Living with the Nokia Lumia 630 running Windows Phone 8.1

By Peter Gothard
17 Jun 2014 View Comments
home-screen

The Windows ecosystem as it stands is really starting to win us over. The launch of Windows 8.1 (and its subsequent first update), Microsoft's slow addition of Universal Apps, and the full assimilation of Nokia into the company all seem to point to a potentially brighter future for Windows on a productivity level. That may be great news for CIOs.

Further reading

It's the Nokia, and Windows Phone, chunk of the conversation that has arguably represented the most under-utilised of Microsoft's potential with its Windows 8.1 software and devices.

Microsoft obviously thought so too (or at least suspected our reticence), as the company placed the world's first Windows Phone 8.1 device into our hands, and let us have a play.

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We're not here so much to discuss the phone itself though, and more to give you some idea of just how Windows Phone 8.1 works in the wild. However, as the Nokia Lumia 630 - a phone that retails for under £100 in the UK - is the only device we've used with 8.1, forgive us if analysis of the phone and the operating system intertwine somewhat.

First and foremost, the 1.2 GHz ARM Snapdragon 400 that lurks within the 630 has no problem at all throwing Windows Phone 8.1 around. It multi-tasks energetically, all manner of stuff we'd forgotten about hanging around in the background sending us push messages and popping back up, all with apparently little drain on the 1830 mAh battery.

Nokia promises cellular or Wi-Fi browsing times of around nine hours a piece, which is a tad generous, the truth being nearer seven.

We never got around to testing the virtual private networking (VPN) function (who even uses that anymore?) but to step things up a little, we had a quick look at the phone's games performance, where it didn't perform terribly well. On the flipside, Jetpack Joyride crawling along at 15 frames per second at least made it easier to play. It was probably down to the somewhat measly 512MB of RAM inside the phone.

But it's the silky-smooth interface of Windows Phone 8.1 - now even, err, silkier and smoother - that made us forget the phone's modest specs. This is an interface that's had some serious time and consideration put into it.

Despite Android's many, many versions, there's a 'me-too' scrapiness to Google's front-end that apes iOS in some ways, and loses the thread on so many other. In comparison, Windows Phone feels like the 'other' option in the field of UI design.

Breaking Steve Jobs' 'rounded squares' house style rule with joy, app tiles that can be resized into three different dimensions tessellate the home screen with a sort of organised chaos, big boxes standing out as obviously more important than smaller ones.

The bizarre tapestry is enhanced further in 8.1 by Microsoft's gorgeous persistent wallpaper - system tiles appearing transparent as your chosen background image shows through them. It's simple, but a joy to interact with.

If the Lumia 630's low-res 854x480 screen wasn't so grey and washed out (with scattered spots at the top under the screen), we'd have had a great deal more fun, but it's still beautiful enough. The five megapixel camera - once you get the photos onto a decent screen - is simply spectacular for a phone at this price point, though, making even medium-priced Androids like the Nexus 7 or Galaxy 3 look like amateur hour (see the lovely macro work on Computing's Symbian the tiger cub below).

It's still no iPhone, though. And don't expect to be taking any selfies, either - there's no front-facing camera on the 630, presumably for cost-cutting reasons.

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To make up for some of these hardware shortcomings, Windows Phone 8.1 makes the Lumia 630 one of the most usefully connectable devices we've ever used. Microsoft's wasted no time in taking advantage of the huge, continued enterprise use of its entire ecosystem. 

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