BARCELONA: Microsoft has been working to persuade CIO and CTOs it means business when it says it wants to become the biggest player in the enterprise handset market.
As a part of this the firm has been releasing a steady stream of security- and productivity-focused software updates and affordable handsets, designed for mass rollout.
The Lumia 640 continues this trend and aims to offer business users an affordable access point to Microsoft's business cloud services that can be easily and safely deployed across enterprise environments.
However, with the release of the firm's even cheaper Lumia 535 still fresh in the memory, some buyers may justifiably wonder why they should pay attention to the Lumia 640.
Design and build
Visually the Lumia 640 has the iconic colourful design seen on past Microsoft Windows Phones and looks like a slightly blown up version of the Lumia 535.
The Lumia 635 features a polycarbonate smooth finish frame with rounded corners and flat sides. While not a significant move forward from past Lumias we found plenty to like about the Lumia 640's design.
The Lumia 640 is reasonably comfortable to hold and feels pretty sturdy, albeit a little on the 'plastic' side.
Most tech firms choose screen technology as the first area to cut when designing affordable smartphones. Microsoft has attempted to buck this trend with the Lumia 640, giving it with a 5in IPS, 1280x720, 294ppi display with ClearBlack technology.
Testing the display on the brightly lit MWC Microsoft showroom floor, we were reasonably impressed how well the display performed compared to other affordable smartphones.
Colours on the Lumia 640 jumped out and are much better than is the case with previous affordable Lumias and cheap Android competitors.
Brightness levels, while not dazzling, are also reasonably high. Thanks to its Sunlight Readability mode, the phone is usable in bright light - unlike most other affordable handsets.
The Lumia 640 is set to ship with Windows Phone 8.1 pre-installed, though Microsoft has promised it will be upgraded to Windows 10 when the next generation OS is released later this year.
As we've noted in past Windows Phone reviews, for business users embedded in Microsoft's ecosystem, Windows 8.1 is a great operating system.
Windows Phone offers users key productivity tools, such as integrated Outlook, Skype, Cortana and OneDrive, and as an added bonus, the Lumia 640 will ship with a free one-year Office 365 subscription.
Microsoft has also loaded the OS with a number of enterprise-focused management and security features, including upgraded mobile device management (MDM), VPN and Outlook S/MIME protection.
The Lumia 640 runs on a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM.
While the specs don't sound like anything to write home about, especially compared to what's on offer in the Android ecosystem, thanks to Windows Phone's low system requirements, we found the Lumia 640 was reasonably fast during our hands-on.
The Lumia 640 navigated between menus and opened applications smoothly and, while we didn't get a chance to benchmark the handset or see how it dealt with demanding tasks, we didn't notice any serious performance issues.
Microsoft managed to acquire the imaging technology that set past Lumias apart when it acquired the phone division of Nokia and has worked hard to retain Windows Phone's imaging lead since the deal closed.
While not a match for the 41MP Pureview camera seen on the Lumia 1020, the Lumia 640's 8MP rear and 1MP front cameras compare well with the competition at the affordable end of the market.
While we're a little disappointed the Lumia 640 doesn't feature the improved Zeiss Optics seen on its big brother the Lumia 640 XL, we were still able to get fairly good results using the rear camera.
Photos taken on the MWC showroom floor had noticeably better colour balance and contrast levels than those we have taken in the past using competing affordable handsets. Thanks to the Lumia app, we were also able to manually control some of the camera settings, including ISO and white balance.
The only issue we had during our hands-on was with the shutter speed, which is slightly slower than we'd like.
Battery and storage
Sadly we didn't get a chance to battery burn the Lumia 640's 2,500mAh removable battery during our hands-on.
In terms of storage, the Lumia 640 comes with a basic 8GB of inbuilt space. Fortunately, a further 128GB can be added using the Lumia 640's microSD card slot.
Release date, price and conclusion
The Lumia 640 will launch in April. The 3G Lumia 640 will cost €139, while the 4G will cost €159.
Considering the Lumia 640's low price our opening impressions are positive. Given its above-average specifications and the fact that it can be upgraded to Windows 10, the Lumia 640 could be one of the best affordable handsets available to business this year.
Hopefully it will make good on this promise when we test it more thoroughly for our full review.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
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