The group that was once Nokia's mobile division has gone through a great number of changes in the past few years. After declining sales of Symbian devices, the company decided to go all in with Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. In a very short time, Nokia became the number one vendor of Windows Phone smartphones in the world. Despite this, the move to Windows Phone failed to revitalize the company. In August of last year, Microsoft purchased Nokia's mobile devices business in a 7.2 billion dollar acquisition. Less than a month later, Microsoft launched the Nokia Lumia 830, and the Nokia Lumia 735. These were the last two Lumia smartphones that would be branded as Nokia devices. With Nokia's phone division absorbed into Microsoft, future Lumia devices would fall under the Microsoft brand.

Today's review focuses on the Microsoft Lumia 640. This phone was announced alongside the Lumia 640 XL at MWC in February, and it's one of the first new Lumia devices released under the Microsoft brand. At $129, the Lumia 640 occupies a fairly low price point as far as smartphones are concerned, and it serves as an entry model to the Lumia smartphone line. To give a quick idea of what that $129 gets you in terms of hardware, I've organized the Lumia 640's specifications in the chart below.

Microsoft Lumia 640
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
(MSM8926)
4x ARM Cortex A7 at 1.2 GHz
Adreno 305 at 450 MHz
Memory and Storage 1GB LPDDR3 RAM, 8GB NAND + MicroSDXC
Display 5.0" 1280x720 IPS LCD
Cellular Connectivity 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE)
Dimensions 141.3 x 72.2 x 8.8 mm, 145g
Cameras 8MP Rear Facing w/ 1.12 µm pixels, 1/4" CMOS size, F/2.2, 28mm (35mm effective)

0.9MP Front Facing, F/2.4, 30mm (35mm effective)
Battery 2500 mAh (9.5Wh)
Other Connectivity 802.11b/g/n + BT 4.0, GNSS, DLNA
Operating System Windows Phone 8.1 + Lumia Denim
SIM MicroSIM
Price $129 on Cricket Wireless

The Lumia 640's hardware is certainly above average in some areas. The first thing I noticed is that it ships with a 5" 1280x720 IPS display. This puts it significantly ahead of devices at the same price point which typically ship with qHD panels. 1280x720 devices show up closer to the $200 price bracket, and so the Lumia 640 is definitely ahead in this regard. The 1/4" 8MP camera is another spec that you wouldn't expect to see on a smartphone priced at around $100. While the camera sensor is hardly the only factor when it comes to final image quality, Lumia devices have traditionally had very good image processing, and so the Lumia 640's camera capabilities may end up far beyond those of the competition.

All the other specifications are fairly typical for a phone of this price. 8GB of NAND, 1GB of RAM, and 2.4GHz 802.11n WiFi are all you get at this price. There is one thing that disappoints me, and that's the SoC. Snapdragon 400 is fairly old by this point, and has been replaced by Snapdragon 410 for some time now. While the Moto E review showed that Snapdragon 410 isn't an enormous leap over Snapdragon 400, it certainly helps, and I wish Microsoft had used the Lumia 640 as an opportunity to start shipping ARMv8 devices.

Design

When the Lumia brand was originally introduced there were only two devices available. The first was the Lumia 710, and the second was the Lumia 800. I had always felt that the Lumia 710 was a fairly standard looking smartphone, but Lumia 800 had a unique type of industrial design. That design has since expanded with the introduction of models at different price points, and some of the physical characteristics that can be seen in the Lumia 640 are not the same as those in other Lumia devices like the Lumia 735.

In a change from the order I typically follow when discussing the design of phones, the first part of the Lumia 640 I want to examine is actually the back cover. It’s a very solid feeling blue glossy plastic shell, although I would much prefer a matte finish, as the glossy plastic on this cover is already covered in scratches and smudges. The back cover has the Microsoft logo in the middle and in the case of this review unit a Cricket Wireless logo on the bottom. Next to the Cricket logo is a small hole to allow sound to pass through from the speaker underneath. Above the Microsoft logo is the 8MP rear-facing camera, and to the left of that is the LED flash.

What I find notable about this back cover is that although it’s removable, it feels incredibly solid and holds onto the phone very tightly. To put things in perspective, I actually questioned whether or not the back cover was removable when I first received the phone. Because there was no visible SIM slot I had to go online and confirm to myself that Cricket Wireless is not a Verizon or Sprint sub-brand running on EvDO and that there had to be a SIM slot somewhere. Only after I did this was I confident enough to pry off the back cover from the top of the phone.

The left side of the Lumia 640 is completely bare, while the right side has both the power button and the volume rocker. I was actually surprised at how good the buttons felt. The last two phones I reviewed were the Moto E and the ZenFone 2, and they also had removable frames or shells with some of their buttons attached to them. Compared to them, the buttons on the Lumia 640 have a much nicer tactile response, and a longer travel distance.

One key difference between the Lumia 640 and some of Microsoft’s other Lumia devices is that it has flat sides and rounded corners. This contrasts with the traditional appearance of Lumia devices, which are flat on the top and bottom, but rounded on the left and right sides. The shape of those edges also meant that there was no way to have rounded corners even though the corners of the black face plate were rounded, which I felt created a unique appearance that made Lumia devices more distinct. The more standard flat edges and rounded corners of the Lumia 640 just aren’t as unique, and I wish it was more like a traditional Lumia phone.

The top of the Lumia 640 has the 3.5mm audio jack, and the microUSB port is on the bottom. Something I noticed about my unit is that the actual port didn't line up perfectly with the hole that was cut in the plastic back shell of the phone. The hole was shifted slightly to the right, and the offset was just far enough to ensure that I could never get my charging cable to go in without jiggling the connector around until it found its way into the port. I assume that this is just a production mishap that is specific to my unit, but it's enough to cause a moment of frustration when trying to charge the phone or transfer files to it from a computer.

There’s not a whole lot to see on the front of the Lumia 640. It’s dominated by the 5” display, with only a handful of things positioned on the bezels around it. You may notice that you can see the touch array when light shines on the phone in a certain way. This is common on many phones, but it's a bit more noticable on the Lumia 640 than other devices. The bezel at the bottom of the display has a microphone to be used during calls, while the top has the front-facing camera and the earpiece speaker. Microsoft has seen fit to also put their logo on the top bezel, just in case you missed the logo right in the middle of the back cover.

My overall impression of the Lumia 640’s build quality and design is positive. While I’m not a fan of the glossy finish, the overall construction feels much more solid than any other phone at this price point that I’ve used.

System Performance
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  • BestUsernameEver - Tuesday, June 16, 2015 - link

    Brandon notes that the key app gap, for him, is the absence of Google services. I would agree that certain Google services, the biggies (map and search), are missed on WP. Sadly, that is by a very deliberate design on the part of Google (admirably noted in the review), which is actively avoiding any of its services ever making an appearance on WP (note the saga related to MS's own YouTube app for WP). This may change, and change quickly, if WP gains a user base north of 100 million users (they are not far away from this milestone now, in fact).

    However, I'm curious as to why he was so dismissive of the "alternatives," where they exist; in particular, OneDrive for Google Drive, and Skype for Hangouts. The MS alternatives are superior to Google's offerings here, and, unlike Google's versions, available on all platforms.

    Also, why bemoan the fact that the official Twitter app is not as good as it is on iOS and Android, when the third party Tweetium app is clearly a superior app for Twitter over the "official" version on WP?
    Reply
  • totoodo - Friday, June 19, 2015 - link

    http://www.totoodo.com/ser-nokia-nokia-lumia.php Reply
  • totoodo - Friday, June 19, 2015 - link

    http://www.totoodo.com/ser-nokia-NokiaAsha.php Reply
  • proheart - Tuesday, June 23, 2015 - link

    overall a thorough review- but what's the point of it? as long as the "app gap" is present (always will be with windows phones), there's just no reason to get one of these phones for anyone in any financial bracket.

    i had the nokia lumia 1020 for a few months ( the allure of a 41 MP camera intrigued me) however i came to the same conclusion as the reviewer that that apps just are not there, or for some of the popular ones that are, there is limited functionality and virtually no updates. windows app store no longer has the chase bank mobile app or it's no longer supported officially by chase.

    some folks are saying that with windows 10 things are going to change and it will be easier for developers to port apps to windows. i'm not buying it- they said the same thing with windows mobile 8 then 8.1 and it didn' t pan out.

    why would any developer cater to a market that has less than 3 % of the market share with no viable growth in sight? microsoft and windows mobile is and always will be a niche market and a very small niche at that.
    Reply
  • dustwalker13 - Sunday, July 5, 2015 - link

    actually it is growing. thing is it takes ages to get even from tiny to small. by the way market share in europe is around 10% not 3% and that market is way bigger than the us in terms of volume. android is loosing over there.

    the app gap is always stated and repels people as an argument which is odd seeing that research has shown that most users actually download less than one app a month on average and the overwhelming majority only uses standard apps that actually are available on all systems (like facebook, whatsapp, telegram, instagram, etc).

    the real issue is 75% marketing 24% what the guy in the pub says and 1% actual problem with app availability for most people. the difference between the us and europe seems to be in europe the customers have realized this fact.

    as for app development, the prospect to use microsofts new dev tools and crank out an app for all three platforms in one go with minimal adaptation, or import my android / ios app and create a unified windows store app for all windows devices with minimal effort ... hell yes this will work for me. the windows phone market is tiny ... but the pc/tablet windows market is not and if i can potentially just revamp my app in a few hours there, it basically is free money for me.

    windows phone 8.1 was useless ... develop a new app for a tiny market? not gonna happen. reencode my existing app for the windows store or even creating one new app and exporting it easily to all platforms? no brainer.
    Reply
  • rburnham - Friday, June 26, 2015 - link

    If Amazon's Music app was released for WP, I'd go back to it in a heartbeat. Reply
  • dustwalker13 - Sunday, July 5, 2015 - link

    A nice article just a bit of critizism here...

    If you are completely set to use googles apps there is only one system that makes sense for you anyway and that is android. Lamenting missing google apps on windows phone is like ranting about not having an itunes or facetime app on your samsung galaxy.

    The battery life is something I was surprised about. We use 640s for our sales guys. They get through the day withput issues while working and those people are not light on battery life. We had constant complaints back when we used android based htc models.

    Finally as for feeling slow, the only time I feel the system is slow is when loading up apps, which is to be expected on those old snapdragon 400. In the system itself, the settings etc. it feels smooth and more responsive than any android at the same price point I have tested, but that is just my subjective experience like you have yours.

    As for the browser, that one definitely needs work, though I think this issue will disappear with wp10 and edge in a few months. Anyway browsing on a mobile is a pain in all cases in my opinion.

    In the end, while the review tries to be comprehensive I think it is rather useless to have someone judge a system who is - through his app and cloud storage history - firmly set on using another system anyway.

    Someone who uses icloud and apple services for any and everything will not find android all that appealing. You use google services extensively and preclude the possibility to switch to another environment ... windows phone is just not for you.
    Reply
  • OoklaTheMok - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 - link

    I think you are wrong regarding how the Action Center should be displayed. In it's current form, the user can pull it down only a small amount to expose the Commands. In it's current form, I can pull it down an inch and expose the command I need to use at the moment, and I don't lose context of where I am. If it was implemented as you stated it should, I wouldn't be able to access the commands until the Action Center was completely opened. Reply
  • Smiles5525 - Thursday, August 20, 2015 - link

    We own or ownerd Lumia 540, 635, 825, 925 and 640. One item you left out of your review is the new security feature that only the 640 currently has. They have this feature hidden under "Find My Phone" and is callled Recovery Protection/recovery key. No where in manual that came with phone from T-Mobile does it list this feature. I believe the feature mat have been listed during setup. When this feature is turned on, your phone cannot be restored or the ability to change/add a different Microsoft id. Preventing someone from stealing the phone and being able to reuse it. You have to make sure you register the phone on the Windows website so you can obtain a recovery code and don't' lose it, before something happens.
    The only problem with this is.....if your Microsoft account is ever hacked like my son's xbox account was over a month ago, Microsoft gave him a temporary id to use for 30 days and locked up the id that was hacked; which of course is the id registered on the phone. Once they locked up the hacked account, you are not able to turn off the recovery feature so you can put a new Microsoft id on the phone. Then when you call Microsoft lumia, or Windows phone, they tell you how to restore the phone so you can put a new Microsoft id back on the phone. However, once the phone restarts it gets locked on the recovery key request because your recovery key does not work because Microsft reported that I'd hacked. You cannot even access anything saved in the cloud, pictures, phone backups...nothing. The problem......no one at Microsoft even knows how to fix this, they don't even know about their own security feature. I've spent 40+ hours on the phone with numerous departments, filled out a million forms and finally 30 days later, this issue was escalated to much higher departments with no resolve. My son's 3 week old phone is rendered useless and Microsoft cannot unlock the phone, nor will they replace it. I am stuck paying for a phone that was used 3 weeks. Microsoft locked up the phone and all they can do is say...sorry, nothing we can do. Microsoft has the poorest customer support structure and won't take responsibility for their short comings. I used to love Windows phones....I'll never buy another!
    Reply
  • sany666 - Monday, November 16, 2015 - link

    this is one of the best under 10000 smartphone. my full hands on review i've posted on http://sandeepyc.blogspot.com/2015/11/lumia640revi... if your interested in detailed review, sample pics also i've posted in this as i cant upload pics here. Reply

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