The 625 is the latest of a raft of recent releases from Nokia as part of its Windows Phone ‘Lumia’ range.
Fetching around £180 SIM-free, this is a mid-range handset and a significant step up from its little brother the 620, offering 4G connectivity, a much larger screen and a faster processor.
As a 4G-ready device it’s got the potential to be a good long-term investment for people who are looking for high-speed connectivity, but there’s still a question over whether the Windows Phone operating system has the potential to compete with Android and iOS, as app developers have been slow to bring out apps for this platform. But aside from the OS, how does the Lumia 625 shape up as a handset?
The 625 looks just as good as the rest of the Lumia range, with a sleek design that feels sturdy and premium despite the plastic backing (a feature which also gives you a choice of colour for the handset). One the right side of the handset there’s a volume rocker, the lock/unlock button and a shutter control that doubles as a shortcut to the camera. The top edge houses the headphone jack while the micro USB input is located on the bottom of the device. The back-plate is a pain to remove and it did come across as a little on the brittle side, leaving me paranoid it would crack every time I clawed it off. However it did feel sturdy enough that I was confident the device wouldn’t suffer too much from a short fall or being rattled around in a backpack.
But before you start worrying about the casing, the first thing you’re bound to notice about the 625 is the hefty screen; at 4.7-inches it’s the largest in the Lumia range and is pushing into phablet territory. Despite this the handset is still a nice size, fitting easily into one hand and weighing in at just 159g, making it very comfy to use.
Looking at the specs I was a little worried that the large size of the 625’s screen could be just a gimmick failing to deliver in terms of quality and resolution, but I was pleasantly surprised. Despite only offering 480 x 800 pixels, the screen looks great with rich colours and images plus plenty of fine detail. The large size of the screen even means that movies and TV shows are not only watchable but genuinely enjoyable, without the hassle of hoofing a phablet out of your pocket every time you want to tune in.
The one big let down is that although it can record in HD, you can’t watch HD playback on the screen. If you could, the 625 could easily be a serious contender for your main mobile viewing device. While the lack of HD-playback capability has helped keep the price down, it also means you may want to have an alternative device for viewing high quality video. Still, if you aren’t a stickler for watching HD on your mobile device then the 625 does a great job.
If the lack of apps for Windows Phone is the weakness of the Lumia range, then high-quality cameras are its greatest strength. However the 625 lacks the power of some of the higher-end models in the Nokia range. On paper, the 625’s camera is nothing special with a fairly puny five megapixel sensor and, in practice, images are a little noisy with blur sometimes an issue. Colours on the other hand are rich and vibrant in good conditions and while the quality does suffer in poor light, the built-in flash does a decent job of compensating. The 625 is clearly never going to compete with flagship devices in terms of camera quality, but the host of apps Nokia have bundled on the device (more on that later) give you some room to play around with your photos to get the most out the camera.
For a mid-range model the 625 has a lot going for it in terms of internal specs. The dual-core processor and 512MB of RAM lets it run most apps with ease. Even games that are a little heavier on the processor, like Temple Run, are able to run pretty smoothly, though I did notice slightly longer load times than you would expect from top-end devices. You might notice the odd moment of lag, but nothing that will stop you enjoying games.
The internal memory of the handset isn’t bad either, giving you 8GB to play around with. There’s always the option to expand up to an impressive 64GB as well via the micro USB card slot (accessible by removing the back-plate and looking underneath the SIM card slot). It’s also worth bearing in mind that Windows Phone will give you up to 7GB of online storage for free, particularly handy if you’re feeling snap-happy and want to save content or move pictures and videos around online.
Windows Phone 8 is reliable and even for those not used to the operating system, it’s not a struggle to get your head around. The layout is different from Android and iOS but once you’ve navigated the homescreen and you’re into the apps, the layout is intuitive enough.
The 625’s operating system includes great software for making the most of the devices photographic capabilities as well, such as Nokia smartcam. If you’re shooting in poor conditions the device is able to take a series of separate images, scan through them and combine aspects of each to provide a variety of perspectives on the same shot at the end. The software creates a conventional high-quality shot, another which emphasises motion and one which removes any moving objects, among others, giving you a bunch of cool different perspectives on the same shot.
The flaw in this handset’s software isn’t unique to the 625; it’s the same issue that plagues all Window’s Phones, namely the lack of apps available. While major games titles are generally easy to get hold of, there are still some fundamental absences, perhaps most conspicuously the complete lack of a dedicated YouTube app (at the time of writing). It’s possible this issue will resolve itself in time, but for now the Windows Phone Store is still looking rather sparse.
As a run-of-the-mill phone the 625 acquits itself well. Sound quality is great (no confusing your f’s with your s’s) the noise cancellation holds up well in noisy environments and the speaker is powerful enough that you won’t be forced to look for a quiet spot to make a call. Good call quality aside, I was a little put off by the dialing screen where calls are made automatically once you’ve entered the number. On the one hand it saves you the trouble, but it takes away control over when you went to start your call and I can’t say I was a fan.
With just 2,000 mAh I wasn’t expecting great battery life from the 625 and I didn’t end up being surprised. A couple of hours heavy use on my way to work left it on roughly 50 per cent battery life so daily charging became a necessity if I planned to use it for anything other than calls and texts.
However, the slightly puny battery does help keep the weight of the device down so if having a lightweight handset is your priority it’s a good sacrifice. For me though, a longer battery life is worth a few extra grams in my pocket, so I would have appreciated a beefier battery.
On top of this, the 625 has fallen foul of a petpeeve of mine, with Nokia opting not to include a removable battery, forcing you to hand your handset over for repairs when in other handsets you could simply replace it yourself.
The Lumia 625 is another example of Nokia getting back to top form when it comes to hardware, but Microsoft still struggling to tempt developers into investing time in creating dedicated apps for their platform. Being part of the Lumia range this is a device that may tempt customers on the strength of its photographic capabilities and while it doesn’t deliver the great quality images you’d expect with a device like the 925, it does a decent job for a more budget offering.
This is generally a good quality handset where the pros outweigh the cons, though the poor battery life and non-HD screen are oversights that I found a little difficult to forgive, perhaps because the rest of the handset sets the bar so high. The HTC 8S is the 625’s main competitor with a faster processor, but it lacks the 4G connectivity. The Nokia has no trouble running most apps and games and offers more bang for your buck.
This good value mid-range device offers a decent camera and sleek yet sturdy design, but is let down by poor battery life and a lack of HD viewing. However, the massive 4.7-inch screen does wonders to make up for this shortcoming and it’s certainly a worthwhile investment for snap-happy smartphone owners on a budget, particularly those who aren’t fussed about having a plethora of apps.