Nokia Lumia 735 review: A budget Windows Phone with comfortable curves

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The Good The Nokia Lumia 735 is comfy to hold, with colourful, interchangeable cases and a good screen. It doesn't cost much either.

The Bad Its camera doesn't impress, its processor doesn't provide enough power for demanding tasks, and its Windows Phone app store still receives little attention from developers.

The Bottom Line Although the Lumia 735 doesn't have the best camera, it's colourful, curvy and comfortable, has a good display and an affordable price -- all of which go a long way to making up for it.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

It's a time of massive change for Nokia as the ink has finally dried on Microsoft's takeover of the Finnish firm. Although new Microsoft Lumia phones will arrive without the Nokia brand anywhere to be seen, the Lumia 735 and its pricier brother the 830 were the last of the Nokia line.

The Lumia 735 is a 4.7-inch phone with colourful, interchangeable cases, a 720p display and the latest version of Windows Phone 8.1. The Lumia 735 has 4G LTE and is on sale now in the UK for free on contracts starting at £14.50 per month, or SIM-free from Microsoft for £189.

A US launch has yet to be confirmed (it could well appear under a different name, exclusive to a particular carrier), but the £189 UK price converts to roughly $300. In Australia, Microsoft Devices has said that pricing and availability will be "made available closer to local sales start"; the UK price converts to AU$340.

It's joined by the Lumia 730, which is physically identical, except for dual-SIM card capability and 3G-only radio. The 730 will go on sale in "select markets where dual-SIM phones are important".

Design and display

If you've ever clapped eyes on Nokia's older Lumia 800 , the 735 will be familiar. Like the 800, it has a one-piece polycarbonate plastic back that curves around to meet the screen. It's very comfortable to hold -- particularly given its fairly palm-friendly 4.7-inch size.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Unlike the 800, however, the plastic case is removable, allowing you to swap it out if you fancy changing the colour of the phone, or if your existing case is starting to look battered and you want a fresh one. It comes in bright green and orange colours, or you can stick to the less garish white and black versions if you prefer.

It feels very comfortable to hold, as the plastic back curves sweetly against your hand. I think it looks good too -- I loved the curved design of the Lumia 800 and I'm very happy to see its return, albeit in a larger version.

The phone comes with 8GB of built-in storage, but if you like to keep your photos, music and videos saved locally to your phone, you'll quickly find yourself running out of space. There's a microSD card slot hidden beneath the case, however, so you can expand the storage. I suggest transferring over all your music and videos to save space on the phone for your apps.

The display is 4.7 inches on the diagonal, giving a good amount of room for texting or a spot of Netflix on the go, without making it too cumbersome to use. It's far from the thumb-stretching proportions of the 6.5-inch Lumia 1520. It has a 720p resolution, which is a step down from the full HD panels you'll find on many phones -- including the Lumia 930 -- but given the much lower price of the 735, it's very much forgivable.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

For most things you'll want the phone for, the resolution is more than adequate. Windows' live tiles have sharp edges, text is crisp and high-resolution photos look fine -- although without the same clarity you'll find on higher resolution panels. The colours are rich too and the deep black levels provide good contrast.

The display is more than good enough for everyday tasks such as tweeting, emailing and stalking your friends on Facebook. If you want a phone to show off your photo gallery in glorious high definition, you might want to splash out on a bigger, full HD display. For the price though, the 735's display is certainly among the best.

Windows Phone software

The Lumia 735 uses the latest Windows Phone 8.1 software, with its cheery live tiles and newly added notifications bar. Even better, it comes with the latest update, codenamed Denim, which brings a bunch of new features into the mix.

Chief among these is Cortana , Windows Phone's Siri-like voice assistant, which is finally available in the UK and China after launching in the US. Denim also allows you to create folders on your homescreen for your live app tiles, which will still show live scrolling information.

I'm quite keen on Windows Phone. It's easy to use and looks good too. Its main drawback is still its app support, though. Although many of the bigger names are found on its shelves (Instagram, Spotify and Netflix are present and correct), it's usually later to receive new apps than iOS or Android -- if it receives them at all -- so it's not great if you like trying out the latest games and services with your friends.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET