Selling for as low as £200, its April release lined it up to compete directly with a number of handsets that just slightly out-spec it, such as the Sony Xperia ZR, the LG Optimus F5 and the Huawei Ascend P2.
DESIGN & HANDLING
Stylistically, we're in familiar territory with the Lumia 720. The loud Lumia colours are in full effect (in case you didn't notice, this is the yellow model), the polycarbonate body doesn't slip and slide in your hands and the curved edges make it a good-looking phone. The 4.3-inch form factor makes it easy to use with one hand, and it isn't heavy.
Near the bottom of the back are three holes that allow the battery to charge wirelessly via the optional wireless charging shell. There's a microSD port, but in order to get to it you have to use a needle or something sharp and thin to lift the cover, which isn't ideal when you're trying to go fast.
The IPS display has some great characteristics. For one thing, the Gorilla Glass 2 means good resistance. Nokia's ClearBlack technology gives the screen good visibility in the sunlight, and you can use the display with gloves on. All good things.
But overall, the results are more mixed. The average contrast ratio is a rather unimpressive 617:1, although that's compensated with excellent brightness of 543 cd/m². It's a real torch in the dark, making the screen easy to read outdoors. The colours are relatively faithful, with a Delta E of 5.2, and the colour temperature stays consistent across the spectrum at 7,112 kelvins.
But then there's the low 800 x 480 resolution, which makes the pixels visible in text. The lack of detail is a real downside for a smartphone like this. The albeit more expensive HTC 8X, another 4.3-inch Windows Phone, uses 1280 x 780 resolution, and the difference is palpable.
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
With the resizable, multicoloured tiles in the menu, there's no doubt this is Windows Phone 8. As always, Microsoft's mobile operating system comes with the Office suite, OneNote, SkyDrive for cloud storage, and more. As for the Nokia software, you get Nokia Here, a very effective geolocation platform for things like maps, GPS and journey planning. Here City Lens is just as helpful as always, highlighting points of interest such as restaurants and movie theatres when you point the camera towards the street (you can see a photo of it in our review of the Lumia 920). This is a free service that only Nokia offers, and it's a real plus.
The menus navigate well. Windows open instantly, the scroll function is responsive... everything's fluid. However, the multitasking menu, which you access by holding the Back button, needs some work, as there's always a certain amount of lag before re-opening apps you've left.
But it's always amazing to see how well-optimised Windows Phones are in relation to their hardware. Compared to Android, which requires quad-core processors and as many gigs of RAM as possible in order to run smoothly, here the Lumia 720 executes the OS fantastically well with a basic system-on-chip and just 512 MB of RAM. It's truly remarkable.
Windows Phone 8 is an enjoyable operating system with a unique design, but its eternal flaw is the limited selection of apps compared to Android and iOS. You can find best-selling games like Plants Vs. Zombies and Angry Birds, but it would be nice to have others, such as Real Racing 3 or Infinity Blade.
Then again, the Lumia 720 might not be able to run those kinds of games anyway. Its graphics capabilities just might be too restrained to be able to generate a 3D environment in a game. Basically, there's enough power to provide some fun gameplay, but not astounding visuals.
For video, the Lumia 720 reads MP4 and MP4 only, so any movies in different file types you have to convert. And there are no other media players available on Windows Phone Store...
Nokia says the Lumia 720 has "extra long battery life". And with a 2,000 mAh battery there's plenty of potential, especially with resolution this low. But while the phone says "106 hours" of battery usage remaining at full charge, once you've consumed half of it, it says "3 hours". And that's after less than a day of use.
Not only that, but the battery tends to heat up quite a bit when you do things like stream video and play video games. When we tested it, the battery lasted over nine hours using data, Wi-Fi, etc. That's not bad, but it's far from what Nokia says.
The 6.7-Megapixel camera provides entirely respectable image quality, and photos actually look much better on a bigger monitor than on the phone's screen.
With little to no noise, a physical shutter release that focuses when you push the button halfway in, a flash that isn't overkill and good sensitivity in low lighting, the Lumia 720's camera function is easily one of the best we've seen on a mid-range smartphone.