Nokia Lumia 730 And 830 Hands-On: Windows Phone On A Budget

Nokia Lumia 730 And 830 Hands-On: Windows Phone On A Budget

The flagship Nokia 930, known as the Icon in the US, ticks off a lot of must-haves in a smartphone: great camera, great screen, great performance. But the $600 price might be somewhat atmospheric for some of us. That’s where the Lumia 830 comes in.

For 330 euros off-contract, roughly $US435, the Lumia 830 unapologetically copies its flagship cousin. Microsoft’s not playing coy about that: marketers are calling it the “Affordable Flagship.” In some places, it actually improves on the 930 and at others, as lower prices often indicate, it cuts some corners.

When the device was first thrust into my hands, I didn’t notice much difference from the 930. The aluminium siding and polycarbonate back are here in force. But investigating a bit further, Nokia shaved off 1.5mm of bulkiness bringing it to just 8.5mm thick, slightly thinner than its colourful iPhone 5C competition, and quite noticeable when looking at the two Lumias side-by-side. Better still, unlike the 930, the 830’s back panel is completely removable, meaning we get access to the battery and expandable storage: up to 128 extra gigabytes of goodness on top of the 16GB already onboard.

When you consider the utilitarian usefulness of a removable back coupled with a slim body, the 830 has a design that rivals and maybe even surpasses the 930. When it launched earlier this year, the 930’s design met mixed reviews, with some describing it as brick-like, bulky, and simple. The 830 retains that same simple design, but makes it more compact, and for someone who’s constantly fishing in jean pockets to change a song on Spotify, that small detail makes a big difference in day-to-day use.

Despite some design improvements, the 830 does cut corners on a few specs to meet its lower price. The camera carries the PureView and Zeiss optics branding but only packs in a 10 megapixel sensor instead of the typical 20 megapixels. According to Microsoft, that sacrifice was also to help slim the phone down: the 830 carries the thinnest OIS module (4.5mm) in any Lumia phone. “We wanted to bring the capability so that you can get really good shots in day and in night,” says Microsoft Mobile Devices rep Ifa Majid.

The 830 did a respectable job capturing low-light in the dim office where I demoed the phone, but it doesn’t make me want swear off point-and-shoots forever like the 930, or the fantastic Lumia 1020. For a smartphone camera it’s perfectly capable, just not as exceptional as what Lumia phones are typically known for.

Detouring from the camera, the rest of the phone is predictably mid-tier. There’s the 5-inch 720p screen, a 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 2200mAh battery. Of course the 830 also comes with Nokia’s collection of apps like Here Maps and MixRadio as well. The 830 launches globally in September for about $US435-ish off-contract in four colours: white, dark grey, green, or orange. It will also come with Nokia’s newest software update, Denim, and other newly announced peripherals in tow.

Though Nokia’s calling it the “affordable flagship,” it still seems a little pricy to us, when you can get nearly top-tier specs in a Nexus 5 for a slick $US350. If this was near $US300, I could see some real appeal, but for most people, especially in the U.S, the 830 could be a hard sell.

One phone that does meet that enviable sub-$300 mark, also announced today, is the company’s long-rumoured selfie smartphone. This new Lumia 730 is just a simple update to last year’s 720 except for one notable addition — its 5-megapixel, wide-angle, front-facing camera. And that lens is where Nokia focuses all of its attention.

While sticking with the same 6.6-megapixel camera on the back, the front-facing lens has a wider capture area than before, meaning more friends per photo. The Lumia Selfie app, a front-and-center feature for the 730 and 735 but which will also be available across a range of devices, pushes this photo-centric design even further. The app stores favourite filters and also uses face recognition by sounding off a series of beeps and snapping a picture once you’re in focus. It sounds a lot like when a bumper sensor in a car detects an approaching object or that scene in Alien when the crew of the Nostromo tries to hunt an alien with a motion tracker. You know, sort of like that.

When you actually look beyond its selfie accolades, the features are pretty meh compared to the 830. The body comes in two separate finishes, glossy and matte, with the same colour palette. There’s no aluminium trim here since the back curves up to meet the screen. Speaking of the back, it’s still removable with a 2220 mAh battery and microSD expansion, which you’ll definitely want since you’re only getting 8GB onboard storage with this guy. Like the 830, the selfie smartphone will be powered by a Snapdragon 400 processor, have 1GB of memory, and HD resolution but on a 4.7-inch OLED display.

For someone who takes an inordinate amount of selfies, this is a great phone to consider. But if camera quality is paramount, you might consider shelling out a few extra dollars for a PureView model. Even if it’s the 830, you’ll get more support from Nokia for its premium camera features, as the new Denim software update can attest. But if you’re a selfie-addict operating on the cheap, the 730 is basically built for you in mind.

The dual-sim Lumia 730 and LTE-based Lumia 735 will also launch globally in September for and 200 euros ($US260) or 220 euros ($US289) respectively.

Lots of people are buying powerful-yet-cheap smartphones. We’re even convinced that a inexpensive smartphone could very well be your next device. Some people want the fastest processors and most dazzling displays, and other just want a phone that works, and works well… and also takes awesome selfies. Yeah, that would be nice.