A quick review of Microsoft Lumia 640XL Dual Sim LTE

IMGP7193 (2)

I have been using the Nokia Lumia 820 for the past 2 years and feel it is now time to upgrade, especially now that Windows 10 is around the corner and Windows 10 for phones will be released toward the later part of 2015. I don’t really have a lot of complains using the Lumia 820 (apart from its poor battery life) and so I am prepared to go with Windows Phone again. I am now aiming for a phone with large battery capacity and the Lumia 640XL appears to fit the bill well.

In addition, the 640 series comes with a free Office365 subscription for a year. This is pretty good value I reckon. MobileCiti has the 640XL listed at $348 with free shipping but this is only available in a Single Sim LTE version. To get the Dual Sim LTE version, I will have to import this phone from overseas which is what I did. I ended up buying this phone from Expansys for A$265 + A$18 shipping. The price has since come down to $255 a week later.

640XL vs Competitor

A$265 for a phone is pretty good in value especially considering that the Office365 subscription for a year cost about A$80 itself. So that means the phone is only A$185. A close Android competitor to the 640 XL in terms of features would be a phone like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G which I am also quite keen. Of course there are many other phones out there that are just as worthy, if not better than the 640XL and the 640XL is by no means a high end phone. Here is a quick features comparison between the 640XL and the Note4G.

http://www.gsmarena.com/compare.php3?&idPhone2=6561&idPhone1=7086

In a nutshell, both phones are about the same size (5.7″ vs 5.5″), have 720×1280 IPS LCD screen with gorilla glass, have similar Snapdragon 400 chipset (the Note 4G slightly newer version), same Adreno 305 GPU, same 8GB internal memory, 13MP front camera and 5MP secondary camera and both comes with similar size 3000mAH battery. The main difference the way I see it, is that the Note4G has a 1.6 GHz Cortex-A7 cpu vs the 640XL’s slower 1.2GHz A7 and also that the Note 4G has 2GB ram instead of 1GB like the 640XL.

4G LTE Bands in Australia

I am with Virgin Mobile which uses Optus’s network so it is important that the phone support all the network bands. Whirlpool forum has a very useful post about compatible LTE devices with the Optus network. See here for more info:

In summary, the phone should support all LTE bands 1, 3, 7, 28 and 40 as well as 3G-900, 3G-2100 and 2G-900.

It is not possible to buy the Xiaomi phone in Australia so I will be looking to import this phone too, should I decide to go with it. I have googled that Xiaomi has setup a retail branch in Singapore and Malaysia. The Malaysia/Singapore version of the Note4G support LTE band 1, 3, 7 only but does not support Band 28 and 40. The note4G support 3G 900, 2100 and 2G 900. No issues there. So I think the only thing that would make me slightly concern is the lack of support of LTE band 28 and 40. This may or may not be a big issue but I did not research too heavily into this topic.

 The 640XL on the other hand, support LTE band 1, 3, 7, 28 and 40 and 3G 900, 2100 and 2G 900. So essentially the 640XL support practically all the bands used by Optus in Australia. In addition, it also support band 5 which is used by Vodafone, band 8 for Telstra, and many other bands such as band 12, 17, 20 and 28. I don’t know which network in Australia uses these bands but supporting more bands is to  me better than not supporting at all. So I think the 640XL has an edge here.

The Note4G cost S$229 which is equivalent to A$228. Almost on par with the 640XL. And if I consider that the 640XL comes with free Office365 worth A$80, I think it is a no brainer which phone to go for. I am not against Android in anyway. We have previously used the HTC Evo3D and I still have a Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 and wifey is also still using a Note 2 as her main phone. But I think the 640XL is very well priced in this instance so I think the main deciding factor for most people deciding between the Windows and Android phones is the availability of apps/games.

Is the 640XL the perfect phone? Not quite. It is a budget phone much like what the Xiaomi Note4G is. It has its strength and has its weaknesses.

So what I like about the 640XL?

  1. Comes with free 1 year subscription of Microsoft Office 365. But this is only valid up to 31st July 2015. So this may not be a deciding factor for late comers because they would have missed the boat to get free Office365.
  2. Dual Sim. Not a biggie to some but could become handy if a person travels a lot (the 2nd sim slot only supports up to 3G the way I understand. Not 100% sure however.)
  3. Windows 10 ready. In fact Microsoft stated that the 640XL is among the first phones that will get the Windows 10 upgrade.
  4. Phone has very good heat management. The phone does not heat up like my Lumia 820 which becomes warm after browsing the internet for a while. The phone is as cool heatwise like my wife’s Note 2. I have yet to try the 640XL as a driving GPS yet but I know that my 820 becomes a hot potato when using it as a GPS in the car (and the battery die so much faster too).
  5. Battery life is good. I usually unplug from the charger at 6am in the morning. By 1pm, I have about 75% of power left. By the time I am ready for bed at around 10pm, I still have 50% of power left. Compared to the 820, the 640XL wins hands down.
  6. Phone is relatively fast and responsive. 1GB of ram is not a problem at this stage. Display is clear and crisp. The clearblack technology is nice and under direct sunlight, the screen is still very readable.
  7. I am glad that Glance is still available on the 640XL. Glance is not available on the Lumia 930 for instance.
  8. Phone feels lighter than the 820 but according to our kitchen scale, the 640XL actually weights 171g whereas the 820 weighs 159g. Perhaps due to the formfactor and the way we hold the phone, the 640XL feels lighter than the 820.
  9. Phone construction does not give a premium build kind of feeling but does not feel cheap either. It feels really well build and the body shell snaps together nicely giving the impression that it has a unibody construction.
  10. Speaker is loud and clear so it is hard to miss hearing the phone when someone rings. I set the speaker volume to 3 (out of max 10) and it is plenty loud.

What I don’t like about the 640XL?

  1. Onboard camera does not have sensor based optical stabilization. I think this is a pretty big deal.
  2. Does not have a dedicated camera button like the 820. Must be a cost cutting measure. But then again many phones also do not have this.
  3. Internal 8GB ram is too limited considering that some stuff cannot be offloaded to the MicroSD card (for instance, offline maps cannot be saved to MicroSD and must be on the main ram). This kind of limitation probably the biggest gripe I have.
  4. Some quirks to the Windows Phone OS which hopefully will be addressed by the upcoming Windows 10.

What issues I experienced.

While the experience of using the 640XL is largely positive, I do have some slight issues.

Unable to activate Office365 due to Error 80073cfb

The phone comes with free Office365 subscription for a year. To claim this free bonus, the procedure is to first download a “Office 365 Gift” app from the windows store and use that to activate the Office subscription. This should be simple enough but for whatever reason, I am unable to install the app and kept getting an error with error code 80073cfb. I have never experienced this error on my Lumia 820 so this comes as a surprise. After googling, it later appears to me that this error has been experienced by many users and is something that Microsoft never seek to resolve. One negative point for Microsoft.

I spent many hours trying to fix this, from uninstalling existing apps and doing a soft reset to the phone but nothing works. I tried  many things and eventually I managed to solve this but I think this is just my dumb luck. This is roughly what I did (among other things):

  1. Soft reset the phone. Still experience the same error.
  2. Hard reset the phone and in the process restored the phone to its original factory setting. While phone is setting up, I skipped all the standard customization. No new apps were installed and the firmware remained stock. I signed in to the Microsoft account and tried to download and install Office 365 gift again. Still experience the same error and the “Office 365 gift” app just cannot complete its installation process. So I cancel the download and proceed to download some other apps.
  3. I tried more conventional apps such as “briefcase”, etc. Installation seems to work. So I tried with several other apps to make sure there are no hiccups. I made sure that the download screen is visible and not hidden away/tasked switched. not sure if this matters but…
  4. Then I try to download and install “office 365 gift” again and yet again I am frustrated by the same error.
  5. I then did another soft reset. When the phone rebooted again, I downloaded some other apps from the app store and these appear to install just fine.
  6. Then I tried the “Office 365 gift” again and this time it works.

Activating Office 365 is pretty straightforward. Run the app and it will proceed to validate if the offer is still valid for the phone. Once the validation is done, it will ask for an email address so that it will send the respective activation instructions via email. Final activation will need to be done on a PC/Mac.

Cortana won’t turn on.

The next issue I experience is that Cortana remains off in Settings -> System -> Cortana.

After googling, it appears the solution is to do the following:

  1. Set region to Australia
  2. Set language to English (Australia)
  3. Set speech to English (United Kingdom)

And viola, Cortana can now be activated. I don’t quite like the UK accent however but changing the speech to English (United States) will switch off Cortana again. So if anyone is able to activate English (US) for speech, please let me know.

So far I don’t have too many teething problems and I would say the experience is largely positive.

Window Phone Applications

People have always said the Windows Phone platform has a lot less apps than the Android and iOS platform. While I do not disagree with this, the key question to ask is whether we can find the apps that we “need” on the phone. I do find that the same apps on Windows Phone platform tend to lag behind their Android counterpart by a large margin. Take for instance Whatsapp on Windows Phone vs Whatsapp on Android. For goodness sake, even OneNote on Android seems miles ahead than its own in Windows motherland. I really hope Microsoft is going to improve on things like this.

Way Forward

I think Windows 10 for phone has a lot of potential and definitely looking forward to installing this new OS on the phone sometime this year when it is released.