Microsoft today announced the Lumia 650, a new low-end Windows phone that targets business users. The 650 will ship in select European countries beginning this week, and will cost just $200.
“We’re extremely proud of the Lumia 650 and believe it will quickly be seen as the device that provides the perfect balance between work and personal needs,” Microsoft’s Samuli Hänninen writes in a blog post that introduces the device to the world. “The Lumia 650 brings first class to business class; giving our customers the best of Microsoft productivity and security, all wrapped in a beautiful slim package.”
And that, folks, is the marketing message on this most curious mid-level smart phone: It’s another Lumia, aimed at businesses. That it costs no more than the entry-level Lumia 550 but offers a sleeker metal frame than the much more expensive and capable Lumia 950 and 950 XL only adds to the confusion that is Microsoft’s smart phone lineup.
The specs are mostly low-end. The Lumia 650 utilizes a 5-inch 720p (1280 x 720) AMOLED ClearBlack screen, a quad-core 1.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage, an 8 MP main camera, and a 5 MP front-facing selfie camera.
Those specs are much closer to the Lumia 550 than the 950 series, and I’m curious why this device isn’t just a bit more impressive, and doesn’t sit, spec-wise, right between the 550 and 950. (By comparison, the Lumia 550 features a 4.7-inch 720p screen, a quad-core 1.1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage, a 5 MP main camera and a 2 MP front-facing camera.
But what really sets the Lumia 650 apart from all of Microsoft’s other current Lumias, is the device’s frame. It looks like the other members of the Lumia family, and offers both matte white and matte black cases, like the other Lumias. But instead of offering a cheap plastic body, like the Lumia 550, 950 and 950 XL, the Lumia 650 provides a “highly polished, diamond cut and anodized aluminum frame, giving it an unparalleled and premium feel.” Yes, a premium feel that the high-end and expensive 950 and 950 XL lack.
Despite the lack of meaningful differentiation, and its incompatibility with Continuum, the Lumia 650 is explicitly targeted at business. It’s also available only in Europe, where Windows phone is sometimes quite a bit more popular than elsewhere; that is perhaps notable. Regardless, with the release of this device, Microsoft has thus achieved its Lumia release goals as stated in July 2015: The Lumia 950 and 950 XL are for enthusiasts, the 650 is for businesses, and the 550 is for value phone buyers (read: emerging markets). Done.
As for the rest of the year, I’m as curious as you are. Perhaps the news out of Mobile World Congress will provide a guide for what we can expect in the Windows phone world.