Microsoft Lumia 735 Review: Terrific Windows Phone From Verizon

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The new Microsoft (MSFT) Lumia 735 for Verizon (VZ) is a terrific smartphone. It's fast, polished and fairly priced. But it runs on an old operating system, and consumers aren't exactly breaking down doors to buy Windows phones.

The big operating system change Microsoft says it's offering later this year can't come soon enough.


The new Lumia 735 runs on the current, and long-in-the-tooth, Windows Phone 8.1 OS. But Microsoft has made a few changes in the software for this new phone. In case you've never had the pleasure of using one, Windows phones are the only devices that actually thrive on the tile-based home screen format that the company foisted on the public a few years ago.

The Lumia 735 runs the latest version of Windows Phone 8.1, called "Update 2 with Lumia Denim." It includes a few good software tweaks, including the option to hide the buttons on the bottom of the home/tile screen, and a revised Settings menu that is conveniently split into categories and makes more sense. Everything seems much more polished, too.

As for the hardware, the phone is sleek and beautifully designed. It is a lightweight black slab with curved sides -- easy to hold and slip in a pocket or purse. It's reminiscent of the ground-breaking design of the ill-fated Nokia  N9 from all the way back in 2011.

Inside, there's a 4.7-inch OLED touchscreen display (1280 by 720 pixels, 316 ppi), a quad-core, 1.2 GHz Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon 400 processor, 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage, plus a microSD expansion slot. Microsoft touts the Lumia 735 as being designed for taking selfies with its 5 megapixel, full HD front-facing camera. (The company's emphasizing that feature, and downplaying the fact that the rear camera is only 6.7 megapixel.)

We found the battery was good for a full day of normal-to-heavy use, including 3 email accounts, text messaging, Web browsing, Spotify listening, voice calling and much more. The battery can be charged with the supplied AC power cord or wirelessly.

The handset weighs a manageable 4.7 ounces. Part of reason for that low weight is the phone's fully-removable outer shell. Microsoft describes the user-replaceable polycarbonate body as gray, but it looks like a very dark black when you see it in person. There are also optional, wireless-charging colored shells.

The 735 is incredibly easy to use, and Microsoft's voice-activated Cortana virtual assistant works perfectly. It's not an Apple (AAPL) iPhone and it's not a Google (GOOG) Android phone, but it is a very worthy smartphone.

Unfortunately, the Lumia 735 can't compete with the others when it comes to apps. There are Windows versions of many of the favorites, but not all of them. If that ultimately matters to you, you may choose to look elsewhere.

Buy a Lumia 735 and you'll also be among the first to receive the next version of the Windows Mobile OS, and the improvements contained within. Verizon is currently offering the Lumia 735 for $8 a month if you want to pay it out, or $29.99 with a two-year service contract commitment, or $192 without a contract (but you can only use the device on on Verizon's 4G network).

One final note: On a recent ride on the New York City subway, I noticed I was standing next to a young woman using a Windows Phone. I rarely see anything other than iPhones and an occasional Android or two. I asked her if she liked her Windows device and she became quite animated. "I've had an iPhone and a number of Androids and this one is, hands-down, the easiest to use. It just works. It's the best. I'll never go back."

Then she smiled.

You may come to the same conclusion.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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