As I have written a few times over the years, those looking for an inexpensive, full-featured, reliable smartphone should consider a Windows Phone while Android and iOS rule the high end smartphone world. If you want a large display device, then the AT&T Microsoft Lumia 640 XL is a solid contender priced at just $249.99 with no contract.
You can find Android smartphones priced in this range, but they often have custom manufacturer interfaces and older version of the Android operating system. Microsoft offers the most bang for your buck with Windows Phone, which is why I still own and use my Lumia 830.
Check out the full review on CNET where the Lumia 640 XL earned a 7.6 out of 10 rating, which is exactly where I would rate the device too.
Despite the low phone cost, Microsoft does an excellent job in creating solid quality products that don't feel cheap at all. The Lumia 640 XL has a large 5.7 inch 720p ClearBlack IPS display constructed of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Windows Phone has always looked fantastic even on lower resolution displays and that holds true today with the Lumia 640 XL.
Inside, you will find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor, 8GB of integrated storage, microSD expansion card slot, 1GB of RAM, and 3,000 mAh battery. I know many people likely don't care, but the 640 XL has a FM radio as well. I personally use the FM radio on my phones to listen to local sports when I am out and about.
The Lumia 640 XL has a 13 megapixel rear camera and 5 megapixel front facing camera. Despite the Zeiss name on the back camera, it isn't a very good shooter. You can capture decent photos for sharing to social networks in good lighting conditions, but you can definitely see a difference in photo quality between this phone and those costing you two to three times the price.
You can purchase a Lumia 640 XL for just 99 cents with a 2-year contract, $8.34/month with Next 24, $10.42/month with Next 18, and $12.50/month with Next 12. The best deal is the $249.99 no-contract price, which is hundreds less than flagship phones.
The Lumia 640 XL runs Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 and is sure to get Windows 10 Mobile when it launches this fall. Windows Phone runs very well with this processor and RAM and I never noticed any lag, slowdowns, resets, or other issues that you can expect with a comparably speced Android phone.
The wonderful features I enjoy on Windows Phone, including Cortana and the word flow keyboard are present and work well. HERE Maps is present so you get full voice navigation for free, even if you don't have a cellular data connection.
There are way too many Lumia apps installed out of the box, including Lumia Beamer, Lumia Camera, Lumia Cinemagraph, Lumia Creative Studio, Lumia Help + Tips, Lumia Moments, Lumia Selfie, and Lumia Storyteller. I would like to see Microsoft work a bit harder to consolidate the camera and photo editing apps into a more seamless experience.
As expected, AT&T has loaded all of its bloatware onto the device. Thankfully, Windows Phone gives you the power to uninstall and clear out all of these applications if you desire. Google needs to take a lesson from Microsoft here.
Using the Lumia 640 XL for business
The Lumia 640 XL is a fully functional enterprise device with native integration with Office, OneNote, and OneDrive. The big display definitely helps with viewing and working with documents.
The removable battery means you can be out and in the field with your Lumia 640 XL and swap in as many batteries as you need to continue working. With the support microSD expansion cards you can also easily transfer files to and from your phone with no data connection.
The low price is also good for businesses as companies can deploy these phones to many employees and save lots of money compared to flagship Android and iOS devices. The Lumia 640 XL is pretty rugged given its hard plastic shell that surrounds all of the edges. You can remove the back/side shell and replace it as needed too.
I'm not sure what is going to happen with Windows Phone in the future given all of the recent changes in personnel, but according to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley's recent interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Microsoft does have plans to continue making phones.
The camera is OK, but won't replace your point-and-shoot. It's not a camera that can compete with the iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S6, or LG G4, but it works fine for capturing and sharing moments on social networks.
Given my personal feelings on the future of Windows Phones, I would stick with low-cost, no contract options like the Lumia 640 XL for now until we see some hard evidence of what Microsoft has in store for the future. At $250, it's tough to beat the Lumia 640 XL. It performs well, is solidly built, has a long battery life, and a display that is easy on the eyes.