Tuesday, 13 December 2016

My thoughts on the Microsoft Lumia 640

Microsoft Lumia 640


After a few years of being a Windows Insider and enjoying checking out the latest builds of Windows 10 for the PC, I grew restless and wanted to find out for myself what Windows 10 Mobile was like. I’ve heard horror stories over the last year, so wanted to check it out personally and see if it really is that bad.

I brought my Microsoft Lumia 640 LTE from EBay for a bargain price of £50. Brand new, these phones are around £150. I wasn’t prepared to pay that amount for what was only going to be a test phone. I did consider the most recent Microsoft phones in the low-end market, the 650 and 550, but reviews have highlighted that although they look pretty, their camera was average and the processor was not really up to the job. So, I went for a slightly older model in the 640 which had reviews stating it was an adequate camera and a processor that was accepted as being decent enough. It also had all the bits and bobs that I like in my phones; removable back cover to get at battery, sim and SD card and all those extra communication standards like NFC and Bluetooth, GPS, accelerometer etc, most of which I never use much but I certainly want them there just in case!

Regarding EBay, there’s a lot of decently priced phones you can buy second-hand out there. Mine came in immaculate condition. The only issue is that the battery doesn’t appear to be in as good a condition as the phone. It won’t charge over 80%. I ordered a replacement battery for around a tenner as it’s always nice to have a backup battery, and it’s performed perfectly. Anyhow, when it comes to EBay, always double check what you’re actually buying is what you think it is, as the title of what I was buying wasn’t completely accurate with the description. I didn’t mind what flavour of the 640 I ended up with so didn’t enquire to the seller any further. However, if you’re picky, check with the seller. Also, make sure the seller has a good rating and that you can see reviews from other people who have brought the same or similar item from them. My seller is one of those online only company’s that must have a warehouse somewhere with stock and flogs everything online. The phone came quickly and in great condition so I can’t complain, but do your research before committing to a seller.

To see photos of the phone, take a look at Microsoft’s Website here https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/mobile/phone/lumia640/ and for detailed specs, go here http://www.gsmarena.com/microsoft_lumia_640_lte-7055.php

I had intended to use the 640 purely as a wireless handheld without utilising it’s phone capabilities but with my current android phone being old and my curiosity high (it’s a Samsung S3), I decided I’d trial a week with my SIM in the 640. Well, that turned into being a permanent move, which is why I’m blogging about my experiences with the Microsoft Phone and Mobile OS. You may think the fact that I’ve held out this long using the phone must mean there’s little wrong with life in the Microsoft fast-lane, but, if you know anything about Microsoft in the mobile world, you’d know that’s unlikely.

What’s the actual phone hardware like?


From a hardware perspective, the actual specifications sound quite reasonable. Not spectacular, but not awful either. It may not look very pretty in it’s all black version which I have but the screen itself feels very smooth and silky. It’s not picked up any marks in the time I’ve used it but I’ve not dropped it yet, neither have I brought a case for it. The first thing which caught me out are its buttons, of which there is no front one. Yup, I know these are being phased out on most modern phones these days but this is the first phone I’ve had without one and it felt really odd. I wasn’t sure I’d like it or get used to it but I did. I’d prefer to have the home button I think but it’s safe to say that I haven’t really missed it on this device yet. Naturally, the actual home button features are instead on the screen itself via software rather than a physical button.

Another button I didn’t think I’d get used to is the volume one, which is on the top of the right side of the phone, which is seriously odd for my hands when every phone I’ve had previously has had the volume on the left side panel. Now this has taken slightly longer for me to remember as an instinctive process.

Just below the volume button is of course the second and only other button on the phone, the power button which serves to do as the name suggests and also as a lock button. You’d think there’d not be a lot to say about this button but I do need to tell you that pressing it once whilst the phone is on takes you to the lock screen, but holding it in for a little longer doesn’t power the phone down. Nope, it takes you to the “power off slider” in Windows Mobile, where you have to then slide the screen downwards with your finger to turn off the phone. You can keep the power button pressed in for ten seconds to skip the slider and turn the phone off but it’s safe to say that you won’t accidentally turn off the phone with this combination of button work.

Back Cover

Woohoo. A back cover that comes off. This was a prime reason why I was more than happy to have this phone. I’m no fan of having the back cover sealed. It’s important to be able to get to the battery I believe. Not only does it mean you can carry a spare battery and swap them when you like (which I do often), but if the phone goes ape on you and won’t respond to any button pressing, you can quickly whip off the back cover and take out the battery as a form of hard reset. I’ve only once had to do that on this phone but I’d rather have the option than not.

Also under the back cover are the slots for the SIM and SD card, of which you have to take the battery out first in order to take out/in these cards. The cover itself comes off easily although there’s no obvious place to start trying to get the cover off. The first time had me confused but you just have to grip your finger nails to the edge of the cover around the front of the phone in order to pull it off. Once you know how, it comes off and goes on effortlessly. It is however only plastic, as is the whole of this phone’s outer.


To me, it looks gorgeous. The whole resolution and screen technology thing confuses me but I can tell you, from my rather normal eyes, that I can see nothing unusual or weird about the screen. Everything looks bright, clear and almost shimmering like the Aero mode did in Windows 7. It’s a gloss feel as opposed to matt. One still has to pump up to the highest brightness level in sunlight but probably not as much of an issue as it has been on previous phones although I’ve not had this phone during the summer yet so never been in full strength sunlight. The Gorilla Glass cover looks to be doing an excellent job. Only dropped it once and that picked up no scratches. The finger smudges don’t appear to be too bad on this phone either.


In terms of Megapixels this camera is in a decent ball-park although we all know that MPs don’t make prizes or good photos on their own. One reason I chose this phone over the cheaper two (550, 650) was that this was a better camera from the reviews I’ve read. It does indeed take pretty decent shots. In low light you’ll need the HDR turned on, but most photos do tend to come out looking very respectable.


So, in terms of actual hardware in my hands, this phone does a very reasonable job for it’s price, which was originally £150 but you can now find it for £100 new or even around the £50 mark that I picked it up on eBay, although that’s refurbished. When you consider that the high end market is nearer £600 and mid-market is £300, this phone does a very good job in terms of performance for money. It looks and feels good, and has a camera no where near as bad as some tablets and phones of the low-end market normally have. You can actually take photos in most conditions and use them on social media without anyone likely to joke about your cheap phone.

External speaker isn’t the best. Perfectly fine for audio but for music you’re likely to think that your favourite band has forgotten some of their instruments if you play them on this phone. I’ve not tried with earphones, which I’d imagine will be much better if you have a decent pair.

The removable back cover is a big plus for me but there are a few minor issues in terms of the hardware that bug me. I bought the cheapest 640 version in terms of storage, which is 8GB; this is nowhere near enough if you are going to use the camera and have more than the default number of Windows OS apps installed. The 8GB itself is further reduced by 3.5GB which is reserved for the system and 2.5GB for the standard default apps. The 2GB you have to play with is no where near enough once you actually start using any extra apps that you install, or add music and take regular photos. You will need to buy an SD Card and set the OS to use that for apps (most will use the SD card instead of system drive) and photos and videos etc. Windows does a very good job of helping you set things up with the SD card after you’ve inserted it and booted up the phone first time.

Lastly, the one issue that took me a while to get used to and stop being frustrated over, is that this phone only charges when it’s turned on. So, there’s no chance of trying to quickly charge it by keeping it off, because as soon as you insert that power cable it turns the phone on. You’ve therefore got to turn off Wi-Fi and whack it into Airplane Mode if you want to get close to the scenario of charging it with the phone as off as possible. I’ve not had a phone like this before and checked online to find that most Lumia phones charge this way. It’s not really as much of a problem as I thought. It just takes a few days to get used to after never having this mode of recharging before. In case you’re wondering how long the phone takes to recharge, then I’d estimate 2-3 hours if it’s down to 10%. There’s no fast charging facility with this phone.

If I had to give it a rating, then in terms of specification per pound, this phone does a very good job and satisfied the majority of my requirements. Sure, this isn't super-fast or super-specifications but it's a long way from being poor. When you add in the actual cost, then it just becomes even better value.

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