Skip to main content

Microsoft Lumia 650: 'Budget' Isn't Always a Bad Word

BARCELONA, Spain — After Microsoft reported dismal sales figures for its Lumia devices last quarter, a number of media outlets decreed that Windows Phone was dead in the water. But it seems Microsoft hasn't gotten the memo, because last week it unveiled a new Windows 10 phone, the Lumia 650, just in time to appear at Mobile World Congress 2016.

Although it shares the same OS and design language as two Lumia phones Microsoft launched in the fall, the new Lumia 650 is a very different beast. With a price starting at $199, the Lumia 650 (available in black or white) is clearly meant for budget-conscious buyers and should be in stores soon. Microsoft says the 650 is great for business users, despite lacking the desktop-like Continuum feature of the Lumia 950 and 950XL.

MORE: Huawei Honor 5X Review: The Budget Phone to Beat

The Lumia 650's best feature is its 5-inch OLED display, which makes colors such as Microsoft's signature blue really pop,  even though the screen's resolution is a lackluster 1280 x 720. I liked how Microsoft added a thin strip of brushed metal around the edge of the phone, which ensures the 650 never feels cheap. As with the two Lumia 950s, the 650's back can be peeled away to access a microSD card slot and a removable battery.

The Lumia 650's 2,000-mAh battery is a little concerning, because even budget phones don't deserve extra-short runtimes. But a Microsoft spokesperson told me that because the 650's OLED screen is relatively efficient, and the phone is powered by a modest Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 processor, the 650 should get about 8 hours of life. (The phone also has 1GB of RAM and 16GB of built-in storage.)

The 5-megapixel wide-angle camera in front seemed to take a pretty good picture, although that was hard to judge because the lighting at Microsoft's booth was amazing. On the back, an 8MP camera lens is the only thing, aside from a Microsoft logo, interrupting a wall of plastic. But I actually kind of dug the Lumia 650's understated design.

Windows phones still have a massive uphill battle before they gain a solid market share. But the Lumia 650 really would make a lot of sense as a business handset that could be bought in bulk and handed out to every employee. It would also make a pretty good phone for a teenager. After all, you can't waste time playing games if those games don't exist for your platform.

Lumia 950 XL on the left, Lumia 650 on the right.

Lumia 950 XL on the left, Lumia 650 on the right.

All kidding aside, Lumia hardware hasn't been a problem for Microsoft, and the 650 continues that tradition with simple but stately design and decent specs for its low price. If Microsoft can pump out even more competent phones like the 650, it may have a platform worth developing for pretty quickly.