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Review: Microsoft Lumia 650 for Cricket Wireless

Hardware Software Wrap-Up Comments  2  

Lock Screen

The Lumia 650 runs Windows 10, which behaves identically across phones.

My favorite lock screen tool is the Glance Screen. It displays the time, date, and missed notifications on the screen when the phone is locked or asleep. The clock remains positioned in the lower left corner of the screen (it used to wander around, like an old-school screensaver). I wish the Glance Screen clock were a bit brighter, but I know that's a battery issue.

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Pressing the screen lock button will wake the phone, where richer notifications are available. The time and date remain, but your wallpaper appears and simple badge counts will line the bottom of the display to tell you what calls, emails, and messages you might have waiting. I like that you can prioritize one of the notification types to see more information. For example, with my calendar prioritized, I can always see what my next appointment is even without unlocking the phone.

The Action Center is also available from the lock screen. Swiping down from the top of the display opens the sliding tray, which is similar to those from Apple and Google. You can use the Action Center to dismiss notifications, toggle radios on and off, adjust screen brightness, and more.

The Lumia 650 does not have a fingerprint sensor, nor an iris scanner, so you need to use a standard PIN or password to secure it.

Lock Screen  

Home Screens

If you've used any Windows handset since 2010, you more or less know what to expect with Windows 10 Mobile. The Start screen still makes use of Live Tiles, which can be arranged in up to three columns. The tiles come in three sizes and can change dynamically as new content becomes available within the app itself. Adjusting the transparency of the tiles allows you to see more or less of your wallpaper, depending on your preference. You may also choose to store apps in folders.

As much as I like Windows, the full app menu is organized in an (at times) unending list. The more apps you have, the longer the list. I wish you could use folders here more so than on the home screen (you can't.)

Home Screens  

Microsoft rearranged the settings tools in Windows 10 and they are far easier to manage than they were in earlier versions. The groupings make sense. As expected, it's easy to change up wallpapers, colors, ringers, alerts, and other personal touches.

Personalize  

I was rather surprised to find the Lumia 650 a little bit off in terms of performance. It has a 1.3 GHz Snapdragon 212 processor with 1 GB of RAM. It's rare for Windows handsets to run poorly, and in this case I'd blame it on the (still) buggy code from Microsoft. Microsoft has been seeding new versions of Windows 10 Mobile literally every week for the last six months. I don't know what Microsoft is still working on, but it's apparently not yet fully optimized.

Bottom line, apps were sometimes janky and slow.

Camera

The Lumia 650 lacks a physical camera button, and it also lacks any sort of hardware shortcut (think double press of volume key, etc.) to launch the camera. That's a bummer. The quickest way to launch the camera is to press the lock button, swipe down the Action Center, and open the camera from the shortcut in the Action Center. That's not exactly quick.

The camera user interface is easy to master thanks to its spartan arrangement and limited feature set.

A small strip of options lets you switch to the front camera, toggle the flash, or toggle HDR. The app also includes full manual controls, accessed by swiping the menu to the right. You can manage white balance, exposure, ISO, brightness, and focus all on your own. For people who understand how these functions impact imaging, the manual tools can lead to more interesting pictures.

The 650 is perhaps the first Windows Phone I've reviewed that doesn't include any Lenses out of the box. Lenses are software add-ons for the camera that expand its features. They generally help cover image search, improve selfies, or capture panoramas. You can, thankfully, downloaded Lenses from the Windows Store if you want.

Touch the screen to lock in focus, swipe up and down to zoom, and press the shutter button to capture images. I like that there are separate software buttons for video and pictures, which makes it possible to snap still photos while recording video.

The camera app appears to have been stripped down to the minimum. It performs well enough, but it is one of a few apps that struggle from time to time thanks to the processor. In particular, the camera app is very slow to resume when multitasking. This could be due to the limited amount of RAM.

Camera  

Photos

Microsoft gave the Lumia 650 an 8-megapixel camera and it produces average results. Some of the shots I snapped were very good, some were just okay, and some were crummy. Very few stood out as spectacular. The bulk of images were in focus and showed proper exposure. The biggest single issue was white balance, which was sometimes a bit off. I also noticed some grain in the images.

I think most people can get away with using the Lumia 650 as an everyday shooter, but I'd rely on a real camera for serious stuff.

The selfie camera can capture 3.8-megapixel images, but the pix are often saturated with grain.

You'll find no 4K or even full HD video capture on this phone; instead, you'll have to be satisfied with 720p HD video. The results I got with the 650 were, like the camera, average. Focus and white balance were generally good, but exposure was inconsistent. I'd say if you have nothing else handy the 650 will work in a pinch, but you'll get better results using an actual video camera.

Photos  

Cricket / Microsoft Stuff

Cricket kept the bloatware to a minimum. There are only 2 Cricket-branded apps preinstalled on the Lumia 650: Deezer and MyCricket. The remainder of the apps are all from Microsoft.

Microsoft's Office productivity suite is installed and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and OneDrive. These apps are very powerful for creating and editing documents, as well as syncing them online or with other Windows machines. The newer Outlook email app works very well, as does the Edge browser, and Skype.

The 650 doesn't include Continuum, which would allow it to act as a full PC when attached to a monitor and keyboard. This feature is reserved for the flagship Lumia 950 and 950 XL.

Microsoft Apps  

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