Microsoft Lumia 550 Review
Can the cheapest new Lumia smartphone for Windows 10 Mobile attract users to shift to Microsoft’s mobile operating system? With its budget specifications and some cuts to keep the price tag low, the Lumia 550 is the entry-level, so far, of the new Lumia family. How does it fare? Here’s our full review.
Author’s note: Some parts of the review is taken from our first impressions of the handset.
Design and Construction
In terms of design, there’s not much going on with the 550. On the hand, it feels like Microsoft did sacrifice in the choice of materials. The black color option we have has a matte cardboard-like texture on its back panel which attracts grease easily (as you can observe from the product shots). We feel like they should have opted for soft-touch polycarbonate just like what they have before. It’s also angular, so gripping it doesn’t exactly feel ergonomic.
Up front is the 4.7-inch IPS LCD with no scratch-resistant glass on top. The front-facing camera, earpiece, and a couple of sensors are placed above the display. There are no capacitive keys below since navigation is done through on-screen keys, but there’s a small hole for the microphone.
On the right side is the volume rocker and the power/lock button. These buttons are a bit cumbersome to press especially when the device is lying on the table. The left side is completely empty and free from any markings.
The top houses the 3.5.mm headphone jack and nothing else. While the microUSB port is located at the bottom end of the handset.
The back is where is the primary camera sits along with the single LED flash. There’s also a Microsoft logo smacked in the middle and a circular speaker loudspeaker grille.
The shell of the Lumia 550 is removable giving access to the replaceable battery, microSD card, and the nano-SIM card slot. There’s no dual-SIM variant, so the secondary SIM slot is missing on any version.
Microsoft threw in a 4.7-inch IPS LCD packing a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels or about 315ppi. It’s sharp and has a good contrast to it. It’s no AMOLED but the black level seems to be good and does compliment the dark theme of the UI well
Viewing angles are questionable when checked on extreme sides which could be a major issue for some. Outdoor visibility is average especially under direct sunlight so a little shade is needed when you have to check your phone on the go.
OS, Apps, and UI
What’s running on the Lumia 550 is Microsoft’s own Windows 10 Mobile. The mobile operating system closely resembles its desktop counterpart with the default blue and black theme, flat UI, and live tiles. If you’re coming from Windows Phone 8, you’d feel a bit at home but for Android and iOS users, it’s a strangely new design.
Navigating around the OS is done with the use of the on-screen navigation controls at the bottom. There’s a back, home, and a search key. Holding the back key will show your recent apps while holding the Windows logo will activate the one-handed operation.
The issue with Windows on mobile is the lack of apps and it’s still the problem today. While it may have some of the key apps, it’s either outdated or buggy. The support from mobile developers seems to be lacking, even when it comes to official apps like Facebook. Clearly, Windows needs to get their game on when it comes to apps. What Windows 10 has over the competition is great UI.
The megapixel numbers on the sensors equipped to the Lumia 550 is completely underwhelming. We’re talking about a 5-megapixel rear shooter and a 2-megapixel selfie camera. The camera software of Windows 10 Mobile is minimal and straightforward. You’ll see the shutter key and settings on the right, quick toggles on top, and the preview on the left. the main camera.
Shooting with the main camera needs patience since it’s slow to focus. Since it’s just a 5MP shooter, we suggest setting the aspect ratio to 4:3 to get the full resolution shot. Stills from the rear camera are nothing to write home about. They’re noisy, soft, and stuggle in low-lighting. Here are some varying samples taken:
As for the selfie cam, it’s just 2-megapixels and undersaturated for some reason. Microsoft should have opted for a slightly saturated processing so it could pass for a quality social media post. Here are two sample taken with identical lighting but different angles:
The video capture for the main cam maxes out at just 720p. You can select the framerate at either 24, 25 or 30fps. Quality is below-average for 2016 and also for the price you’re paying for the handset. Here’s a short sample:
Performance and Benchmarks
On paper, there’s not much to expect from this budget Windows 10 Mobile. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 paired with Adreno 304 and has 1GB of RAM. Previous Windows Phone devices don’t need high specs to run smoothly but that’s not the case here.
In general, performance has been good but there’s a bit of a stutter with certain animations, transitions, and especially with the apps. Loading times are slower than before and everything just felt heavy for the phone to handle. But once it gets to pass through this phase of loading, things get better.
There are only a few benchmark apps for Windows 10 Mobile and just to provide you numbers for comparison, here are some:
Antutu Benchmark v6 Beta 5 — 26790
Basemark OS II — 252
WP Bench — 216.6
Call Quality and Connectivity
If there’s anything I am expecting from Microsoft’s device is call quality since the former Nokia’s legend has always been about the basics of a phone — telephony. Calls on either end are loud and clear. The earpiece has adequate volume to let you understand calls in a crowded environment.
As for connectivity, Lumia 550 has all the standards like LTE Cat4, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, and GLONASS. Keep in mind that the handset only accepts a nano-SIM card.
What’s powering the Lumia 550 is a removable 2100mAh Li-Ion battery which is quite low if compared to other 5-inch smartphones. With a real life test, we started our day with a full charge at around 8AM and turned on cellular data since we’ll be on the go. At around 3PM, the phone is already alarming for low battery. That’s about 7 hours of moderate usage with data.
With our usual battery test wherein we loop a 1080p video at 50% brightness and volume through earphones, it was able to last for 7 hours and 42 minutes. Quite average but still underwhelming for a phone this size.
The Microsoft Lumia 550 retails for Php 6,490. That’s not cheap for a budget offering when compared to Android counterparts and frankly, since Microsoft took over Nokia’s mobile business, the quality of their smartphones became inferior. The specifications have always been on the low side since Windows Phone doesn’t need much power but the overall build and durability of the handset is in question. With the lack of apps, buggy software, and questionable support, users who are not keen on having Windows 10 Mobile at a budget are better off with something else.
Microsoft Lumia 550 specs:
4.7-inch IPS LCD display (1280 x 720 pixels), 315ppi
1.1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 quad-core CPU
Adreno 304 GPU
8GB internal storage
up to 200GB via microSD
5MP rear camera w/ LED flash
2MP front camera
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.1, A2DP
GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
2,100mAh Li-Ion removable battery
Windows 10 Mobile
136.1 x 67.8 x 9.9 mm
What we liked about it:
- Clean looking UI
- Good speaker quality
What we didn’t:
- Short battery life
- Bad viewing angles
- Lack of apps
- Low specifications