Nokia has another colourful Lumia to add to its vibrant lineup. The 720 sits slap bang in the middle of the range above the cheap and cheerful 620, but below the flagship 920 with its bigger screen and powerful camera.
Like all of the Lumia range, the 720 runs Windows Phone 8 software and comes with a host of bundled Nokia apps. It packs a 4.3-inch display, a 6.7-megapixel camera and a 1GHz dual-core processor.
Should I buy the Nokia Lumia 720?
The Lumia 720's sleek body and relatively small 4.3-inch screen make it much easier to hold than its bigger brother the 920. If you're after a Windows Phone 8 mobile that you won't struggle to get into your pocket, it's worth taking a look at.
Its screen resolution is the same as the 620's, which you can get for less than half the price. Nokia's excellent maps, navigation and local business software is on board, helping to plug the gaping gaps in the Windows Phone app store. Again though, you'll find all of that on the 620 too.
The 720 packs in a better camera than the 620, so if that's important to you and you value a physically larger screen, it's not a bad option for the price. You'll find most of the same features on the 620 though, and you'll save yourself a bundle if you opt for it over the 720. If you're after the best camera and screen in the Windows Phone world, the Lumia 920 is for you, but you'll have to shell out significantly more if you want to wedge it into your pocket -- but make sure you check out the Lumia 620 first.
Design and build quality
At 128mm long and 68mm wide, the Lumia 720 is much easier to hold in one hand than the giant smart phone beasts like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. At 9mm thick, it's slimmer than the 11mm Lumia 920, and considerably lighter too, making it a much more pocket-friendly device all round.
It sat comfortably in my hand and its 4.3-inch display didn't require me to stretch my thumbs across to hit the far corners. I certainly can't do the same on bigger phones. The glass front curves attractively at the sides to join the rounded back. Its shape is more akin to the HTC 8X, rather than the elliptical design of the 920.
The body is made from polycarbonate -- a type of plastic -- that felt quite firm. It doesn't have the same expensive, solid feel of the 920, nor the luxurious appeal of the metal HTC One, but then the 720 is significantly cheaper than both of those phones. I've certainly seen phones that felt cheaper than the 720 for around the same price -- the plastic casing on the Galaxy S3, for example, felt much worse, and yet will set you back more money.
The back casing isn't removable -- a feature you'll find on the cheaper 620. While that does make it feel a little more sturdy to hold, it does mean that you can't swap your case for a fresh one when your existing one gets battered. The polycarbonate material seems pretty good at shrugging off attacks from keys in your pocket, so as long as you don't take a drill to it, it should keep looking sharp for a while.
On the sides you'll find a volume rocker, power button and dedicated camera shutter button. There's a micro-USB port at the bottom and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. Both the micro-SIM and microSD card slots are hidden in trays -- you'll need to use the included removal tool or a paperclip to access them.
It's good to see expandable storage, as the 720 only offers 8GB of internal storage. That's enough for your essential apps -- particularly if you tend to stream media, rather than store it locally -- but if you want to take a lot of photos and videos, you should factor in the price of an SD card.
The Lumia 720's 4.3-inch screen packs a resolution of 480x800 pixels, which is the same as the resolution on the 620. As the 620 is squashing the same pixels into a smaller screen size, it results in the display actually being slightly sharper -- 246 pixels per inch, rather than an inferior 217ppi on the 720. That's pretty annoying, given how much cheaper the 620 is.
Nokia put the same resolution into the Lumia 820 too. The screen still looks pretty sharp, but it's annoying that there's no improvement between the cheaper and more expensive models. It's only when you splash the cash on the 920 that you benefit from the 768x1,280-pixel resolution.
Resolution aside, it does at least look good. Black levels are very deep, resulting in strong contrast and rich colours. My favourite test video, The Art of Flight, looked as glorious as ever and fine text on Web pages was perfectly readable.
Pleasingly, Nokia has made the touch input extremely sensitive too. I was easily able to operate it while wearing woollen gloves or even using the back of my fingernail. You still need to make some sort of electrical connection though, so don't expect to use a Biro as a stylus.
Windows Phone 8
The Lumia 720 is running on the latest version of Microsoft's mobile operating system Windows Phone 8. Like Windows Phone 7 before it, its homescreen is made up of a bunch of colourful tiles, each showing live information. You can resize them and move them around to make sure that your most used apps are right at the top.
The gems of Windows Phone 8 are undeniably the People and Me hubs. These amalgamate your social networks, letting you see all your friends' updates in one place, as well as enabling you to post your own updates. The hubs are neat, easy to use and save you having to jump in and out of individual apps when you want to post pictures to different places.
Unlike Android, Windows Phone 8 isn't tweaked and skinned by different manufacturers, so you'll have the same experience here on the 720 as you may have seen on other WP8 devices. Once you've got everything set up with your Windows Live account, the interface is simple to use, whether you're a smart phone veteran or a recent convert.
The main issue that continues to plague Windows Phone 8 however is the lack of apps. While its app store has some great picks like Netflix, Spotify, Skype and WhatsApp, it doesn't offer anything like the choice you'll get from Android or iOS. If you love browsing the app store shelves looking for new games to wow your mates, Windows Phone probably isn't going to satisfy you.
New apps are being added every day, but most developers just don't see the platform as a priority -- in fact, many don't look much beyond iOS, let alone Android. Spotify has only recently made its way to Windows Phone 8 and Temple Run was released a few weeks ago -- just as everyone is getting bored with Temple Run 2 on Android.
To plug some of the holes in the Windows app market, Nokia has bundled the 720 with a whole host of extra software. It largely revolves around its maps service -- now called HERE Maps, for some reason.
The maps app allows you to quickly search for local businesses -- restaurants, bars, shops, hotels etc -- and provides a wealth of information. Click on a result, and it'll show you contact details, directions on how to get there and reviews from previous customers and industry guides, if available.
If you want a more visual indication of what's around you, fire up City Lens. This pulls the same business information, but shows you where all the businesses on screen are located around you. On your screen you'll see the view from your camera, with each business laid on top as a dot. As you move the camera around, you'll see where your chosen spot is and can simply walk towards it.
Nokia's Drive app provides turn-by-turn GPS satellite navigation, helping you drive anywhere you want. You can download the maps to your phone too, meaning you won't get lost when your signal cuts out.
If you'd rather take public transport, fire up HERE Transit. It'll show you local bus stops, train stations and underground stops. Pop in your current location and destination and it'll use live departure data to show you the quickest way to get there. It might not be a big help to everyone, but I certainly found it useful in London.
Nokia Music lets you to listen to songs from a variety of playlists for free, without those annoying adverts, and you can even download up to 14 hours of songs to play offline. You can only download the provided mixes, rather than just listening to a whole album, but it's still a worthy addition for music fans.
This all runs on a dual-core 1GHz processor. Compare that to the quad-core engines you'll find in the Android powerhouses and you won't be too impressed. The fact remains, though, that there's still very little to really push a processor's limits on Windows Phone. Swiping around the colourful live tiles was very slick and at no point in my multi-tasking, gaming or map navigating did I notice the phone slowing down.
On the back of the 720 you'll find a 6.7-megapixel camera. It doesn't bear the same PureView name shared by the Nokia 808, or indeed the 920 -- both of which produced good results -- but Nokia is still keen to boast about its skills.
I adjusted all settings to default and headed up to London's delightful Borough Market. In my test shot, the various varieties of mouth-watering tomatoes looked pretty satisfying. Exposure was decent and the colours were at least acceptable. It does have a slight cold colour cast that drains the red hues of the tomatoes a little, but you can fix this easily enough by tweaking the white balance settings.
There's an LED flash on the back, which did a good job of lighting up my colleagues' excellent faces, while not being so strong as to wash them out completely. Without the flash in low light, the quality took a bit of a hit, but I was still impressed with the overall image. I've seen much worse from better phones.
Like the the others in the Lumia range, the 720 comes with a host of Nokia camera software. You'll get a panorama function, a best-shot mode, which lets you take multiple shots of a group and merges the best faces into one good image. Cinemagram mode allows you to selectively animate a small section of an image to create a creepy little gif.
There's a front-facing camera too, letting you video chat with your mates over Skype. Some of the software on the camera is on the gimmicky side, but it's good to see Nokia doing its best to make up for the lack of software in the app store. You won't find big photography names like Instagram or Snapseed in there just yet.
The Nokia Lumia 720 is slim, attractive, has a decent camera and includes some excellent Nokia software. It's let down by its screen resolution -- which isn't any better than the resolution on its cheaper little brother -- and the Windows Phone 8 app store is still woefully understocked compared to its Android and iOS rivals.
If you're keen to step into the world of Windows Phone and don't fancy shelling out the big bucks for the 920, the 720 is a fair option to consider. If you can cope with the smaller screen size though, the 620 offers most of the same features and will cost you half as much.