Wednesday, 29 June 2016 11:02

Microsoft Lumia 650 – the secure worker's phone (review)

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Microsoft’s Lumia 650 has largely been called a worker’s phone because it costs $299 and it uses Windows 10 Mobile (W10M) operating system designed for secure corporate access.

So if you are a consumer my advice is that you need not read on – this is for the “people with a wage” who work for larger companies, or on-site tradespersons who need access to corporate servers and apps. But if you are looking for top-drawer specifications, millions of apps, or comparisons to iPhones et al – forget it.

The best thing I can say is that this phone has plenty of features for the price, some specifications that punch well and truly above the price, and does all that you expect of a business smartphone – particularly one for broad enterprise use. It also assumes you will have a Microsoft account of some sort and will restore from one W10M device to the next which is great for system administrators.

If you have not used W10M you will find it the easiest to use, the most logical in layout, and great for vision impaired users with adjustable tiles as the basis of its menu system.

Out of the box

The Lumia 650 specifications meet or exceed mass market requirements:

  • 5”, AMOLED, 1280 x 720, 297 ppi, protected by Gorilla Glass 3 – screen to body ratio 67.1%
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 212, quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM and 16GB (10.5GB free) with dedicated microSD up to 256GB
  • Rear camera - 8MP, f/2.2, 1/4” sensor, autofocus, single LED flash, [email protected] video
  • Front camera - 5MP, f/2.2, selfie, [email protected] video
  • Wi-Fi N single band, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS, FM, OTG support
  • Removable 2000 mAh battery, with micro-USB charge and cable – 55-hour endurance
  • Cat 4 LTE (150/50Mbps) – Bands 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 20, 28, 38, 39, 40
  • 142 x 70.9 x 6.9 mm x 122g
  • Windows 10 Mobile

Set-up is easy and quick although you will require a Microsoft account (mail or Office) to enable a number of features.

Build-wise it is well-made – elegant lines and, above all, a removable battery via a removable back cover. It is really thin and light.

What is missing (and to be fair this is for the Lumia 950/XL at three times the price) is Continuum, Windows Hello and a stellar Zeiss camera for which Lumia is famous.

Screen

It’s a 5”, 1280 x 720p, AMOLED using Pentile technology (RGGB) so it is clear, crisp, bright, and incredibly good in sunlight. Blacks are perfect (0.00 cd/m3) and whites are not bad either at 333cd/m2. Despite the lower resolution it is visually as pleasing as the amazing 950/XL AMOLED screens.

Being AMOLED it has an always on glance screen — time and mail, email, phone notifications  that has minimal battery life affect.

Phone

Amazing call clarity and phone performance. Its CAT 4 LTE so that is fine for data and seemed to have good reception overall.

Hands- free was adequate from its single microphone and speaker.

Battery

The removable 2000 mAh battery gets a 55-hour endurance rating. W10M is very energy efficient as is the AMOLED screen so you will get 24+ hours us use. The charger is 5V, 550mAh (typical USB 1.0 standard) and will recharge from zero to 100% in under four hours. It does not support wireless or fast charge but will reduce charge time by using a 1 or 2A charger.

Performance

It is not blazing – everything takes a millisecond or so to load. That is not an issue except when you compare it to the 950/XL which is very quick. To put it in perspective it has about 30% of the power of the 950/XL.

When I first got it I experienced a few lockups – these were cured by W10M updates and it all went well from then.

Let’s face it, it has the entry level Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 and 1GB of ram – well, you get my drift. In its defence it did everything asked of it. It is hard to compare performance except to say that it will be at the lower end of the scale – it is not for mobile gaming.

Camera

I am not even going to try to compare it to any other cameras. It is what it is – a competent snapper that produces good shots in daylight and reasonable shots with flash.

What a worker needs, however, is something to snap whiteboard content, to send a picture back to the office from on-site and in these cases it is perfect. It even has OCR translation and more as drop-in "lenses".

The Lumia camera app offers a lot of customisation and it's technically better than the physical camera.

The 5MP, 720p selfie is fine for Skype.

W10M – a corporate OS

The elephant in the room is the lack of apps compared to Android and iOS. Microsoft has all the productivity apps you need, and a few of the popular social media apps. Where it is strong is that developers can write universal apps that run on all W10 devices. And for the most part there will be a browser solution to get over a lack of apps.

W10M uses the same code as Windows 10 – it is an integral part of the "one Windows" that runs on many devices and specifically on mobile ARM processors that have won the battle for horsepower and power efficiency (ARM is used on iPhone and Android devices too). Simply put, it costs Microsoft little to keep W10M going and it will only get better. It will natively run Windows universal apps like Office.

It includes the latest fully optimised touch mobile versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Skype, and OneNote. Microsoft apps and services are synchronised across all Windows 10 devices via OneDrive.

It includes:

  • Calendar, Interactive notifications, Pin information to start screen, Reminders, Voice dictation in edit fields, Word flow keyboard
  • Calculator, Clock, Alarm clock, Phonebook, To-do list, Family Room, Kid's Corner, OneNote, Social networks in Phonebook, Wallet, File manager
  • Adobe Reader, Company Hub for enterprise applications, Microsoft Outlook, OneDrive storage for documents and notes, Skype for Business, Integrated OneDrive for business, Office apps
  • Back-up and restore your data
  • Exchange ActiveSync and OneDrive documents
  • AirWatch, MobileIron, Symantec, Microsoft System Center, OMA Client Provisioning v1.1, OMA Device Management v1.1.2, OMA Device Management v1.2, Windows Intune

Conclusion

 Forgive me for not being excited – I just finished reviewing some amazing smartphones: the Huawei P9, OPPO R9 Plus, LG G5. How can a $299 device compete?

It does have a nice OLED screen, it does have W10M for work, and it has plenty of storage and microSD. So it ticks all the boxes for a work phone.

Businesses can afford to have a fleet of these, load them with pre-paid SIMs, and I think everyone would be happy especially if they were lost – a $1000 flagship is a little expensive to toilet-dunk.

Surprisingly, user reviews are quite good.

“I am not a demanding high tech user, nor do I have a lot of money – I just want the thing to work. My employer said that I could either have a Lumia 650 for free or buy an iPhone (for an extra 200 quid) – no brainer. I am impressed – screen quality, battery life and even the camera are all good enough for me.”

In summary, a good corporate phone that will help round out Microsoft’s offerings.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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