This week we learned that the iPhone party could be over as Apple reported the first ever decline in iPhone sales. That’s big news in the technology business as the iPhone was at the heart of Apple’s resurgence as it went from tech underdog to the world beating phone maker. There is probably a combination of explanations as to why the iPhone is slipping. Economic conditions is one, market saturation another and perhaps phone buyers are looking for an alternative to the high price handsets of the market leaders.
The Microsoft Lumia 650 is one such mid-price alternative. It’s the latest in the Lumia range and it illustrates a rethink by Microsoft with its Lumia range. It has a 5” inch screen HD OLED which is sharp and bright when you start it up and utilizes an automatic brightness control.As I unpacked the box I thought the phone pleasantly light at 122 grams. After fitting the replaceable battery, the phone really didn’t feel much heavier and I was delighted by the feel and it’s easy on shirt pockets or purses.
The 650 comes with 16GB of memory, which is adequate for most users but you can add external storage via memory card slot and the phone can recognise up to 200GB of additional memory. There aren’t many buttons; a simple power/sleep button and a little volume rocker switch and the phone has a micro-USB slot where you attach the charger.
The design of the 650 is the stand-out feature of this phone. It is priced as a mid-range phone but is built like a premium handset with its diamond cut metal frame. Its predecessor looked a looked a little plastic and shiny but that outdated design is gone and this Lumia has an elegant styling as well as feeling refreshingly solid, light but well built.
Your Microsoft Account is a key part of the set-up. I signed in to the phone with the Microsoft user details that I use for email and my details began to sync. There is one-click Office 365 set-up and although you can’t really imagine creating a new spreadsheet on the Lumia 650 it’s an extremely easy way to review Microsoft Office documents while you’re on the way. It handles email, both Outlook and other services like Gmail brilliantly. Microsoft mastered email a long time ago, and the heritage is put to excellent use with an interface for mail that I wish I had on on every phone or tablet I own.
The 650 also has OneDrive integration, so you can store images or files in the cloud, at work or home, and they’ll be there with you on the phone as you travel. This is useful for business users, but for anyone who needs to store boarding passes or travel documents, it’s really useful.
Skype is also a snap to set-up giving your access to video or voice conferences or calls via the Microsoft owned service. Photos and video are decent with a 5MP front facing camera for selfies or video calls and the 8MP rear facing camera has an LED flash and captures clear, colour laden images. The full screen viewfinder is useful and it handles facial recognition and can automatically upload images to online services. Call quality is excellent. The 650 has a really good speaker mode and there are dual microphones that ensure you can be heard clearly.
The phone’s performance is better than I’d anticipated. It has a Snapdragon quad-core processor with 1GB RAM, which is a capable spec, but not outstanding. I found some tasks felt a little delayed, or sticky but it performed well most of the time, even during some moderate game-playing. One thing I found irksome was that the charger has a USB cable that can’t be detached, meaning you’d need an additional micro-USB cable to connect it to a PC or a 3rd party charger.