Just as the rumors suggested, Microsoft isn’t showing any new flagship smartphones at this year’s Mobile World Congress event. Instead, the company is showcasing two new iPhone-alternatives, the Lumia 640 and the Lumia 640 XL. Both are for shoppers on a budget, and Microsoft is hoping that adding in a subscription for its world-class Office 365 will give it a leg up in the face of new flagship smartphones like the HTC One M9 and the Samsung Galaxy S6 too.
Microsoft unveiled both the Lumia 640 and the Lumia 640 XL this morning at its Mobile World Congress briefing in Barcelona, Spain. Mobile World Congress is where many of the major smartphone makers show off their next generation devices.
Having firmly filled its low-end line-up, Microsoft is now moving into the mid-range area with the Lumia 640. Inside the blue, orange, black or white polycarbonate shells are a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM. 8GB of storage holds music, pictures, apps and videos, but users can add more through the built-in microSD card slot.
All of that’s pretty basic for a low-end smartphone. What makes the Lumia 640 mid-range is the 8 megapixel rear-facing camera with flash. Microsoft is promising decent low-light performance and full compatibility with the Lumia Camera app it introduced in the Lumia Denim software update. The Lumia 640 is dominated by a 5-inch 720p display flanked by a 1 megapixel front-facing camera. The flash shouldn’t be overlooked, many of Microsoft’s low-end and mid-range smartphones don’t offer flash for low-light picture taking at all, making their cameras almost useless in a dim lighting.
Microsoft expects to start selling the Lumia 640 in April for roughly $157 without a two-year contract. A version equipped with LTE high-speed data for $179, roughly.
If the Lumia 640 XL sounds a lot like the Lumia 640, that’s because it is. Microsoft is positioning the Lumia 640 XL as its mid-range and low-cost device for people who need a huge screen.
Behind its 5.7-inch 720p display is a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM. Buyers store all of their music, and video and more on 8GB of storage. Users can add more storage using a built-in MicroSD card slot, which they’ll need to purchase quickly if they plan on making use of the Lumia 640 XL’s ridiculously great camera.
The Lumia 640 XL has a 13 megapixel rear-facing camera complete with ZEISS optics technology and flash. In short, Lumia 640 XL buyers can expect a device that takes pictures just as good as many of Microsoft’s flagship smartphones form 2014. What’s more, the company is providing all of this in an affordable package too. The Lumia 640 will come in multiple versions too. A version without LTE will run 189 euros or $212. Another version with LTE technology will see for 219 euros or $245.
Both the Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL will come with Windows Phone 8.1, the current version of Windows for smartphones, instead of Windows 10. That being said, both devices should get the operating system as an upgrade later this year. One software extra they do come with is Microsoft’s Office 365 Personal subscription.
Buying the devices entitles users to a year of Microsoft Office and One Terabyte of free OneDrive storage. Normally, Office 365 costs $69 a year. Microsoft is also trying the tactic with tablets running its Windows 8.1 operating system. It’s hoping that locking in users to its services now will keep them invested in Office and other services like Xbox Music and Xbox Video. Microsoft is also throwing in 60 minutes of free Skype calling a month, which is also included in Office 365 Personal.
All told, the Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL seem like perfectly decent alternatives to the Moto E and older iPhones, but no match for the iPhone 6 or Moto X 2014. Microsoft says it has a new flagship, but its waiting until Windows 10 for phones is ready.
AT&T has confirmed that it has plans to offer both to its subscribers.