3. Software, Motion Data & Glance Screen
Lumia 640 is running Windows Phone, like all Lumia phones. Windows Phone is definitely not the most popular mobile operating system in the world. It does not mean that the software is bad. It is just different and that difference could mean a lot for some people.
You can learn more about Windows Phone from the software section of our review of the Lumia 535. The key takeaway there is that the operating system is not difficult to use at all, despite the difference in how it appears. One of the benefits is that the operating system is more efficient than Android devices for the same specifications so the performance will usually be better . You also can expect future software updates to come to Lumia 640 too as Microsoft has promised Windows 10 upgrade for it.
The greatest downside of the platform is the limited application availability.
The greatest downside of the platform is the limited application availability. Most popular apps are there but good quality applications and games hardly land on the Store. Even if it does, you would have to expect it to arrive weeks or months after its iOS and Android counterparts. If you are tied to Microsoft’s services like Office or you are not a heavy applications user, you will find Windows Phone great for you. If you are using Google’s services or you want the best new applications, chances are you will be disappointed.
Cortana is the digital assistant on Windows Phone, just like Siri for iOS. She can do the basic things like toggling settings, replying messages and others. I feel that she is more “human” as compared to other competitors as she will learn more about you and provide you with relevant information. You can even ask her to tell you a joke or to sing you a song. Although I like Cortana a lot, I don’t think most people will find virtual assistant like this very useful. Imagine how many people ever ask Siri to do something on their iPhones. So, probably not a big deal here.
Apart from the so-called “app gap”, I think that Windows Phone is not far behind other major operating system. Lumia 640 is running Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2 with Lumia Denim update out of the box, which is the newest version of software available (Windows 10 Mobile is just in preview only). The Update 2 fixes some issues which plague Windows Phone users for ages. Here are two most notable changes. The settings are now organised according to the categories instead of putting everything in a long, long list. You can use Search to find a setting too. For people who are concerned of privacy, you can control the permission given to individual applications to access your contacts, calendar, camera, microphone and text messages. The changes are not groundbreaking, but they are not worthless too.
So you have to decide if Windows Phone is your cup of tea. In my opinion, Windows Phone just works nicely for me and I think that would be the same for most people. The software can do almost everything you expect, maybe in another way, but it just works. If you are not sure if you like it, I highly recommend you to go to a phone store to try any Windows Phone.
Motion Data for Fitness Tracking
Lumia 640 has SensorCore to collect your motion data, if you turn it on. The phone can detect your activity and record it so that you can know how to spend your thing in walking, running, cycling or traveling in a vehicle. To extract these data, you can install apps like Active Fitness or MSN Health & Fitness (discontinued soon by Microsoft).
Most of the time, I use it as a pedometer to count my steps and the result is generally acceptable. Of course, the data collected by the SensorCore will not be as accurate as the full-fledge fitness tracking devices from Fitbit and Garmin. For example, it inaccurately counted a few hundred steps more during my bus trip. Other than that, it is unlikely for you to carry your phone everywhere 24-7, especially when you’re at home. The sensors will be not useful under these scenarios.
However, if you are expecting the sensor to be 100% accurate, then you are missing the point here. The important thing is that you can track how active you are in your day and check if you meet your daily target. With the help of the Motion Data, I at least have the motivation to stay active and it might help me to get a little healthier. Moreover, what you have to do is to bring your phone with you, which is what you are going to do most of the time, and you do not have to buy another fitness tracker for casual use. You can pin the step counting on your Start Screen to monitor the result conveniently.
The fact that it is so effortless to monitor your activity makes this feature meaningful. The ability to use the phone as a fitness tracker is not a common feature among budget devices like this and I am surprised that Microsoft did not make a bigger deal out of it. Of course, if you are wary of your privacy and you do not want your phone to track you or you want to conserve battery life, you can turn this feature off.
Glance Screen is a feature which only can be found on some Lumia devices. It allows the display to show some information such as time and lock screen notifications while the phone is locked and the screen is turned off. This is extremely useful as you do not have to turn on the phone just to look for time and to check for any important notifications.
One great thing about Glance Screen is that it does not affect battery life significantly. You can choose to have it turned on all the time, let it turn on for 15 minutes after the display is off (“interval” mode) or to choose the “peek” mode. The peek mode is my favourite as it will turn on glance screen for 30 seconds whenever the ambient light sensor detects changes in light. This means that you can turn glance screen on when the phone is taken out of your pocket or your bag as the sensor has detected the change in brightness of the surroundings. The glance screen can be turned on too if you hover your hand over the sensor, which is located beside the front camera. You can call me childish but I feel a little futuristic every time I do so to check the time.
However, unlike other Lumia phones, the date cannot be shown on the Glance Screen for Lumia 640. This should be a hardware limitation. Even without the date, Glance Screen is still an extremely useful feature that I find it hard to live without.