This week we’ve swapped our reporter’s Moto X Force for the new Microsoft Lumia 550 so we can get a first-hand look at what the new budget phone is like to live with.
First impressions – it’s a mini Lumia 950
It’s been a while since I last used a cheap Lumia smartphone. I remember they’ve always felt solid – probably down to the history they still have from Nokia – but there’s something about the Lumia 550 that makes it feel more grown up than its predecessors.
I think it’s down to the angular edges and squarer overall design. The Lumia 550 feels just like the Lumia 950, only it’s a little smaller.
They say you only get to make one first impression, and the Microsoft Lumia 550 makes a great one.
How is the Lumia 550 so fast?
When you start using a budget smartphone, you expect to sacrifice certain things. One of those is speed – cheap phones have cheap processors so aren’t fast, unless you have the Lumia 550.
Despite its 1.1GHz Snapdragon 210 processor, flicking through menus and scrolling around the phone is effortless and smooth.
I remember scrolling through the settings on the old Lumia 520 – the phone couldn’t really keep up so the text on the screen became a blur. With the 550, though, there’s no such problem.
Of course, it’s not as fast at opening apps as the Lumia 950 is, but it’s quick for the price.
A big part of that surprising performance is going to be down to the new Windows 10 operating system. It’s slick software that feels really streamlined.
Windows 10 is great on phones
Not only have I found Windows 10 on the Lumia 550 incredibly easy to use, I’ve loved some of its smart features too.
Cortana’s been my favourite part of the 550. The virtual assistant mixes the predictive help of Google Now with the personality of Siri to create something that’s genuinely useful and fun. Getting traffic info just before I leave for work in the morning has been fantastic, and asking Cortana to predict the football scores over the weekend was a good laugh (and impressively accurate).
It’s surprisingly easy to work on the Lumia 550 too, as everything ties so tightly into OneDrive. I could save stuff on my work computer and find it instantly on the phone. And because the 550 comes with proper Office apps, I had all the same controls for my documents.
Everything looks great
Another reason the Lumia 550 is nice to work on is its screen. At 4.7-inches, it gives enough space for the keyboard but is small enough for you to easily reach the whole screen with your thumb.
It also looks really sharp. It may only have a HD resolution (which is actually pretty impressive for a phone of this price), but things look really good on it.
It’s not just the screen that manages to look better than its resolution would suggest. The 5MP rear camera takes some brilliant photos. It’s the colours that make the shots really impressive. And as they’re only 5MP photos, they’re perfect for sharing.
Wait, when did I last charge this thing?
It turns out the Lumia 550 is a real battery champion. I haven’t recharged it for a couple of days and it’s still going.
That’s not too surprising when you consider its battery is more than 20% bigger than the one found in the iPhone 6s. And the iPhone has a lot more to power, like a sharper screen, more powerful processor and loads of extra sensors.
Is it all just rose-tinted glasses?
As you can tell, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Microsoft Lumia 550. But that’s the thing – is the phone really any good, or is it just better than the sub-£100 price led me to expect?
I’ve got to say yes, the phone is actually good. There are better ones out there if you’ve got the money to spend, but I’m happy to say the Microsoft Lumia 550 is a good phone. And I don’t have to caveat it with ‘for the price’.
If you’re tempted by the Microsoft Lumia 550, you can buy it now.