a decent third-party music streaming service, but MixRadio is better. Verizon's NFL Mobile app is pretty good, but is a waste of space of you're not a football fan.
The 735 includes an FM radio for good measure. I found it worked well in my neighborhood.
The Lumia 735 includes the rich Lumia Camera application, the simpler Windows Phone camera app, and a dedicated app for taking selfies. I'm not quite sure why Microsoft put so many camera apps on the 735, but hey, choice!
As noted earlier, the Lumia 735 doesn't have a dedicated camera button. The camera is available on the lock screen via the notification shade. You have to turn the screen on, swipe down to open the shade, then press the camera button. That's two steps too many in my book.
The Lumia camera user interface will make most users feel right at home thanks to its plain arrangement. The settings, camera, and video camera are all accessed via buttons placed on the right edge of the screen. Alternately, a long-press of the camera button will force the 735 to capture video instead of a photo.
A small strip of options floats at the top of the viewfinder. The default view of this strip lets you switch to the front camera, turn on the flash, or turn on Rich Capture Mode. This mode purports to do a better job of getting accurate exposure, focus, and color. These three tools are simple and let you snap away with ease.
If you're interested in more control over the camera, press the little arrow visible in the strip. This puts the phone into manual mode, You can manage white balance, exposure, ISO, brightness, and focus all on your own. For knowledgeable users, these tools open the door to creativity.
The basic Windows Phone camera app is quite simple to use and hasn't changed at all in the last few years.
If you want to snag the best-possible self portrait, the Lumia Selfie app gives you the tools to get it done right. Selfie mode includes a timer and some quick editing tools, such as cropping and mirroring, so you can make adjustments before sharing to social networks.
The Lumia 735 has a 6.7-megapixel sensor. It shoots in 16:9 aspect ratio by default and that uses all the pixels. You can shoot in 4:3 mode, but that crops the images down. You can change the aspect ratio after the fact, too, if you wish.
Lumia phones generally have good cameras and the 735's is quite impressive. The images I captured were sharp, properly exposed, and well-balanced with respect to color. Outdoor shots looked best and were free of grain and noise. Indoor shots introduced a noticeable amount of grain. The flash is acceptable at short distances. You can surely use the Lumia 735 for everyday photography. I'd be tempted to switch to something else for real photography needs, but the 735 lets you get by.
The user-facing camera captures 5 megapixel images. Together with the Lumia Selfie mode, the 735 is above average at capturing self portraits, as long as you're outdoors. Outside selfies, with plenty of lighting, looked really good. Indoor selfies, where it is often darker, were saturated with grain.
The 1080p HD video I captured with the 735 was fine, but not exceptional. Focus, exposure, and white balance were generally accurate and the results were solid for everyday use. I'd switch to dedicated video equipment for real videography needs.
Microsoft's Photos app is decent for organizing your images. Photos are sorted into three folders: the camera roll, online albums, and favorites. Switching between them is simple. The phone can be set to automatically sync the camera roll with OneDrive, which is a good way to back up your photos.
Editing functions are severely limited. The Photos app includes crop, rotate, and auto-enhance. That's about it. You can also choose to open photos in the Lumia Camera application, which has its own editor. In this app, you can adjust the crop (16:9, 4:3, 3:2, 1:1) or rotate. There are no advanced editing tools for tweaking white balance, brightness, etc.
Sharing tools are restricted to the onboard messaging and social networking apps.
The 735 includes the Lumia Storyteller app, too. This will automatically create fancy albums based on the time and location in which you shoot batches of photos. You can then choose to upload these “stories” to Microsoft's web site, where they can be shared via web links. Stories can be public or private.
The Lumia 735 has 16 GB of storage, about 10 GB of which is available to users. This is enough for apps, but perhaps not enough for music and videos (thank goodness for that memory card slot!) Verizon's apps include MyVerizon Mobile, NFL, and VZ Navigator. Microsoft has a bunch of its own apps onboard, as well, but I'd say the bloat level is acceptable.
The Lumia 735 wirelessly connected to Bluetooth headsets, stereo headphones, PCs, and other devices with ease. It happily shared information — such as my contact list — with my car's hands-free system. The 735's Bluetooth radio worked as intended as far as phone calls were concerned. Quality of conversations was quite good. The phone supports the basic A2DP stereo profile, but not the high-quality aptX music profile. That means music sounded OK through my Bluetooth headset, but not as good as other phones are able to produce.
Internet Explorer is capable of rendering web sites quickly and accurately on the Lumia 735's display. The browser worked well with Verizon's LTE 4G network. The address bar and other controls are placed at the bottom of the screen, closer to your thumb, which go a long way to improving usability. Perhaps the most helpful feature is Data Sense to help manage your monthly data usage.
Need to check the time? Press the lock button to wake up the Lumia 735. The clock, positioned close to the bottom of the screen, is bright, large, and easy to read.
Cortana is a voice assistant similar to Google Now and Siri. Cortana can perform voice searches, dictate messages, and keep track of your calendar appointments. Cortana isn't quite as good as Google Now, but it's better than Siri. The reminders feature is one of the best. 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 — that are permitted to disturb you during Quiet Hours. Last, Cortana can be used to listen to a song and search for it on the internet.
Cortana is a great feature worth exploring and it performed admirably on the 735.
Nokia's HERE Maps and Nokia Drive are on board for your navigation needs. HERE Maps is a superb mapping application. It's fast and accurate. Are you going to be offline when traveling? No need to worry, because HERE Maps allows you to download maps for use when not connected.
The Nokia Drive app does a perfectly acceptable job of directing you between points. I was pleased with the speed and accuracy of the Lumia 735's GPS radio, which found the phone in quick order and kept up as I drove around New Jersey.
The Windows Phone versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are excellent and more than adequate for managing productivity. OneNote is tossed in for good measure. All four apps sync with your OneDrive account for access from any Windows Phone or PC.
The Lumia 735, like many of today's smartphones, has an NFC radio positioned on the back surface. It is most handy when it comes to pairing with other Bluetooth devices. For example, I have a Bluetooth speaker that also contains an NFC radio. I tap the two together and, voila, they are paired without any of the regular hassle associated with pairing Bluetooth gear. In this respect, the 735's NFC radio worked perfectly. That's about the limit of the 735's NFC capabilities.
The 735 has a mobile wallet application, but it is expressly for loyalty cards, movie tickets, and so on. It doesn't talk to the NFC radio like Apple Pay does on the iPhone or Google Pay does on Android phones for mobile payments. You cannot use the 735 to power tap-and-go transactions at the local Quick-E-Mart.
You can, however, download an NFC writer application (made by Microsoft/Nokia) and code NFC tags on your own if you wish. Tags are available online and at some electronics stores.
The Lumia 735 from Microsoft is a solid phone. It performs well across the board, and offers a balanced feature set.
The hardware is put together well. The attractive screen is sized just right, meaning the 735 is comfortable to hold and use. Call quality on Verizon's network was excellent, data speeds were decent, and the battery did a commendable job. Some people will like that the 735 has a removable battery and supports memory cards.
Windows Phone 8.1 may not be for everyone, but it's a fine smartphone platform and covers the basics well. The 735 offers plenty of options for customizing the home screen and other behaviors. Microsoft apps such as Office, OneDrive, OneNote, and Cortana add a lot of value to the 735, and the processor/memory combo kept the 735 humming along swiftly.
The Lumia 735's camera performed well, especially for a mid-range handset. The selfie cam is particularly well suited to capturing all your touristy self portraits as you travel.
At $190 full price — or just $8 per month on a Verizon Edge plan — the Lumia 735 offers an excellent value for the dollar. If you're in the market for a Windows Phone on Verizon's network, the Lumia 735 is worth your attention.
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