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Microsoft Lumia 640 review: It's the practical Windows Phone most people can afford

Mark Hachman | June 9, 2015
Microsoft's Lumia 640 is the tract home most Americans pretend to shun, but end up buying anyway: friendly, unpretentious, with an exterior that cheerfully advertises something different in just a few stock colors.

The Lumia 640 also lacks a dedicated camera button, tossing aside one of the Lumia line's signature features. Microsoft seems to have forgotten that its phone explicitly asks you for a numerical PIN to unlock it, which takes time. It took 10 seconds to unlock the phone, launch the app, and take a picture. Compare that to an older Lumia 930, equipped with the quick-launching Lumia Camera feature and a dedicated button — that took just 2.5 seconds to shoot. That's the difference between capturing a baby's first smile and losing her attention entirely.

In addition to the camera button, the Lumia 640 jettisons all other hardware buttons as well. You'll need to swipe up from the bottom just to see the Windows or back buttons. It's a slight annoyance, but nothing too inconvenient.

About the only compromise that feels egregious is the relative lack of onboard storage. At just 8GB, that's already pushing it, compared with the 16GB or 32GB offered by most modern smartphones. And the actual storage amount that's available for use — about 3.54GB, with just Facebook installed — feels tiny, especially if you like to take lots of photos and high-definition video. Still, unlike many phones today, an SD card slot is included, and photos and videos can be backed up to the terabyte of OneDrive storage that comes with that Office 365 subscription. The real concern are apps: You can install an app from an SD card to the phone, but beware of downloading too many games like the 962MB Asphalt 8: Airborne — your available disk space will evaporate quickly.

Battery life, however, has improved, in part due to the larger 2,500mAh battery that Microsoft included. That's good enough for 36 days of standby time, 17.5 hours of 3G talk time, and 10.8 hours of browsing via Wi-Fi, according to Microsoft. It easily cruised through a day's use.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 adds order

With Microsoft releasing test builds of Windows 10 Mobile every few weeks, playing with an update to Windows Phone 8 is a bit surreal. After all, there's nothing stopping you from freely downloading the next stage in Windows Phone's evolution. Unfortunately, you can't use this phone with the upcoming, PC-emulating Continuum for Windows 10 Mobile, as that it will require new hardware. (The Lumia 640 will support Windows 10, just not Continuum.)

You'll appreciate the little touches that Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 offers, though they're not monumental enough to sell the phone by themselves. If nothing else, you'll appreciate that the Settings menu finally has some rhyme and reason to it — and if you still can't find what you're looking for, a new dedicated search button should solve the problem.

 

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