The options are increasing for people who want an LTE smartphone, but don't want to spend a fortune or sign an expensive contract. Two new alternatives that won't drain wallets are Nokia's Lumia 635 and the Huawei-made Kestrel.
The Android-based Kestrel was announced last week by U.K. operator EE and costs £99 (US$160) with local taxes, while the Lumia 635 running Windows Phone 8.1 was announced on Wednesday and costs $189 without tax. In the U.K. that should equal about £135 with local taxes.
The two smartphones are powered by the same processor, Qualcomm's quad-core Snapdragon 400 running at 1.2GHz. The Snapdragon 400 processor was announced in June last year with the express purpose of bringing down the cost of LTE smartphones.
Both smartphones have a 4.5-inch screen, with a 960 x 540 pixel resolution on the Kestrel and 854 x 480 pixels on the Lumia 635. Large screens are no longer limited to high-end smartphones, but users who choose a more affordable device won't get the full-HD resolution that flagship models have. When vendors develop cheap smartphones they have to make hard choices, but the low resolution on the Lumia is a little too stingy on Nokia's part.
Size and weight
Since the two models have the same screen size, the weight is also close. The Kestrel is slightly lighter at 145 grams versus the Lumia 635's 134 grams. The overall size of the two devices is also similar: the Kestrel measures 131 x 65.3 x 7.85 millimeters compared to the Lumia's 129.5 x 66.7 x 9.2 millimeters.
Storage and RAM
Buyers of the Kestrel and Lumia 635 will get 8GB of integrated storage, which can be expanded using microSD cards. The Lumia also has 7GB of online storage. Both models could easily have had 1GB of RAM, but Nokia has decided to go for only 512MB.
For taking photos, the two smartphones again share the same specification with a 5-megapixel camera, and video at 720p and 30 frames per second. The Kestrel also has a 1-megapixel camera on the back.
The camera has been Nokia's crutch as it has tried to differentiate its Windows Phones from competing Android-based smartphones and Apple's iPhones. The Lumia 635 may have the same basic hardware specification as the Kestrel, but Nokia has also included a number of apps to enhance the phone. For example, Refocus lets users take a photo and later choose what they want in focus by clicking on the image. There is also a Color Pop feature which will not only refocus part of an image, but also highlight the color of that particular area.
For now, the Kestrel is an EE exclusive own-brand smartphone. It goes on sale at the end of the month, while the Lumia 635 is "expected to be broadly available, including in the U.S. starting in this summer," according to Nokia. T-Mobile and AT&T said on Wednesday that they will sell the phone in the U.S.
Mobile operators are putting pressure on smartphone vendors to develop cheaper LTE smartphones, so that more users across the world start using the technology. Increasing competition between chip makers such as Qualcomm, MediaTek and Marvell is helping make low-cost products a reality.
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