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January 29, 2015

Lumia 635: My new favorite fitness and work buddy

Can the Lumia 635 keep up with me on early-morning runs and help me get my work done? Read on.

Over the past year, I’ve used several Lumia devices. They include my trusty Lumia 521 (still a workhorse) and the Lumia Icon (love the 20MP camera), which has been my daily driver of late.

But ever since the Lumia 635 became available, I’ve wanted to test this inexpensive yet powerful smartphone with Windows Phone 8.1 for its SensorCore capabilities and to see if it could be a good secondary phone and fitness companion.

I recently got my hands on a new Lumia 635 in white, and over the past week, I put the phone through its paces. It’s been with me on my runs and bike rides, accompanied me to the office, and helped me complete work projects and get some personal stuff done.

So after a five-day test drive, what do I think of the Lumia 635?


It’s rugged. The Lumia 635 isn’t just another pretty face. As the old Timex watch slogan says, “It takes a licking, but keeps on ticking.” More than once on a run, I accidentally dropped my Lumia 635 when it slipped from my sweaty-fingered grip.

But when I picked up the phone, after dusting off a bit of dirt and grime, there wasn’t a scratch on the 4.5-inch display (yay for Gorilla Glass!) or the substantial plastic case. I won’t keep tempting fate–I’ll stash the phone in a zippered pocket from now on–but the Lumia 635 has proven itself a hardy device.

It’s light. I love my premium Lumia Icon for great photos, but the lightness of the Lumia 635 makes it perfect for my runs. It’s also slightly slimmer than the Icon, making it easy to hold (sweaty hands notwithstanding).

SensorCore seriously rocks. While the Lumia 635 is touted as an “affordable” phone, you get premium features such as SensorCore, which is a combination of hardware and software to send you meaningful fitness-activity data.

Some of the apps I use, including Track Runner and Fitbit, take advantage of SensorCore, giving me information such as step-count and stride rate (important for runners) and handy tools such as auto-pause and auto-resume. In fact, SensorCore has worked so well for me that I’ve stopped using my specialized running watch.

For example, my Lumia 635 and Track Runner told me that my average stride rate on my last run was 174 strides a minute—that’s data my running watch can’t track. Since that stride rate is a bit low (180-182 strides per minute is optimal) now I know to quicken my turnover rate to improve my running game.

Camera performance. At first blush, the five-megapixel camera on the Lumia 635 may not sound like a big deal. After all, it doesn’t have the Zeiss optics nor the 41-megapixel “wow” factor of the Lumia 1020.

But I was very pleased to find that the Lumia 635 takes pretty darn good photos, especially in natural light. Colors are true and images are clear. For instance, here’s an unfiltered image I took of my blue and pink Nike sneaks apres-run.


Here’s a photo of the sun trying to break through cirrus and cumulous clouds that I snapped while running at dawn through my northern California neighborhood.


And here’s a photo of the delicious cappuccino I rewarded myself with after my run.


I didn’t doctor any of these photos, but if you want to play around with your images, of course, there’s a wealth of photo-editing apps out there. My favorites include Lumia Creative Studio and Afterlight (check out our interview here with Simon Filip, the mastermind behind Afterlight).

And just a word about video performance: The Lumia 635 won’t take the place of your 52-inch flat-screen TV, but I found video-watching on the phone a fairly comfortable experience. I loaded Netflix on the Lumia 635 and watched two episodes of “The Fall,” my new favorite television drama. Streaming was smooth and audio was crystal clear.

Loaded with Cortana and Office. Just like its “higher-end” counterparts, the Lumia 635 comes with the Office suite of tools and Cortana.

I was able to scroll through and edit several Excel work documents while on the go–saving me precious time and the effort of booting up my laptop. Meanwhile, Cortana reminded me of several important meetings and alerted me when traffic was bad, diverting me from my usual route to a faster alternative.

I was originally interested in this phone as a fitness companion and a secondary phone. I’m an editor for Conversations and my opinion might be biased, but I really liked the device and I’m now using the Lumia 635 as my daily driver for personal and professional use.

Because sometimes, you don’t need to spend big bucks to get big performance.

Do you have the Lumia 635? If so, spill what you love best about it in the comments below.