Living with the Microsoft Lumia 640

Review

This week, we asked one of The Lowdown’s trusted reviewers to put down their Nexus 6 and see what it’s like to live with the Microsoft Lumia 640 for five days. This is what they thought…
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Living with the Microsoft Lumia 640

Day 1 – Reacquainting with a normal-sized phone

As I traded in my loyal Nexus 6 for the recently announced Microsoft Lumia 640, the first thing I noticed was the drop in weight and size.

Friends always pass comment on how big the Nexus 6 is, and it’s wasn’t until this point that I really began to appreciate where they were coming from. The Lumia 640 is, by and large, a normal sized phone - featuring a 5-inch HD display - as opposed to the Nexus 6’s 6-inch, Quad HD one.

As it’s so much thinner and lighter than what I’m used to, I pretty much wandered around for the first couple of hours patting my pockets to make sure it was still there. Getting used to the new size happened quicker than I thought however, but it did make me wonder how I ever used smaller smartphones in the past, which tended to have dinky 4-inch displays.

On the actual phone itself, the first hurdle I came across was using the smaller keyboard – more specifically, the smaller space bar. For the whole first day, every word I punched in on WhatsApp was punctuated with a comma. I was also becoming frustrated by the message notifications remaining in the action centre, even after I’ve addressed them. For example, if I’m in the process of replying to a message that I’ve gone to directly, as opposed to tapping on the notification, the message symbol remains at the top of the screen, making me feel like I’m more popular than I actually am – which can be very confusing...

It took a conscious effort to right this, but I think I had it cracked by bedtime.

Day 2 – My blossoming love affair with Cortana

Windows’ inbuilt personal assistant is called Cortana. She’s from the Xbox Halo series (I’m told) and helps me do loads of stuff, from setting alarms, to combing the web in search of answers to my weird queries. Did you know a group of zebras is called a dazzle?

As with most personal assistants on a new phone, I spent a portion of my evening interacting with her and finding out what else she can do. She gets to know you, and can access your emails, messages, phonebook, and calendar to learn even more. She can also sing, and do maths, and stuff. The feature I was most impressed by, however, were reminders based on location.

For example, my mother’s birthday is coming up (which she learned from my calendar), so when I was nearby the local florist, Cortana suggested I buy some flowers. My parents live 250 miles away, so I didn’t, but the thought was there.

Day 3 – Where’s my jam, man?

I’m a regular Spotify fanatic, and enjoy listening to music whenever I get the chance. The Spotify app is indeed available from the Windows Play Store, which was comforting, but I couldn’t really save that much music for offline listening due to the limited internal storage.

There’s 8GB of memory on the Lumia, but a lot of that is eaten up by the software and apps that are already on the phone - leaving me with just 2.3GB after installing a few apps myself. Not enough room to swing a cat. You can thankfully add a microSD card of up to 128GB, but unfortunately The Lowdown hasn’t garnished me with such luxury.

There’s also the matter of charging up, which wouldn’t be a problem if I hadn’t previously seen the light, in the form of fast charging. Devices like the new Samsung Galaxy S6, Note 4, and Nexus 6 all feature fast charging – which is a genuine revelation. You can get from flat to full in about an hour.

Having to revert back to Joey Average’s normal-speed charging is a drag. I ask too much, I know, but once you’ve been to The Promised Land (of charging), it’s difficult going back to normality. All things said and done, the Lumia 640’s battery does last an impressive day and a half – so having it juice up at my desk every other day wasn’t as tasking as waiting for it to charge before a Saturday night out.

Day 4 – Capturing those fleeting moments

The Lumia’s 8MP camera is weird. For a while I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong… let’s rewind.

When you take a photo, and then look back at it in the gallery, you’re met with a really short video of just before and after you took your photo. Although I can see the benefit of this, it seems like it would be a setting I would select – not have as standard. I later found out that it was called Living Image and can be deactivated.

Other than that, the picture quality is quite impressive, complimented by the 640’s bright screen. In dark environments, like on a night out, you might struggle to get the same high quality - but in the day, colour representation is very accurate.

As with my unhealthy music addiction, I also enjoy posting pretentious, super-edited photos to Instagram. Now, it wasn’t long ago that everyone’s favourite photo-based social network wasn’t available from the Windows Phone Store. Technically, it’s still not. But there is a BETA version, which pretty much does the trick.

My disappointment came when I realised I couldn’t get the editing app, VSCOCam – my secret weapon in making the pompous skyline sunset snaps look so good. I guess you can’t ask for everything…

Day 5 – The 640 is winning me over

Day five, and I’m getting pretty used to the Lumia 640. The smaller size is a lot more manageable and I’ve found it hurts a lot less when I invariably drop it on my face while checking Twitter in bed.

I’m also not including as many erroneous commas in my text messages anymore, which is a real plus point for a writer. I tried out Skype on the 640 last night, and as it’s now an inbuilt Windows feature, I wanted to find out if it worked any better than on Android or iOS.

Turns out it’s pretty much the same, but the sound quality and video stream were respectfully clear and smooth.

A tearful farewell

After spending a week with Microsoft’s newest release, I can confirm I was pleasantly surprised. Although our other instalments of this feature have starred top of the line products (see Living with the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge and HTC One M9), the little Lumia has gone above and beyond.

Cortana is helpful and intuitive, while the rest of Microsoft’s homegrown features like Skype, Outlook and the Lumia Camera, have all contributed to a very familiar user experience. The key point to remember here is that the Microsoft Lumia 640 is very much a mid-range product, and it isn’t time for the Lumia 930 to abdicate just yet. But, it won’t be long before the next battle for the top spot ensues…

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