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My thoughts on the Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL and why this is a turning point for Microsoft

Announcing mid-range phones during Mobile World Congress is almost routine now for Microsoft (Nokia), and this year's additions are not game changers by any means. They will also not quell the masses yearning for a new high-end Lumia Windows Phone, something we do not expect until later this year when Windows 10 is good and ready. Sorry, folks.

Still, I want to talk briefly about these phones and my time with them. In short, I like what I see, and I think Microsoft is paying attention.

Fixing the Lumia 630 and Lumia 635

In many ways, the Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 are great phones. Their design is stellar, their displays are surprisingly punchy and both devices even handle Windows 10 quite well.

Let's not beat around the bush though, Nokia dropped the ball on a few features, making both phones near hits, but not quite. For instance, both phones had these drawbacks:

  • No Glance screen 
  • 512 MB of RAM, limiting performance and access to certain games on the Store 
  • No front-facing camera in the age of selfies and Skype 
  • A middling 5 MP rear camera with no flash 
  • Lower resolution display (854 x 480) at an antiquated 4.5-inch size 
  • No ambient light or proximity sensors 

The Lumia 635 was tough to love despite Nokia getting so much right in the design.

The Lumia 640 by Microsoft though is a different story. Microsoft gets it. They understand what was holding back the Lumia 63x series, and they are looking to right the wrong, even though the Lumia 63x is hardly an old mid-range phone. Here is what the improved:

  • Larger display at 5-inches 
  • Higher resolution (1280 x 720) HD display 
  • Glance screen 
  • Ambient light and proximity sensors are back 
  • 8 MP rear camera with Zeiss optics 
  • 1 MP front-facing camera 
  • 1 GB of RAM 

Even with the camera, Microsoft is putting in Lumia Camera 5.0 with Dynamic Flash and built in HDR! Once you have used Lumia Camera 5.0 (now only on the Lumia 830, Lumia 930, Icon and Lumia 1520), you just cannot go back. Being able to use that on 6xx series device is quite awesome.

Okay, some of you will argue that the Snapdragon 400 processor at 1.2 GHz is a bit 'old'. However, having played with this phone I think the performance is on par for its price range. In fact, I'm actually excited about this device, especially if I could run it on AT&T and T-Mobile, which reminds me…

Dual-SIM LTE. Finally!

Dual-SIM devices are usual in emerging markets, but here in the US they are rare. Moreover, when they appear here, they are only 3G, which is unacceptable for our networks these days. Dual-SIM LTE though opens up many new doors, even for those in the US looking for an affordable sub-$200 phone.

Is the Lumia 640 perfect? Probably not and we are sure to find flaws in our upcoming review. However, I feel good about this phone. In fact, I am quite confident I will end up using it on a second line due to that 5-inch display, which, let's be honest, really is the sweet spot these days.

Lumia 640 XL – New name with new improvements

I was never a big user of the Lumia 1320, even though I have one here with me. The reason is the Lumia 1520 was just a way better phone with LTE and being readily available for me on AT&T.

The Lumia 1320 in an intriguing device though. It is the only Lumia to feature a dual-core 1.7 GHz processor, which is kind of awesome. It also features a beautiful 6-inch 720 x 1280 display, had decent build quality and Glance Screen.

Still, that 5 MP rear camera was beyond terrible. It should have been at least 8 MP with Zeiss optics. The front-facing VGA 0.3 MP one was not much better. It was also a heavy sucker, at a whopping 220 grams.

Microsoft has now revisited the Lumia 1320 and instead of giving us a Lumia 1330, we are getting a Lumia 640 XL.

I like the new naming scheme. It makes sense (or at least more sense). The Lumia 1320 was confusing to many because it was "higher" than the Lumia 9xx or Lumia 1020 series, yet it was far behind in terms of hardware. I get what Nokia was trying for but in the end, it was just too much.

Microsoft is doing the right thing. Merge these classes, including the 3G/LTE distinction (no more Lumia 630 or Lumia 635 division) and focus on the core hardware similarities. The 'XL' nomenclature conveys just that: extra-large. Not just the display, either, but in some other hardware aspects.

Now, the Lumia 640 XL is lighter at 170 grams (versus 220, which is a big difference). It has a slightly smaller display (6-inches is pushing it for many) and a so much better cameras at 13 MP in the rear and a hefty 5 MP in the front.

Some users will lament the "downgrade" in CPU from a dual-core 1.7 GHz to a quad-core 1.2 GHz system, but I am not completely convinced the performance will be degraded. Either way, I think the camera improvement is the bigger story here and the Lumia 640 XL, especially the dual-SIM LTE version, looks to be an interesting device.

Wait and see

I should point out that we still need to review these devices, so this is more of an initial thoughts article. If I sound over enthusiastic, that is why.

I think Microsoft though is listening to users on what they want and what they don't want, and it shows with these devices. You could argue that they could let the Lumia 63x series ride a bit longer on the market. After all, the Lumia 635 is being bumped to 1 GB of RAM in some countries (yes, this is true). However, budget devices are Microsoft's high point right now for Windows Phone, so they should get it right by releasing the most perfect hardware at the lowest price-point for this range.

So far, I think they are succeeding, and I like what I see. Now let's see how customers feel about them.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • Both these phones should be a hit in India..considering the price point at which they come and the features they offer..
  • +upvoted
  • Yup. This should put WP right back on its growth path that started with L520 but got sidetracked by Moto G a year ago.
  • The way Lumia 535 grabbed the masses here, despite having a little hole in the hardware and the branding chronology, this will be a sure hit!
    Hope Microsoft won't mess up with the price and availability!
  • Exactly my thoughts..and regarding the pricing, expect them to overprice the device at launch.
  • As I notice few phone's pricing except 435, I think it will be on par. 435 is overpriced. But others are too cheap. Micromaxq pricing.
  • pricing for this phone should be perfect to become a hit in india.....155$ is like  ₹ 9600..n Lumia 535 is still selling at ₹ 9199 here
  • There are only two reasons I own a Lumia 535 besides the fact that there's usually a lot of month left at the end of my salary; one: It's cheap, two: It's branded Microsoft.
  • Same feeling
  • Yes of course..
  • Lately, MS has been all about India and their bombardment of budget phones.
  • Already listed on Microsoft site to hit India soon.. good to see LTE device launch as well
  • What I want to know is, what frequencies does it support? I want a dual-SIM LTE phablet, so if there's a variant that supports all the right North American frequencies, it's an insta-buy. I need Band 4, 7, and 17 for Canada, and the addition of 2 and 12 for roaming in the U.S. Adding in AWS3 support wouldn't hurt my feelings for future-proofing. All that and carrier aggregation support would make me retire my 1520 and use this as my daily driver, but that may be to much to ask. :-)
  • see the link I provided to see the frequencies it supports
  • Holy crap! The 640XL supports almost every frequency under the sun! Even rare frequencies like band 12 (T-mobile MBS) and band 20 (Sprint SMR)! Thanks for that link! It looks like they're doing the Apple thing of one GSM variant for the whole world. Versus the Nokia thing of a North American variant, a European variant, etc.
  • Band 12 for T-Mobile/MetroPCS is huge.  I like their apparent "Apple approach" in having one device that works on all GSM carriers.  That is smart.
  • Beyond huge. All Windows Phone enthusiasts on T-Mobile should look at this *very* closely. This it's the only band 12 Windows Phone thus far!
  • Both tmobile usa and att are picking up the 640, att is also getting the xl.
  • While I still agree that these phones will be successful, and they look really really good, we should still all be criticing that SD 400... I don't deny performance is good on windows phone but Motorola sells a CHEAPER phone with the 410. Using an SD400 just seems lazy on Microsoft's part. I do agree still that they're awesome budget phones and they have enough going for them in the other departments that they're still competitive, so here's hoping it does well. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Yes and no. Being dual sim is HUGE. It adds to price. Also remember, these have not only glance, but pureview cameras too. Thats means the cameras should be very respectable at this price range.
  • Yes Shikhar ... I am very much excited to buy this phone.. do you knw the price and date when these phone are going to be avalaible in indian market
  • "Microsoft demonstrates it can handle Lumia hardware (and improve where Nokia failed)" "Nokia dropped the ball on a few features, making both phones near hits, but not quite. " Just wondering, wasn't the same Elope the head of Nokia too at the time he decide to launch 630 and 635 with those missing features? Wasn't the same departments worked on those phones too? hmmm.. Multiple personality syndrome? LOL!
  • That or Microsoft gave him a good swift kick in the nuts and he realized what he did wrong with the 630(5) and he corrected accordingly with the 640
  • That or Microsoft just bumped up his bank account to launch those 630/635 with missing features and launch this 640/640XL with better features and he 'realized' it    :v PS: I'm not really a hardcore NOKIA or MS fan, i'm just saying about another possibility ;)
  • in terms of quality 635 is quite a nice and cheap phone, 535 is a mistake
  • The Lumia 635 had only 512MB and no flash or FFC. Even the new, rate, 1GB variant still doesn't have the other things, or a proximity sensor, etc. The 535 was the right call IMO as it had 1GB, flash, FFC, etc.
  • you're right - 535 has better performance, more RAM and so on but in terms of quality/design it's much worse - when you hold 630/635 you see it's well designed phone - not hi-tech but cheap nice phone, when you hold 535 you feel it's a crap - the body bend when you press it, the screen is awfull - it's really bad IMO.
  • Does the 535 feel like the 520? Or worse? I have a 635 and a 520, so is that a good comparison?
  • sorry but I never took a closer look at 520
  • i have used a Lumia 620 and Lumia 520 earlier.. Currently using Lumia 535 and Lumia 730(gifted it to my wifey).. Lumia 535 certainly has an edge over 520 as there are less resuming screens and quicker multitasking
  • Microsoft and Nokia are one now so new rules.
  • Wait a minute. Microsoft bought only the phone division of Nokia and fired some 12000+ employees. So no, they are not same. Nokia just launched their own first Android tablet. Now they are a better company without Elop. Even if they continued to launch windows phones without Elope, they wouldn't have gone bankrupt. He clearly derailed Nokia. That's why most of our Nokia Lumias were not 'perfect'.
  • Yeah, no flagships for ANYBODY seems to be the new rule, given Microsoft's not even announced a high-end device in almsot a year of serving as the "premier" Windows Phone OEM.
  • Yeah ..its terrible ...whatever happened to high end ?...all I see is these ugly disposable phones.
  • they're all ugly and disposable you buy them to throw them away you buy the newest phone not for itself but to buy the newest phone when the newest one comes out your old device becomes garbage you don't need much phone no one needs much phone
  • You went full crazy, never go full crazy :P
  • I feel like 640XL is the new affordable flagship priced just flagship can wait till windows10 for the real fans waiting so impatiently for a nice phone...I think they don't wanna mess flagship cause of a software lagging behind android or iOS..
    They want next flagship to be a hit though..
  • Working on it and annoucing it are two different things. It was simply one of my idea's of "marketing" failure to announce a device early. Like the 930 and get in trouble to meet the "deadline". Including all "negative" postings that followed up on that. For the experiance 10% is hardware, 90% is software. Windows 10 is not ready, not sure what is going to come and only for that reason alone, it is best to "hold the horses" untill you are able to show off a product that can be in store within a couple of weeks.  
  • you have lumia 930 and it isn't even a year old so just wait. Having a flagship is nice but realsing one very 6 months is not something I would like - and anyone who wants to have the newest flagship but not switching phone twice a year
  • No, they are not. Nokia is an independent company and has nothing to do with Microsoft anymore.
  • Nokia was bleeding money and needed to earn something. Shareholders certainly didn't allow minimally thin, no profit focused, margins. Microsoft on the other hand couldn't be bothered. They have so much money that if they think mobile market is important they will sell phones with no profit at all, or even lose on every sale if necessary. Team is the same. Bosses are different.
  • Your words are more convincing and is better than whatever is written in the above article. :)
  • It's crystal clear. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Shhh! Don't say that. You're breaking the "let's worship Microsoft Mobile and pretend Eflop was never around or in charge before" vibe.
  • EFLOP!  I'm so using that and not giving you credit.
  • It is called financial means. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • They were also working with Nokia balance sheet at the time. Now they are working with Microsoft's balance sheet and can afford to do things right even if that means lower profit margins. Microsoft need to gain users to attract developers. We want a flagship, but a Lumia flagship will never sell well unless the developers are onboard and we start seeing an improved apps market place.
  • The XL label is a good call.  The Lumia numbering system made complete sense when you stick only with the three digit models, but gets confusing when you put the four digit models into the mix.  This fix things nicely.
  • So, 940XL❓ No more 1520❓
  • It would make more sense to go that route, actually. Dump the 1320 and 1520. Save the 4-digit numbering scheme for the 1020's high-end optics only. Of course, all of that would require Microsoft to release a high-end phone, which seems as likely as finding Bigfoot riding a unicorn through Atlantis right now.
  • Everyone knows they are going to release a high-end phone and now we know when it will happen.  Why continue to beat the dead horse?
  • Really, when's it coming? All they've said is "summer 2015." Summer stretches from late-June to early-September. It's not like they haven't canceled or delayed products before, either. They could be aiming for late-September, and then you're one short delay from being in the typical Windows launch of October. The 640 was announced today, and is allegedly not hitting some markets until April. So, we could seriously be one short delay from having Windows 10 phones launch in November, like WP8 did.
  • Your comment had nothing to do with when.  I know you were trying to be clever with your impossibility joke, so maybe be a bit less funny and a bit more precise if you don't want your comment to be criticized.  At this point there is no evidence to support the conclusion that a flagship Windows Phone is a unicorn.  If you are looking for a specific release date, I think that is an unrealistic expectation at this point.  I get the complaints about no flagship, as I want one as well.  However, that ship sailed last fall and it makes no sense for MS to release an 8.1 flagship now.  I don't get why people continue to beat this dead horse.
  • I wasn't making a joke about this. There's no known release date. There are no hardware leaks. No FCC filings. We've heard nothing about what the next flagship device will be, and the newest release date is "when Windows 10 is ready," which offers us little clarity beyond a 3-month gap starting in 3.5 months itself. We have it basically narrowed down to one-third of the the best-case scenario (Windows 10 launches without any delays, and the time from flagship announcement to actual availability is short). We could literally be looking at anything from a Build announcement to an early-September one. The Lumia 920 was announed on September 5th, 2012. That's still the summer. That was followed by a 2-month wait until the device was actually available (November 2nd for the first release, November 9th for AT&T). So, in reality, we're literally saying that this unknown flagship could launch anywhere from late-June to early-November, based on vague announcements and previous history.
  • Dude... MS said it's coming... They even gave us a time frame... Daniel is pretty much the EV leaks of windows, and he has a good track record.. Pretty damn good track record.. Lol.
    Technically we really can't admit that we're sure the sun won't explode tomorrow, but we're going to have to go with no.. No the sun isn't going to explode tomorrow.... But, you're right❗ MS could explode tomorrow... Lol. It could❗❗
    You can bet your bottom dollar a high end device is more likely to come out in the timeframe that MS said it would today, than not... Seriously, BS aside... Where would you put your money❓
  • What did I say that ran contrary to what Microsoft has said? Microsoft said "when Windows 10 is ready." Windows has historically been a fall-released OS. The other rumblings have been a summer announcement. The 920 was announced in September 2012, which was still the summer. However, Lumia devices have not-infrequently had a long lag from announcement to actual availability, such as how the 920 took 2 months to hit AT&T shelves. All I did was state that a long wait is totally possible. Oh, and where would I put my money? I'd put it on a reversal of course from Microsoft, at some point, given how common that is. The Xbox One's E3 policies were turned off after a month of bad press. Microsoft said that the Kinect HAD to be part of the One, and that changed. Microsoft said that the Kinect wouldn't ever be unbundled from the console itself, and that changed. Microsoft said McLaren existed, then pulled it. Microsoft's notoriously inconsistent with their long-term goals. I never disputed what they said. I only gave it the potentially pessimistic edge of their alleged timeframe, and pointed out that such a release schedule would be in-line with what happened to both Windows Phone 8 and the Lumia 920/820.
  • I see, I see.... Fair enough..
    But, I've never seen MS push a device launch past mid 4th quarter...
  • I didn't say they would. That would be mid-November, while the 920 launched in early-November.
  • It is clear that Microsoft is trying to avoid the mistake of announcing a device too soon, so your statement makes no sense. They will probably only anounce it a few weeks or at most a month before the device is ready to be released. Who cares that we don't yet have an exact date? Would you rather have a date that keeps being pushed back because it's still too soon to know when the device is ready to be released, not to mention windows 10? Yes we all wish we had a flagship right now but it is much more important for it to come out with a bang with awesome hardware and competed software.
  • Yeah.. We just have to sit back, and wait... Heck, all they're doing is testing now, and they have a long time to perfect it if they are just waiting for W10.... It doesn't take that long to come up with a new device... I guarantee you that they are fiddling with a 940, 940XL, and a 1040 right now... Joe probably has the 1040 in his pocket as we speak... These devices just have a delayed release time because of W10...
    Doesn't this mean that these devices should be super refined when they come out❓❓❓
  • I'd go as far as to call the next 1020 the 940 C (for camera), or something similar. So the 940, 940 C, 940 XL.
  • Hey❗❗❗❗ That's a terrific idea❗ cool.. I never thought about that, and it would help in establishing a name for a high end Lumia Device..
    They should use 10xx though... Bump the others up... 10xx looks, and sounds more commanding, and is relevant... 1040, 1040XL, 1040MP... IDK.. Lol❗
  • i think it will just be the 940 and 940xl and both will have top noitch camera tech.
  • Possibly so.
  • What about a 1020 alike camera with a larger display? :-) 940CXL? Or 940XLC? ;-)   However, I would really like 940, 940C and 940XL. Let the one with the camera and larger display be 1040 :-)
  • ^this ...several "normal" users i know who were interested in getting a Lumia, were convinced the 1320 was higher-end than the 930 because of the screen size and numbering category. So keeping it unified through numbering and adding XL was definitely the right move in order not to confuse the average user who isn't tech-savvy.
  • +940 Live long and prosper Microsoft! The number schema wasn't working for last few devices!
  • Great! :-) From a Lumia 1320 user...
  • Now the 830 is really over priced. The XL under 250. Really? Sold.
  • Was Thinking the same xl looks better than 830 only thing 830 has over xl is internal memory, dont care much as apps can be moved to sdcard. Its a far better deal, Processor is the same RAM is the same, and Xl is just heavier by 21 g.
  • Yeah right, did you forget the 830 also has a better camera with OIS?
  • It's not that the 2 MP and OIS are forgotten, it's a question of how those two things, plus wireless charging, get valued at almost $300.
  • Where did the 300 come from? The 830 goes $379 out of contact here in the US, that's less than a difference of 150. Plus you do realize the carriers here in US would inflate the prices by at least another $50 by launch so yes, the price difference is be justified. But I agree, the 830 was over priced during launch, and it's better to wait for the US prices for these devices before jumping to conclusions
  • Aah yes pureview is always better, but point being it was launched for $433 USD before taxes and here it is launched for $245.
  • 830 has great design with better camera and more internal memory. I know there is SD cards, but internal memory works better. Plus better hardware quality.
  • Design is preferential, at best. I find the Icon/830 design of adding a metal band to be aesthetically repugnant. The unibody polycarbonate on my 920 looks a lot better. Ideally, they'd dump the metal band or make it match the back. At worst, make it a dark band, because that light metal coloring is the WORST. As for "memory," you're talking 8 GB of storage. Such is almsot totally irrelevant when you can buy that for $10 on Amazon, and it's even MORE pointless to someone who uses 20+ GB of space on a device, because 8 and 16 GB of storage are both insufficient.
  • Don't agree with you. I love the metal band on the 830 and 930 and hope the stick with it with the replacement lineup. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • so long as you're using a fast enough micro sd card you'll never notice the internal storage working 'better'
  • Hey, the 830 has OIS and is a purview, these new guys have megapixels and Ziess optics, that's it
  • Its an incredible relief 720p displays are making it into entry level. That 854p crap on the 63x was plain embarrassing. 
  • 854P if it existed would be better than 720P... I'm pretty sure you meant 480P.
  • He meant 480x854
  • its 854x480
  • Its 480 x 854. (Width x Height), we take that technically while measuring resolution.
  • That's not true. Do you call a 1920x1080 screen 1920p or 1080p?
  • I'm not saying what it's called but the way its interpreted, i.e., Width x Height. And of course, we talk about the width (not height or length).
  • Another day another cheap lowend phone , does Microsoft seriously expect people to pick this device for their 2 year contracts ? No wonder windows phones is flying high "
  • Low-end? I believe this one falls into mid-range category.
  • Call it what you want , it's not s flagship 
  • Did you watch the presentation? Flagships are coming with Windows 10 its not like this is old news
  • and just so you know, probably 60-75% of the population can not afford a high end device. High end will come with windows 10 later in the summer.  
  • So there is just flagship and low ends? that's all? It's like world is just black or white!!!   But I agree with your feeling that at this point of time, there is no flagship :-)
  • No, it is low-mid at best. The SoC is a budget-class ship from late-2013. The thing is basically 3 MP and a higher dispaly resolution north of the Lumia 535. It only LOOKS mid-range because Microsoft hasn't released a single high-end phone.
  • The SoC still has more power than apple's flagship (more cores, slightly slower speed for each), the same memory, and since the screen is lower res it won't chew the battery up as much. Its NOT a low end phone and I'll be getting one simply for the dual-sim capability. I won't be tossing my 1520 though.  Even at almost 2 years old that thing is a beast and STILL considered flagship quality/specs compared to most other current handsets. Also, the 'slower' SoC compared to say, android, means nothing as the WP OS is simply far better at using available resources than anything google was able to steal from other companies and call it their own.  You could have a phone with 1/2 the capability as a high end android, stick WP on it and you'd think it was an equal to whatever android junk it was compared to.  WP is just so much more stable, faster and battery friendly than any android at the same price point. Ever wondered why the new trend in android phones is 3Gb of RAM?  Its because that operating system NEEDS it, the same with the octo-core SoCs they are starting to use. Android is a hideous abuser of hardware, much like Vista was.  Android to WP is like Vista to 8.1
  • Low end ?
    With 13 mp rear and 5mp ffc -_-
  • But snapdragon 400 and 1 Gb memory . It's a lowend - midrange phone 
  • Go out of this site and check other andro ones , they are claiming Moto g 'best midrange phone of 2k14-15' which hv same conf. 1gb ram and sd400 with only 8 &2 mp cam 0.o
  • I just got rid of my MotoG that I bought just to see if android was a viable replacement for my Lumias (I still think WP is dead, but perhaps not as much as I did yesterday). That thing was awful, and if thats the best midrange android phone out there I seriously pity all the poor saps who buy on price alone.  The G was just awful, slow, crashy, unstable to the extreme and even after all these years of android STILL needed an auto task killer to free up itsinadequate memory. I gave it a good solid 2 month try out, not like most lprofessional' reviewers and so much about it was ass-backwards and, as Tim Cook said, a toxic hellstew as far as the apps and missmatch of software the OS is made from is concened.
  • Counter question: Do you really expect people to buy a 600+ phone, from a relatively new brand? With a OS they never heard of? For non tech enthusiasts it's kind of a bug step.
  • The phone is around $250 apparently, lumia isnt a new brand, windows isn't an OS they havent heard of.
  • This is for worldwide market son, 2-year contracts are a western thing.  Are there still people who don't know this?
  • Honestly, signing up for a two year contract when you can get this phone for $250 would be beyond foolish. Buying this phone and going pre-paid would be the best choice and save you far more money in the long run.
  • Careful, Daniel, the Nokia fans are going to be really upset that you said that Microsoft made better hardware than Nokia. I've been saying what you've been saying for months, and everytime it's downvotes and "Nokia is great, ur dumb!!". *salutes* best of luck
  • I am a Lumia fan. I never owned a Microsoft Lumia but if it is a good as my Nokia 1520, I will give props where props are due. Besides this is Daniel Rubino lmao. He ain't worried about Nokia fanatics lmao haha