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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  • anomalydesign - Tuesday, June 09, 2015 - link

    I agree with pretty much all of the assessment of the Windows phone ecosystem in this article. Aside from users looking for a low end smartphone, there is one other group I consistently recommend windows phones for; first time smart phone users, especially those who are technology averse.

    I've found the Windows phone interface is the easiest to pick up and start using with minimal foreknowledge. Beyond that, it requires the least maintenance over the long run (android trends to get bogged down/buggy if you don't stay on top of it, plus between Google, the manufacturer and the carrier, users end up with things like 3 different apps for looking at photos, or using Facebook. ios is more polished and consistent, but has a lot of Apple ecosystem "features" which deeply confuse people who don't already have (or understand) feature of Apple accounts like the iCloud or iTunes. The backup features especially seem to confuse people.

    The lack of apps and Google services is a problem, but less so when you consider the phone for a group that is behind the curve. If someone is more active on pinterest, hangouts, etc, then a different phone would work better. But for the group I recommend this phone for, if they do have any accounts set up, they tend to be with Skype or Hotmail, either of which is all you need to get the phone going. This group is also likely to appreciate things like a decent camera and good build quality much more than gpu performance.

    That's not a good market for Windows Mobile long-term, as first time smartphone users are a dwindling segment. But as of now, I'm very glad to be able to suggest out as an option.
    Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Tuesday, June 09, 2015 - link

    And I disagree. While the ecosystem really is not that good there's one *huge* advantage to WP 8.1 which is often forgotten: it provides exquisite worldwide offline navigation, public transport information and a number of high quality applications out-of-the-box and there's no crapware which cannot be uninstalled unlike on Android devices.

    For me the absence of the Google spyware is actually a big plus instead of a negative especially since it is close to impossible to run an Android device without Play Store. Also in favour for WP is the fact that business necessities (mail, calendar, notes, contacts) work much better out of the box than on Android, not quite as good as on iOS but for a fraction of the price; it's actually quite amazing which hoops one has to hop through to get CalDAV and CardDAV running (with DAVdroid and CAdroid) only to be greeted all the time with the warning that someone might be spying on you while at the same time Google is leeching personal information and sending it to its own servers...
    Reply
  • pSupaNova - Tuesday, June 09, 2015 - link

    "For me the absence of the Google spyware is actually a big plus instead of a negative especially since it is close to impossible to run an Android device without Play Store"

    Google Spyware the Intelligent ware that help you to collate information, plan journeys and make your life much easier.
    Microsoft lost in the smartphone arena because their offering was too late and that tile interface to alien for users and the fact that they locked down their OS.

    If you notice smartphone's are starting to be digital assistants to excel at this function they will have to know information about you, my bet is that users will trade 'spyware' privacy for the benefits ever increasing A.I (smarts) brings to them.
    Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Tuesday, June 09, 2015 - link

    "Google Spyware the Intelligent ware that help you to collate information, plan journeys and make your life much easier."

    Right. I have not found a single thing in Google that made my life easier compared to alternate offerings, privacy issues not even considered. For instance when it comes to journeys WP provides a much better service especially when taking the offline mode into account; Here Maps (WP only version) is quick and constantly updated and already has plenty of POIs built it plus it is very useful to pin tiles with important destinations for quick access to important destinations, Drive has outstanding routing capabilities, accurate traffic information (when online) and a very useful energy saving and driver friendly mode, Transit (and public transport planning in the other apps) works astonishingly well all around the globe and provides accurate pedestrian/public transport planning (especially when online it will also have and use current departure times to provide the best alternatives), City Lens is extremly useful to find nice places around you.

    "If you notice smartphone's are starting to be digital assistants to excel at this function they will have to know information about you,"

    B.S. I've used smartphones back in the times when the term smartphone wasn't even coined (they were called PDAs back then). The most important point is good synching capabilities (Android only syncs well with Googles' own services which are pretty much useless for professional and/or privacy concerned use) followed by applications with outstanding usability and both leave a lot to be desired out-of-the-box in Android -- funny enough the replacement application which Asus ships with their devices have much better usability than the Google built-ins.
    Reply
  • pSupaNova - Tuesday, June 09, 2015 - link

    Google's services offer a seamless fit across device types I like that I can order to go out for dinner on the desktop and get my calendar updated on my phone. That I Google Now knows my habits and will tell me if their are problems getting home from work.
    Your trying to make out as Nokia Maps is a killer feature which you can download on Android if you wanted anyway.
    The advantages of Live traffic updates far out way using a Sat Nav on offline mode we our living in a ever connected world get with the program.

    Android is the Windows of the smartphone world. Its more open has lots of hardware, highly configurable in both hardware and software.

    " funny enough the replacement application which Asus ships with their devices have much better usability than the Google built-ins." - yes Google Android platform allows others to innovate.....
    Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Tuesday, June 09, 2015 - link

    "Google's services offer a seamless fit across device types I like that I can order to go out for dinner on the desktop and get my calendar updated on my phone."

    Yes, that's called syncing. And Android devices are horrible syncers when services other than Google should (or need to) be used. That's a clear no-go for corporate and privacy concerned uses.

    "Your trying to make out as Nokia Maps is a killer feature which you can download on Android if you wanted anyway."

    No you can't. Here Maps on Android and iOS is a incomplete and halfassed solution requiring sign-up.

    "The advantages of Live traffic updates far out way using a Sat Nav on offline mode we our living in a ever connected world get with the program."

    No, it doesn't. Here Maps has exceptionally good live traffic updates when online. But you're obviously not coming around a lot if you don't see a problem streaming maps around the globe. Roaming charges can be horrific...

    "Android is the Windows of the smartphone world. Its more open has lots of hardware, highly configurable in both hardware and software."

    Again B.S., there're very few Android devices which work nicely out-of-the-box. Most of the devices are bloatware ridden and thus provide an inferior experience and abysmal battery life and often they're already dead right from the factory as they'll rarely see any updates which is a must due to the terrifying amount of security problems. There're only few exceptions mostly provided by Google itself and manufacturers for Google like Motorola, Samsung and Asus; but thanks to Intel even the custom rom approach is somewhat thwarted in certain price regions...

    I've yet to see an Android device providing an enjoyable experience and acceptable battery life without wasting much time with tinkering. My Moto E (2nd gen) became pretty much usable after installing an unofficial CM12.1 ROM and freezing of all Google services -- over 9 days of battery life are more than okay nowadays, previously with (almost stock Android) Motorola software (both Kitkat and Lollipop) the battery was dead after no more than 2,5 days.

    I do have plenty of other Android devices at my disposal if you need more input.

    WP devices on the other hand do not require any tinkering and yet offer a much better general experience and battery life as well as nice apps without paying through your nose with your personal data.

    iPhones do, too, however those are obscenely expensive compared to WP phones without providing any massive benefits worth the markup.
    Reply
  • pSupaNova - Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - link

    I have an Sony Xperia Z3 Compact & the battery life and out of the box experience are brilliant.
    I have not had to install a Custom Rom for years, that's for people with too much time on their hands.

    if you want dumb phone battery life then why are you buying a Smartphone?

    Windows Phone is so trash that you can't even browse the files on the system when you plug it into your PC.

    With windows phone its hard to get it talking with your smart TV or NAS.

    File Managers are also a joke. I tried windows phone 7 and saw how Microsoft thought they could lock you down like Apple and knew instantly that they would lose to Android.

    Android is fine at synching to other services I have use yahoo mail, EverNote & OneNote with no problems also I have my photos from my phone camera and whatsapp automatically sync with both Amazon & Google Photos so I never lose a photo, I think you are spreading lies.

    Windows Phone will never catch up to Android because it's has not Got the developers or consumers mindshare and this is coming from some-one with over two decades of professional Windows Development experience.

    Windows Tablets on the overhand do have a chance.
    Reply
  • jakoh - Thursday, June 11, 2015 - link

    WP7, lol, was terrible. Its like saying i hate android because of android 2.3 (which was still pretty popular a couple of years ago.
    BTW, there is a files app on WP8.
    Reply
  • jakoh - Thursday, June 11, 2015 - link

    If its worth anything "exquisite worldwide offline navigation" is now available on android and IOS, Here Maps.
    I like to mention that I would switch to Android, if I can select the apps that run in the background (please dont offer killing apps). Also Google on Tap should be offered as something parents would get to put on their childrens phone.
    Reply
  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, June 09, 2015 - link

    If you lock yourself into somethng that is platform-limited like Hangouts or even worse iStuff that's not MS' fault. Skype and FB Messenger for example run on just about everything. Same with Kindle, Dropbox, most MS services, etc. I tend to avoid services that don't have broad platform support. It's just retarded to say "Oh I can't buy or recommend that phone because I let myself become dependent on some proprietary lockware". Reply

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