Smartphone Review: Microsoft Lumia 550
Now that the excitement over the launch of Microsoft’s flagship devices, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL is over, it’s time to pay attention to the Lumia 550, the first low-end device launched by Microsoft running Windows 10. Microsoft has always delivered compelling budget smartphones at the entry level position and the Lumia 550 is the latest device in the lineup that aims to deliver. Let’s check out what the Lumia 550 has to offer users.
Let’s start with the hardware. Typical to past Lumias, the exterior comes with a polycarbonate case that is simple and sturdy, which looks just about ideal for a device of this class. The trouble with the black matte though is that it is prone to collecting fingerprints and smudges.
The Lumia 550 has a 4.7″ screen with 1280×720p resolution and PPI of 315, making images and text crisp and clear looking. The bright colors and good viewing angles make it a good screen to have on a low end device as this one. It measures 136.1 x 67.8 x 9.9mm and weighs 142g, which is quite heavy for a 4.7 inch device.
Since the screen is small, the on-screen navigation controls may feel a little pesky, but you can swipe away the controls if you plan on playing a game or watching a movie. Plus, it is super easy to use in one hand. Windows 10 Mobile even offers a one-hand mode that you can switch to if you want to bring down content from the top of the screen without having to reach that far.
The right side of the device holds the volume up, volume down, and power buttons. At the top is a 3.5mm audio jack and at the bottom is the standard MicroUSB cable for charging. The back panel is removable and holds the slots for the expandable MicroSD card (up to 128GB) and Nano-SIM. Since the device comes with just 8GB of internal memory, you’ll have to get yourself a MicroSD card to store your photos, movies and music.
Microsoft has optimized the Windows 10 Mobile platform very well and that is probably why you find the device working well with a Snapdragon 210 processor with 1GB of RAM. Whether you are browsing or doing light-weight tasks, things run quite smoothly. However, if you attempt to run too many apps you’ll feel the performance taking a hit. Since you won’t be doing heavy duty tasks with the Lumia 550, you can expect the 2100 mAh battery to last a while. If you use the device for normal activities, you can get through the entire day without having to search for your charger and that’s a big plus.
As with all Microsoft devices, the biggest problem that Microsoft is still facing is the lack of good quality apps in the App Store. Although Microsoft is pushing hard with its Universal Apps program, top notch apps are only trickling in and that’s a serious problem that Microsoft needs to tackle with greater urgency, especially if it wants consumers around the world to take its smartphones seriously.
As far as the operating system goes, Windows 10 Mobile is great at bridging the gap between devices, but there are many software bugs that Microsoft still needs to iron out. Issues reported include the Start screen disappearing, apps not launching and tiles disappearing as well. The issues appear only temporarily but they do spoil the overall user experience – something no consumer will like to see after having spent their hard earned money on a big brand such as Microsoft.
Otherwise, you get a great Windows 10 experience, with Live tiles, pinning and resizing options, live tile notifications, the swipe down Action Center, Cortana integration and so on. The Messaging app is integrated with Skype, so you can simply send and receive Skype messages via the Messaging Hub. Call quality is good. For your music needs, the speakers only offer average volume levels. Using the headphones is the best way to get the most out of your music.
Coming to the camera, the Lumia 550 is only fitted with a 5-MP autofocus lens with an LED flash at the rear and a 2-MP front-facing camera. As tou would expect, the shots from the rear camera are not amazing, but good for day time shots. Just don’t expect to be taking professional photographs with this one. Also the flash is disappointing, so it is best to forget about taking shots in dark environments. The front facing camera is okay to take selfies and if you want to take videos, the quality is about 720p for the rear camera and 480p for the front camera, both at 30fps.
Unlike the high end models, you don’t get Continuum support with the Lumia 550. Continuum is a new Windows 10 feature that lets you get a Windows PC like user experience by plugging in your phone to some peripherals.
The Lumia 550 is a good device if you are just starting out on your Windows 10 smartphone journey. Remember though that this is a low end device and the features it offers are precisely the kind of features you can expect from a low end device. Despite the fact that it costs about $140, it is still a smartphone that looks good, is sturdy, and offers you a good experience for a smartphone of its class. No great feat to be achieved with this one, but it is a perfect choice if you’re starting out or looking for a secondary device to have on you.