MWC Preview 2015 – Microsoft Lumia 640 & 640XL

As expected, Microsoft did not, in fact, release anything close to a flagship at this year’s MWC. But they did release a… hmm. A couple mid-rangers, I guess? See, the thing is that Windows Phone gets me a bit confused sometimes. Technically the line starts with the 530 and 535, or maybe you’d count the 430 as the starting point, even though it’s better than the 530, confusingly enough. But honestly, the Lumia 600 series is normally the entry level category for most people. So calling last year’s Lumia 635 a “mid-range” phone is a bit strange. Especially since it lacked silly things like an ambient light sensor, a camera flash, and had a paltry 512 MB of RAM.

But with the 640 and 640XL, Microsoft has released two phones with entry level prices that are actually, astoundingly, very well suited to the mid-range category. Here’s the spec barf.

Lumia 640 & 640 XL
Processor Snapdragon 400 quad core @ 1.2 Ghz
RAM 1GB
Storage 8GB
Expansion MicroSD up to 128GB
Display (640) 5 inch IPS LCD

(640 XL)
5.7 inch IPS LCD
Screen Resolution 1280 x 720
Display Features ClearBlack Technology
Glance Screen
Double Tap to Wake
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Back Camera (640) 8 MP AF
1/4 Inch Sensor
f/2.2 Aperature
28mm focal length
LED Flash

(640 XL)
13 MP AF
1/3 Inch Sensor
f/2.0 Aperature
28mm focal length
LED Flash
Front Camera (640) 0.9 MP
f/2.4 Aperature
720p Video resolution

(640 XL)
5MP Wide Angle
f/2.4 Aperature
1080p Video Resolution
Camera Features Backside Illuminated Sensor
Dynamic Flash
Rich Capture w/ Lumia Camera 5.0
Battery (640) 2500 mAh Replacable Battery @ 3.8V

(640 XL)
3000 mAh Replaceable battery @ 3.8V
Sensors Ambient Light Sensor
Proximity Sensor
Accelerometer
Sensor Core
Antennas GSM, WCDMA, LTE
Bluetooth 4.0
NFC
WiFi b/g/n
Hotspot up to 8 devices
GPS with GLONASS
Dimensions (640) Height: 141.3 mm
Width: 72.2 mm
Thickness: 8.8 mm
Weight: 145 g

(640 XL)
Height: 157.9 mm
Width 81.5 mm
Thickness: 9 mm
Weight: 171 g

 

Obviously, the lack of a Snappy 800 will drive some people away, but the Snapdragon 400 has proven itself time and time again on Windows Phone 8.1. Due to the upgraded 1GB of RAM and Windows Phone’s naturally low impact requirements, you shouldn’t run into any lag or performance issues.

I should also mention that these phones will come in a few colors, including user-replaceable backs if you want to change colors, and thankfully they aren’t nearly as gaudy as last year’s colors. We’re finally seeing the return of cyan, which was last seen in some rare cases with the Lumia 920. What’s most exciting is that all four colors will be available in both matte and glossy. As someone who is a major fan of matte, but understands the appeal of gloss, I say this is a welcome change. *Update* WP central has a great hands on with the difference in colors in this link.

Finally, a Decent Camera on a Mid-Ranger

However, what impresses me the most is how much Microsoft has upgraded the 600 series with this model. With these models, we go from the terrible and forgettable 5MP shooter that reviewers purposefully ignored, to a much more respectable 8 MP shooter, or a 13 MP shooter with the XL model, with Carl Zeiss optics and the latest Lumia post-processing with Lumia Camera 8.0. When you add in an LED flash, that means these phones will actually be able to take advantage of Microsoft’s Rich Capture modes, including Auto HDR and Dynamic Flash. These two phones will be the most capable low-priced camera phones available.

That said, here’s the bad news about the cameras: There’s no PureView technology, no oversampling, and no Optical Image Stabilization to speak of. So, you’re going to want to take your pictures in well-lit environments and your videos might be a bit rockier than in a flagship phone with OIS. But it’s still quite the upgrade from the middling Lumia 635’s camera set up, and a pretty decent setup considering the Lumia team’s proven track record for excellent software processing.

Now in Extra Large

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about that new XL moniker their using for their phablet model. Under Nokia’s rein, the bigger model would have been called the 1340, but that’s just crazy confusing because the 1340 sounds like it’s better than the 830 and 930 and such, even though it’s not. By removing the 1000+ moniker from the mid-range model and replacing it with XL, Microsoft has made Nokia’s already consuming naming a bit more clear. These two devices are essentially the same, hardware wise, but the XL is simply bigger, has a bigger battery, and a bit more megapixels.

And let’s talk about that battery. Holy crud. 2500 mAh is freaking huge for a battery on Windows Phone. 3000 mAh on the 640 XL is downright monstrous. Windows Phones already hold on to life for a full day with almost half that much, so I’m really curious to find out how well the battery lasts on the finished models.

Price and Free Goodies

But I’ve delayed the pricing talk long enough. I’m sure you’re all curious to know how much these new shinys will cost. Well, as things typically go, this isn’t quite clear yet. There are going to be three variants of each phone, depending on the region. There will be a 3G-only dual SIM version, a single SIM LTE version, and a dual SIM LTE-capable version.

The 640 single SIM 3G-only version will debut at 139 Euro, which roughly translates to $154. The LTE version was quoted to be 159 Euros or $178, but it’s unclear whether that is a single-SIM or dual-SIM version

The 640 XL, on the other hand, will start at 180 Euros ($212) for the “3G Version” and the “4G version” will be going for 219 Euro ($245).

Yeah, that seems a bit pricey, considering the 635 debuted at $120, and can now be had for as little at $50 for either T-Mobile or AT&T, but this isn’t just a year-over-year upgrade of the previous model. However, Microsoft is also sweetening the deal with a free one-year subscription to Office 365 personal. I’m kind of surprised they haven’t done this yet, to be honest.

Also, this pricing was announced in Barcelona in Euros. Converting the pricing from Euros to American dollars or whatever other currency you use is generally pointless. As AT&T and T-Mobile has already announced that they will be carrying the Lumia 640, I’d expect that they’ll be picking up the single-SIM LTE version for around $150-160. But that’s just speculation.

The Lumia 640 XL has already been announced as an exclusive for AT&T, annoyingly enough. Once again, I’d expect to see a single-SIM LTE version here in the states, probably debuting for $220 off-contract or $0.00 with a 2-year contract. But once again, this is speculation on my part.

So, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on these guys, but what do you think readers? Are you thinking of picking one of these guys up for your own use? Sound off in the comments below.