With the Lumia 640, Microsoft is trying to have it both ways. This interesting device will be sold for just $130 off-contract here in the US, and yet it offers much of the same value of the more expensive Lumia 735 and 830, bringing high-end features even further down-market. Does this new handset hit a new sweet spot?
As any Windows Phone fan can tell you, the last year has been somewhat frustrating, with Microsoft focusing almost exclusively on the low-end of the market. But this view is somewhat limiting, as Microsoft has also shipped a number of compelling mid-range handsets, including the Lumia 735 and 830. The shtick for those devices was that they offered high-end handset features—a wide angle selfie camera on the 735, for example, or the PureView camera in the 830—at a more compelling price point.
The Lumia 640 straddles those two worlds. From a pricing perspective—it will cost just $130 off-contract when it arrives tomorrow on Cricket here in the United States—the Lumia 640 is very much a low-end device, though it’s about double the cost of a Lumia 635. (You can get an international/no contract version of the Lumia 535 for about $10 less than that from Amazon.com, which is perhaps a fairer comparison.) But like the Lumia 735 and 830, the Lumia 640 also brings a level of quality and performance that was, until now, unheard of in this price class.
At least in theory: I will need to actually use the Lumia 640 to prove that it performs as well as I think it will. But it is immediately obvious in unboxing this device that the Lumia 640 far exceeds the quality of the Lumia 535. And that alone is important.
If you re-read my Microsoft Lumia 535 Review, you will note that I described the device as “a great entry-level handset” but complained about the viewing angles on the screen and, more important, the build quality. The 535 is “delightfully thin,” I wrote, but “this thinness is responsible for a certain creakiness I’ve never experienced in other Lumias … I bent the cover around the USB hole because I’ve struggled with it so much.”
By comparison, the Lumia 640 is similarly sized. It is a bit thicker, but not “thick,” nor heavy, and that extra couple of millimeters contributes to a higher-quality feel to the device. In other words, it’s the right kind of thicker. In the hand, the Lumia 640 feels substantial, real, not creaky and flexy.
And you gotta love that the Lumia 640 comes in classic Nokia cyan on Cricket. I bought a cyan cover for my Lumia 535 because it’s so pretty, but where the 535’s cyan cover is matte, the 640 version is glossy and comes in a two-tone design where the edges of the device are a bit darker than the back. (This is similar to how the colored covers for the Lumia 635 work as well.)
You can pop off that cover to access the removable battery, SIM card and microSD card slot. And of course to replace the cover with a different color or a flip case.
The screens are similar at first glance, but the 640 is subtly better, and has better viewing angles. Looking at the specs for each, I see that while both handsets have a 5-inch IPS LCD display, only the 640 offers ClearBlack technology. It’s also higher-res at 1280 x 720, vs. the weird 960 x 540 of the Lumia 535. Both devices support double-tap to wake, though this feature is enabled by default on the 640.
The Cricket unboxing experience is similar to that of AT&T—which makes some sense, since Cricket is owned by AT&T and utilizes its network—but more colorful, which goes a surprising distance towards making it a better experience. Inside the box, you’ll find the phone, of course, and the usual terrible small booklets. But there’s also a nice “clear and simple quick start guide” that is unique to the Lumia 640, and both a power cable and one of those short USB cables that are increasingly common to Lumia.
I’ll test my own AT&T SIM in this phone soon, but I expect that to work normally. The Cricket version of the Lumia 640 supports LTE speeds on AT&T, and that alone differentiates it from the 535 (at least here in America).
I’m reasonably sure the camera won’t blow anyone away, though at 8 MP, it too is an improvement over the sad 5 MP version in the 535. I’ll test it.
Oh, and it comes with Windows Phone 8.1.2. Nice!
Overall, the first impressions of this device are very positive. It appears to outclass the Lumia 535 in every possible way, and the quality difference is immediately obvious when you hold both devices. Maybe it’s time to rewrite that “how low can they go?” script: with the Lumia 640, at least, Microsoft appears to have rebounded nicely.