Hands-on: Cricket Microsoft Lumia 650 is a compelling choice at only $130

Cricket is a prepaid service provider operating on the AT&T network and for $130 it's tough not to consider the functional Microsoft Lumia 650.

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I was hoping to test out a Lumia 650 during my month with Microsoft, but it wasn't released in the US at the time. The good news is that you can now pick up the Microsoft Lumia 650 from Cricket for just $129.99.

Cricket is a prepaid wireless service provider in the US that operates on the AT&T network. It offers compelling call, text, and data packages ranging from $35 to $65 per month with unlimited voice calling and texting include in all its plans.

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While I have been a T-Mobile customer for nearly 15 years, last year we moved my wife to Cricket because she makes more calls than I do and was experiencing multiple dropped calls per day on T-Mobile. We recently tried moving her back to T-Mobile, in large part due to an international trip, but as soon as we returned we moved her back to Cricket. I then discovered that Cricket has its own international texting and calling options, at compelling price points.

A couple of weeks ago I was sent the Microsoft Lumia 650 with a Cricket SIM and think it is a compelling offering for customers looking for a low cost, functional smartphone on a solid prepaid carrier. For just $130, it's tough to complain about the Lumia 650 and I think most people will be happy with the device and service.

Hardware

I was not that impressed by the hardware of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL and actually find the Lumia 650 to be a bit more compelling. It reminds me of a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with it beveled metal edges and OLED display. I was surprised by how compact it felt in my hand and the 122 gram weight was very refreshing.

Specifications of the Microsoft Lumia 650 include:

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 1.3 GHz quad-core
  • Display: 5 inch 1280 x 720 pixels resolution OLED ClearBlack at 297 ppi
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Mobile
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Storage: 16GB internal with microSD card slot
  • Cameras: 8 megapixel rear and front 5 megapixel
  • Battery: 2,000 mAh
  • Dimensions: 142 x 70.9 x 6.9 mm and 122 grams

As you can see, the specifications do not match what we see in mid to high end Android smartphones, but this is a $130 smartphone and Windows Mobile has never required high end resources to perform admirably. I don't play a ton of games, but I do load up lots of apps and never had a problem running everything I needed on the Lumia 650.

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The Cricket Lumia 650 comes in matte black only, while there is a matte white option available from Microsoft and overseas. The back panel is removable so you can replace the battery, add in your microSD storage card, or swap out your SIM.

It's quite thin at 6.9 mm and easily fits in your front shirt pocket. The headphone jack is found on the top and unlike most phones today, a FM radio is still supported on the Lumia 650. A microUSB port is found on the bottom, but there are not advanced charging technologies on the device.

The blacks are dark and the colors pop on the display. I find the text crisp and clear, even though it doesn't have the highest resolution available today.

Software

The Lumia 650 runs Windows 10 Mobile, which means you get the excellent Action Center, Cortana assistant, Office Mobile, Outlook Mobile, and more. You won't find any carrier bloatware on this device. The only custom Cricket app is My Cricket and that gives you easy access to manage your account and control your prepaid options.

Cricket Visual Voicemail support is included right in the Windows 10 Mobile dialer. It's very refreshing to have a smartphone that functions on the AT&T network without all the AT&T bloatware normally found on Android smartphones.

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A couple of limitations with the Lumia 650, compared to the Lumia 950 and 950 XL are the the lack of Continuum and Hello iris support. After trying Continuum a number of times I still haven't found a compelling reason to use Continuum. It makes for a fun technology demo and may be useful in developing countries, but I have yet to see a proven use case for it. Windows Hello's iris scanner is also handy, but requires you to hold your phone up and close to your face so using a PIN to unlock your phone is faster and more convenient in most cases.

The Glance support means you can view the date, time, and notifications while the display is off. The Start screen is easily customizable and provides a quick view of your latest notifications and information.

Windows 10 Mobile still lacks some apps, but many banks and other apps are coming back through the Windows 10 universal support and I personally don't find the lack of apps to be a major issue on Windows 10 Mobile. It's more often the lack of depth within apps that bothers me on Windows 10 Mobile.

Daily usage experiences

I personally use high end smartphones because my smartphone is an essential tool that is used for hours each day. However, if you are looking for a low cost smartphone that you don't have to worry about breaking or dropping, want to get your email, text messages, and stay in touch with family and friends, then the Microsoft Lumia 650 is a good choice.

Cricket offers excellent coverage at reasonable prices with no contracts so is great as either a main line or backup account. When you consider the Galaxy S7 is $649.99 on Cricket, it's tough not to consider the $129.99 Microsoft Lumia 650.