Budget mobiles have typically been miserable pieces of tat forcing poor screens and underpowered processors on those not willing to splash the cash on top end devices. The Lumia 620 might be part of the budget lineup but it offers a hell of a lot for an extremely reasonable £150.
For that cash you'll get a bright, bold 3.8-inch screen, a host of helpful Nokia apps, a 5-megapixel camera and the ability to swap the case for a rainbow of vivid colours.
It's available now for £150 on pay as you go or free on contracts starting at £13.50.
Should I buy the Nokia Lumia 620?
With its colourful, interchangeable cases and its very affordable price tag, the Lumia 620 is perhaps the definition of "cheap and cheerful". It's a great choice for younger phone fanatics looking for something to carry around that's a bit different to their mate's Android or BlackBerry.
It doesn't have the screen real estate of phones like the Galaxy S3, but it's sharp, bright and has great colours. The People Hub in the Windows Phone 8 software is great for socialites, allowing you to see all your friends' social networking activity in one place.
Its dual-core processor is more modest than you'll find in the Lumia 820 or 920, but I found it handled the same tasks with ease. Is it worth splashing the extra cash on the 920? Yes, but only if you crave the bigger screen and the better camera. The 620 offers the same Windows Phone 8 experience for hundreds of pounds less.
If you're after an attractive, pocket-friendly phone that's a bit different from the norm -- or if you simply want to take Windows Phone 8 for a test drive -- then the 620 is a great option. If you want a more well-stocked app store then Huawei's G330 is a similarly affordable Android phone but I found Windows Phone 8 to make better use of more modest hardware than Android is generally capable of.
Design and build quality
The first thing you're likely to notice about the 620 is its extremely bright colours. That's courtesy of a number of interchangeable back cases, harking back to Nokia's heyday with the swappable fascias on the 3210.
There are various colours available, including yellow, white, pink, blue, orange or -- if you're not keen on the dazzling hues -- black. They're certainly eye-catching, particularly the green case that has an inner yellow ring, making it look like there are two cases on. If you're after a phone to really stand out amongst your friends' black iPhones then the 620 will do the job perfectly. The cases are sold separately but Nokia says that they'll be under £20, which seems reasonable.
Of course having changeable backs isn't just about aesthetics, it also means you don't need to worry as much about scratches and dirty marks. Handily, the headphone jack comes built into each case, not the phone itself. This means that if, like me, you make a habit of destroying the jack by getting your headphone cable caught on a door handle -- as happened to my Galaxy S3 only last week -- you simply need to swap the case to get a new jack.
The phone itself is 115mm long and 61mm wide making it smaller than a lot of the top-end smart phones around but perfectly sized for most hands -- at no point do you have to stretch your thumbs to get across the screen. It's made even more comfortable by the pleasant rounded back. It's 11mm thick and weighs 127g, which again isn't super-slim or super-light, but you won't have any difficulty carrying it around in your pocket.
Build quality is excellent on the whole. The thick, stiff casing seems ready to protect the more delicate internals from all but the most brutal of attacks and the toughened glass front should shrug off attacks from coins and keys in your pocket. The buttons don't seem unpleasantly rattly either, but they're all part of the casing which can be replaced anyway if the worst does happen.
On the sides you'll find a volume rocker, a power button and a dedicated camera shutter button that allows you to half-press to focus. There's a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top and a micro-USB port on the bottom for charging and data transfer. There's only 8GB of storage, which won't last long, but you can pop in microSD cards up to 64GB. There's a camera on the front and one on the back, both of which I'll come to later.
The 620 also boasts near-field communication technology, or NFC to you and me. It lets the phone talk to devices simply by touching them together. I found I was easily able to pair the phone with one of JBL's PlayUP NFC-enabled speakers quickly and simply, without having go to the hassle of pressing and holding buttons and finding the speaker in the phone's settings.
The 620 packs in a 3.8-inch display, which is undeniably rather small in comparison to the majority of new smart phones. That's not necessarily a bad thing though -- it makes it easier to stretch your thumbs across and packs in a good amount of pixels, making it sharper than low-end phones with big screens.
In fact, it has a resolution of 480x800 pixels, the same as the 4-inch Huawei G330, making the picture slightly sharper overall -- although I doubt you'd be able to tell the difference, side by side. Small text and icons are crisp and reading for longer periods is perfectly comfortable -- although its diminutive size does mean you're unlikely to want to read full-length ebooks on it.
Colours are great too. Nokia's ClearBlack display results in deep black levels, giving good contrast and punchy, vibrant colours. Images and videos in Netflix are very watchable. Display quality is often an area that's skimped on in budget mobiles to keep the price down, but the 620's screen thankfully hasn't seen such cuts.
Windows Phone 8
The 620 runs the latest version of Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 software. Unlike Android, WP8 isn't tweaked and skinned by phone manufacturers so you'll have the same layout and experience on all WP8 phones.
It's made up of colourful tiles showing live information in a flowing grid. You can resize and move these tiles around if you want to give a certain feature more prominence. Swiping to the left takes you into a list of all your apps. It's a neat and fairly easy to navigate interface that doesn't take much getting used to, even if you're new to the smart phone world.
My favourite aspects of the software are the People and Me hubs. Once you've connected your email, Facebook and Twitter accounts to the phone -- which thankfully is easy to do -- these hubs will show all your contacts' information from all networks in one handy place. You can then contact them using any method (email, phone, text, Skype, Facebook etc) without having to jump in and out of different apps. The Me app allows you to instantly share photos or statuses to your various networks from one spot.
The biggest problem with Windows Phone 8 is its app store. While you can get certain gems like WhatsApp, Skype and Netflix, it's woefully understocked compared to the iOS and Android stores. Apps like Spotify do not yet feature on its shelves, which is a crucial omission for me and many of my friends.
It's easy to argue that as long as you can still enjoy the core features of the phone, a well-stocked app store isn't essential. Given that this phone is intended for the likes of younger phone users, who love getting the latest games, sharing high scores and Instagramming their food, the sparse app store is likely to be an issue.
Nokia has chucked in a bunch of its own stuff though to help plug some of the gaps. Its maps app is brilliant, showing a wealth of local information about bars, restaurants or points of interest -- you can see these in an augmented reality view around you using Nokia's City Lens app too. It's possible to download maps to your phone to save you getting lost in the city without signal, and Nokia's Drive app will give you turn-by-turn GPS satellite navigation when you're driving.
Nokia Music meanwhile allows you to listen to song mixes from a variety of playlists totally free, without annoying ads, and you can even sync up to 14 hours of songs for offline playing. You're stuck with the mixes though, rather than being able to just listen to a whole album, but it's still a great addition for music lovers and a good way of scoping out new artists.
Power and performance
The 620 runs on a 1GHz dual-core processor with 512MB of RAM. Those are low-end specs but it's an entry-level phone with a price to match so I didn't expect anything more.
It might have very modest specs but the 620 is hardly sluggish. Swiping around the WP8 interface is nippy and mostly free of any kind of juddery lag. Opening menus and apps is responsive too -- at no point did I get the impression that I was using a very low-end phone.
It also copes well with more demanding tasks. Streaming video using Netflix was fine -- although at times, the stream did take a while longer than usual to render into a decent quality. Editing photos in Fhotoroom was easy too, with edits being applied without delay. I generally found little I could do to really slow it down.
There isn't, however, much currently available in the store that is particularly challenging. Demanding 3D games like Real Racing 2 aren't available, so its gaming prowess can't really be tested in full. It's safe to assume that its competency in handling games will be limited to simpler stuff, such as Angry Birds.
The software isn't perfect though. On a couple of occasions it suffered something of a hissy fit, showing numerous duplicate tiles on the homescreen, making it impossible to see properly. Another time, rows of volume icons started flashing up when I switched between windows. They went away after a restart and the problems only occurred on one occasion each, but it does suggest that there may be a few rough edges to watch out for. In spite of this, my experience was perfectly fine and mostly trouble free -- something that I can't say of all low-end phones.
Around the back of the 620 you'll find a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash. If you're hoping for the same high quality low-light photography you get with the Lumia 920, you're going to be disappointed. For the money though, the 620 puts in an admirable effort.
This indoor shot in the CNET UK office has a balanced exposure, with an even, natural colour tone. It doesn't have the same clarity you'd expect to see with a top-end phone, but it's a much better effort than I've seen from similarly priced mobiles.
Heading outside, the 620 again managed to capture a good all-round image. Both the buildings and the sky remain well exposed, although it didn't perform quite as well in the image below. Quality isn't great at full screen, but it does a perfectly good job for Facebook and Twitter snaps.
Photo-editing apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace are pretty limited -- there's no Instagram or Snapseed, for example -- but Nokia has bundled a few of its own tricks in for you to take advantage of.
You can download add-ons it calls 'lenses' to allow for you to be more experimental with your photography. These include a panorama mode, a best-shot function, a feature which lets you take numerous images of a group and merges the best faces into one good photo, and a cinemagram function that allows you to selectively animate an area of an image to create a creepy little gif.
On the front you'll find a VGA camera to let you video call your mates using Skype. It's nothing special either, but will do the job well enough as long as you're in a well-lit room.
Editor's note: This section has been updated with some new samples and
the text changed to reflect our re-evaluation of the camera.
Nokia has shoved a 1,300mAh battery into the 620 which isn't exactly capacious. Still, it manages to put in a good effort, thanks in part to the WP8 software which is designed to be more easy-going on battery life. I found it was easily able to get through a whole working day on a charge.
If you call constantly or spend the whole day watching Red Dwarf on Netflix then you won't eke so much juice from it, but if you're mindful of what you're up to then you shouldn't need to keep a plug with you at all times.
The Lumia 620 provides a lot of the best features from Nokia's top-end phones, but with a significantly lower price tag. Its colourful cases not only make it more fun, but help take the worry out of damaging your mobile.
It's not only a great option for enjoying your first taste of Windows Phone 8, it's a superb choice for younger users wanting a slick phone in your pocket that's a bit different from the swathes of budget grey Android phones their mates are running.