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Microsoft Continues the Budget Phone Trend with Lumia 640 XL

Microsoft got in on the budget smartphone trend at MWC with their announcement of the Lumia 640 and 640 XL. While it’s usually pretty hard to differentiate between budget phones in terms of hardware, the 640 and the 640 XL both have features that make them very intriguing for anyone looking to pick up a cheap, entry-level smartphone this year.

The Lumia 640 XL is the headliner, powered by the quad-core 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC, with unfortunately only 1 GB of RAM. The 5.7″ 1280 x 720 259 ppi IPS display (with Corning Gorilla Glass 3) makes the phone seem like more of a mid-tier phone, but it’s hard to say since pricing hasn’t been confirmed yet. While internal storage is limited to 8 GB, there is a microSD card slot that goes all the way, compatible with cards up to 128 GB in capacity. For connectivity, expect Bluetooth 4.0, DLNA, Miracast and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and LTE. Powering everything is a 3,000 mAh removable battery, so anyone feeling abandoned in the wake of the Galaxy S6 ditching replaceable batteries should take note.

LTE is one of the best parts about this budget phone. LTE on cheap phones is nothing new, but this is one of the first times we’ve ever seen a dual-SIM model of an LTE phone available, so you can be ready to travel with fast download speeds anywhere, or take advantage of a cheap calling plan and a separate, cheaper data plan from another carrier.

The other thing that makes the 640 XL a very intriguing budget phone is its cameras. There’s a 13 MP camera with Zeiss optics on the rear and a 5 MP camera in front, both of which can record in 1080p. Better yet, the rear camera comes with auto-focus and LED flash, two features that are usually left off budget phones.

The Lumia 640 is smaller and not quite as proficient, although it retains the features that make the XL such an intriguing budget phone. The 5.0″ display is the same quality as the XL, but the smaller size gives it a greater pixel density at 294 ppi. Processor, memory and connectivity features are the same, but the removable battery has been shrunk down to 2,500 mAh. The cameras have been moved down to 8 MP and 1 MP, but auto-focus and LED flash have been retained. While the rear camera can still take 1080p video, the front camera can only take 720p video. And, like the XL, it will have a dual-SIM model with LTE.

Pricing isn’t confirmed, but it’s going to vary quite a bit, because both the 640 and 640 XL will be available in single- and dual-SIM 3G and LTE models, giving us a total of seven to choose from (no single-SIM 3G Lumia 640). The phones will be available in cyan, black, white (with a glossy option) and orange at launch, with the 640 XL getting a March release and the 640 coming later in April. Both will come with a free one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 and, being Windows 8.1 phones, will be eligible for that free Windows 10 upgrade later this year. AT&T, T-Mobile and MetroPCS have all been confirmed as carriers.

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Microsoft did offer estimates on pricing, although those were given in euros (MWC being in Barcelona). Microsoft is saying the Lumia 640 should be around €139 for the 3G model and €159 for the LTE model, while the Lumia 640 XL should be around €189 for 3G and €219 for LTE. Those prices are all unsubsidized and for unlocked versions of the phones, making both very competitive for budget phones. Of course, if you’re interested specifically in Windows phones, Lumias are very nearly your only options, but these stack up well against the recent slate of large-screen budget Android phones, too. They’re a little more expensive, but for the extra camera and dual-SIM LTE features, they might very well be worth it.

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