Microsoft’s position hasn’t much improved since their strategy change announced in July 2015. Their market share hovers around measly 2%, and the last two flagship smartphones, the Lumia 950 and the 950 XL, failed to convince customers that Windows Phone is ready for mass adoption.
Now, standing at the beginning of 2016, the company has announced the Lumia 650. This budget smartphone combines productivity with pleasure into an elegant package, thus offering businesses and regular users an interesting alternative to Android and iOS.
A closer look at the phone should reveal more about its chances for success in overpopulated waters of the current smartphone market.
Construction and Hardware
It’s clear that Microsoft has learned its lesson from the criticism that fell upon the Lumia 950. The plastic frame of its higher-end cousin has been replaced with a polished anodized aluminum frame. It makes the smartphone feel very rigid and solid, yet keeps the thickness at just 6.9mm and weight at 122 grams. A confident grip is guaranteed thanks to the soft coating on the back, which prevents the phone from slipping out even during one-handed use.
A quick look inside confirms that the Lumia 650 is a no-frills smartphone designed to get users comfortably through their work days, but not do much more than that. Everything is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 212 processor running at 1.3GHz and 1 GB of RAM. While this configuration can support HD video playback, it’s multitasking abilities will be quite limited.
The 5-inch OLED display sports an HD resolution with pixel density of 297ppi and comes protected with Gorilla Glass 3. All picture taking needs will be taken care of by an 8MP rear camera with support for rich capture and living images, and a 5MP self-portrait camera with wide-angle lens.
As with any business-oriented smartphone, expandable storage, and removable battery are expected features. The 650 has 16 GB of internal storage space and 2,000 mAh removable battery, as well as support for dual-SIM cards and NFC.
Built for Business
The Lumia 650 comes with the latest Windows 10 Mobile and your typical suite of Microsoft applications, such as Microsoft Office, OneDrive, and Office 365, to enable on-the-go document editing and collaboration. There’s also Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now, ready to make planning just a bit easier.
Large companies will appreciate that Windows 10 Mobile supports modern mobile device management (MDM) practices and lets IT department test updates before their actual distribution across the company network.
However, despite all the effort that went into making the Lumia 650 great for business use, there are still two unfortunate omissions: there’s no Windows Hello nor Microsoft's Continuum Display Dock.
While the ability of Windows Hello to unlock the phone with eyes is hardly a critical one, the absence of the Continuum is puzzling. It would seem natural that business users would be the first in line to benefit from using their smartphone as a laptop replacement by connecting it to monitor and pairing it with a wireless mouse and keyboard.
Instead of making the Lumia 650 available globally, Microsoft has decided for a limited launch in a handful of selected European markets, with planned on February 18th for a retail price of $199. There have been no mentions of any plans to make the phone available in other regions, in the future.
Considering that Microsoft will probably scrape the Lumia brand in favor of a new line of Surface- branded smartphones, it’s quite possible that the Lumia 650 might be the last device to bear the once-beloved name that dates back to Nokia.
It will be interesting to see how the decision to target business users and average consumers pays off. The smartphone definitely has all the right ingredients to appeal to its target demographic, but many potential owners could be scared off by the impending doom that lurks over the brand.