Say hello to the first Windows Phone 8.1 handset: Lumia 630 sales begin

Starting Wednesday in Asia, consumers can purchase the first Windows Phone 8.1(s msft) handset: Nokia has announced the start of Lumia 630 sales. Europe and the U.S. will have to wait a bit longer, as the phone isn’t expected in those regions until July. The off-contract price for the Lumia 630, before any taxes, will be $159 in the U.S. or €119 in other regions.

Nokia Lumia 630

When I attended Microsoft’s Build event last month, I got a chance to try out the Lumia 630. I was generally impressed and may buy a unit to replace my older Lumia 52o. Although this clearly isn’t a flagship phone, it doesn’t have the price of one either. My early take is that the Lumia 630 is a good value: It runs the latest version of Windows Phone and includes Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant software. Most of the apps I tested ran smoothly as well.

Just like Nokia’s higher end Lumias, the 630 is filled with Nokia’s own software. You’ll find the great Nokia Here app for location and directions, MixRadio for music and Nokia’s Camera app, which lets you refocus images after snapping them. Of course, Microsoft’s software with Window Phone 8.1 is the star of the show with the new Action Center and Wi-Fi Sense, to name a couple features.

What I didn’t know at the Build was that Motorola(s goog) would be announcing a low-cost Android phone generally aimed at the same target audience. That phone launched yesterday for $129 and it, too, provides a good value based on my first look. I’ll be very interested in seeing how both handsets do in the global market, although I’d give the edge to Nokia in terms of worldwide branding. The Lumia 630 is a bit more powerful as well, using a quad-core processor compared to the dual-core chip found in the Moto E.