Review: Nokia Lumia 720
Nokia has history of making great looking and the Lumia 720 is no different. The phone takes on the appearance of the more expensive Lumia 920 and looks really good.
Ever since the Finnish company decided to join forces with Microsoft, Nokia has been steadily releasing a slew of Windows Phones into the market covering various price points. We have seen devices like the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820 in the past, which took care of the high-end of the market and phones such as the Lumia 520 and the Lumia 620, which are covering the low-end.
Today we have the Lumia 720 with us, which sits bang in the middle of Nokia's Lumia range and is a mid-range device with enough features to attract those who don't want to spend too much but want something more than a budget device. Let's see how well it performs.
Nokia has history of making great looking and the Lumia 720 is no different. The phone takes on the appearance of the more expensive Lumia 920 and looks really good, particularly the red version pictured here. Unlike some of the other Lumia models, the 720 has a unibody construction and the polycarbonate on the back fuses effortlessly with the glass on the front.
The front has the Gorilla Glass 2 stretching from top to bottom and housing the display roughly in the middle. As with the previous Lumia phones, there is a sizable bezel around the screen, particularly below with the three keys, and it does tend to make the display look smaller than it is. Above the display are the earpiece and the front facing camera.
On the right, the phone has the volume control keys, power keys and two-step camera shutter key. Having the power key on the side instead of the top is convenient but having it on same side as the volume keys means you often end up pressing one when you want the other. Having it on the other side would have reduced the confusion.
On top is the 3.5mm headphone jack. Since the phone has a unibody design, the card slots are on the outside, with the micro SIM slot on top and microSD slot on the left, both operated using the provided tool. On the bottom is the micro USB port.
On the back is the 5 megapixel camera with an LED flash. A secondary microphone can be seen just above the flash. Near the bottom are the connectors for the snap-on wireless charging cover and loudspeaker. The snap-on cover is a separately sold accessory and not part of the standard equipment. It adds extra size and bulk to the phone, not to mention makes it look worse, for the convenience of wireless charging.
The hardware has a nice feel and fits well in your hand. The matte red unit we received looked nice but was a tad slippery, which was exacerbated by the curvy body. The phone, however, feels rock solid despite the plastic construction and should be able to take a few drops without any issues.
Overall the design and build of the Lumia 720 are very impressive and although it is only a mid-range device it has a premium feel to it that surpasses that of many expensive phones.
The Lumia 720 has a 4.3-inch, 800 x 480 resolution ClearBlack LCD. The ClearBlack technology improves outdoor visibility by employing a polarizing filter that makes the display easier to see even under direct sunlight.
The 720 also uses a couple of software tweaks to improve the visibility under bright light by changing the color and brightness of the panel. The image no longer looks natural but if you're just trying to look at text or a map under sunlight then it shouldn't be too much of an issue.
Lastly, the Lumia 720 also employs the super-sensitive touch that we first saw on the Lumia 920. Once enabled, this lets you use the touchscreen even through gloves or pretty much anything, for that matter.
Speaking of image quality, the display on the Lumia 720 is actually quite good. The colors, brightness, contrast, viewing angles and sunlight legibility are all impressive. Only issue is the WVGA resolution, which makes some of the fonts look rough, especially while scrolling. Still, for most parts the display on the Lumia 720 is quite satisfactory.
Hardware, Software and Performance
The Lumia 720 runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8227 SoC with a 1GHz dual-core Krait CPU and Adreno 305 GPU. In terms if memory, it has 512MB of RAM and 8GB of storage space, out of which only about 3GB is available to the user. You'll be glad to know then that the phone also has a microSD card slot. In terms of connectivity, the phone has 3G/HSPA, Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi 802.11ab/g/n, NFC, A-GPS and GLONASS.
The software is the same old Windows Phone 8. Released over a year ago now, the OS is already starting to feel long in the tooth and Microsoft's glacial pace at updating it isn't helping matters. In its current version, Windows Phone would have been great four years ago but feels severely out of touch with what's going on in the rest of the smartphone world. Whatever is the next version it couldn't come soon enough.
Beyond the core operating system, Nokia has usual has installed its own range of apps and service. There is the excellent Nokia Here maps application, along with turn-by-turn voice navigation with Nokia Drive. Then there is the Nokia Music service for free streaming of Indian and international music, Cinemagraph for taking pictures with moving elements, Panorama for, well, panorama shots, Smart Shoot that takes multiple shots and lets you choose the best one, and a couple of others. Nokia has also installed a few third party apps, such as BIGFLIX, BookMyShow, Cosmopolitan, Hike, TripAdvisor and Zomato. As usual, you can choose to uninstall all of these, if you wish.
Nokia's applications are what set their Windows Phone devices apart from everyone else's (that and the fact that every else seems to have pretty much given up at this point). Nokia does a good job of making up for Microsoft's inadequacies to quite an extent.
Unfortunately, Nokia can't make up for everything and as before, Windows Phone still lags behind when it comes to third party apps. It's disappointing that even after three years this is still an issue but that's just how it is. If you're not a big app or games person and only need the basic apps to get through your day, you should be fine. More demanding users would still be advised to look at iOS or Android.
In terms of performance, the Lumia 720 is in line with other Windows Phone devices. The UI is as smooth as ever, although occasionally it would hiccup in odd places. The menu in the camera app, for example, always lagged every time it was brought up.
As with other Lumia phones, the 720 comes with additional options in the Settings menu, such as for the display and network settings. These are not part of the core OS and added separately by Nokia through. Due to this, there is a distinct lag when you open them, complete with a loading screen. On surface, they look like any other settings item so the lag is likely to confuse an average user who doesn't know what Nokia has been up to. It would be better if Nokia works on making the integration more seamless by getting rid of the loading screens.
The Lumia 720 comes with 512MB of RAM, which other than making a handful of apps incompatible with the device also makes it easy to run out of memory during multitasking. It's not difficult to choke the phone by running a few apps in the background while web browsing. This usually results in the phone either closing the apps or closing browser tabs.
Performance in gaming is a mixed bag. In certain games such as Temple Run there was noticeable lag whereas Asphalt 7: Heat worked fine. It really depends upon the developers and how they optimize their apps. Unfortunately, most of them don't really bother, which negatively affects the overall gaming performance.
The Lumia 720 has a 6.7 megapixel camera, which is a rather odd resolution to have. The main attraction is the camera aperture, which at f/1.9 is the widest on a mobile phone camera till date. What this should result in is some good low-light photography and shallow depth of field.
In terms of image quality, the Lumia 720 acquits itself quite well. Nokia is one of the best around when it comes to camera quality but it's good to see the expertise trickle down to mid-range offerings as well. The images from the 720 are fairly detailed and noise-free with natural colors and sharpness. The large aperture doesn't really result in a particularly shallow depth of field compared to phones with smaller apertures but then that is expected from such a small lens.
In lowlight, the camera once again delivers impressive results, with genuinely usable images, helped no doubt by the wide aperture allowing more light in than on most camera phones. Of course, the aperture alone can't do much, so it's good that Nokia has paired the optics with a good sensor as well. Low light images look pretty decent and have a surprisingly low-amount of noise.
Videos were once again quite good. The phone records 720p videos, which, other than the usual wobble associated with a lack of stabilization of any kind, were sharp and smooth.
The audio video performance is on par with other Windows Phone devices. The music player still won't let you play FLAC files and the video player cannot play anything other than MP3, that too without subtitle support. This barebones experience may have made sense back in 2007 when the iPhone was announced but not anymore. The fact that you don't even have decent apps to make up for this functionality makes things worse.
The audio quality of the 720 is pretty good, both through the headphones as well as the loudspeaker. The single loudspeaker, despite its position is pretty loud even if you keep it on a surface. The headphone output can be altered as Nokia bundles an equalizer app within the main settings although it's best to leave them disabled. Nokia also bundles a pair of earphones with the phone but they have to be perhaps the worse I've ever heard and don't ever deserve to be taken out of the box.
The Lumia 720 has a non-removable 2,000mAh battery. The battery size is the same as the one in the Lumia 920 and even bigger than what HTC provides with the 8X. Considering the slower processor, this has a profound effect on battery life. With regular usage, the Lumia 720 could get about two days of battery life, which has become incredibly rare these days. Even with heavy usage you'd still get over a day of usage, which is still pretty awesome.
There is a lot to like in the Lumia 720. The design is absolutely gorgeous and good enough to make you want to buy the phone on that merit alone. The display is also pretty good, despite the lower resolution. The camera is impressive, both indoors and outdoors and the battery life is outstanding.
It's not without its flaws, however. The first is Windows Phone 8, which is no longer a competitive operating system. It lags behind iOS and Android in both features as well as third party applications. Unless Microsoft gets its game together and releases some significant updates it is bound to fade into obscurity.
Secondly, at ₹ 17,999, the Lumia 720 is quite expensive. You are paying nearly twice over the Lumia 520 and not getting a lot in return. Priced below ₹ 15,000, the Lumia 720 would have been easier to recommend but not so much at the current price.
All things considered, if you're someone who doesn't use a lot of apps and manage to find a good deal, the Lumia 720 is a fine device and one of the best mid-range smartphones on the market today. Others are advised to look elsewhere.