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The Lumia 640 Phone is a $20 e-Reading Device for Those Who Don’t Actually Want to Read

Microsoft Lumia 640Smartphones, and especially cheap smartphones, can make handy e-reading devices, but I’m not sure that this next phone is all that great of a deal.

Target and Best Buy are carrying the Lumia 640 smartphone for $20 and $27, respectively. (Amazon is selling it for $48.)

This is a pre-paid 4G LTE phone from Cricket Wireless, and it comes with a 5″ screen, 8GB internal storage, a pair of cameras (8MP and 1MP). It also has Wifi, Bluetooth, a microSD card slot, and an FM radio.

All in all, that’s not a bad phone for $20, but there is a downside. The Lumia 640 runs Windows Phone 8.1 on a quad-core 1.2GHz SnapDragon 400 CPU.

That is a fast enough CPU, but a frustratingly limited OS. Windows 8.1 has already been killed off so hardly anyone is supporting the apps which run on it. New phones are running Windows 10.

This is a cheap phone, but due to its OS it won’t make for a good reading device. Windows Phone has a shortage of good reading apps. There are hardly any third-party apps, and when it comes to the majors the field shrinks to only Kobo and Amazon – and neither of their apps are as good as on other platforms.

But on the plus side, this phone is supposed to get an upgrade to Windows 10. Or at least that is what Cricket has promised; I can’t find any sign that they have followed through.

If this phone does get the upgrade then it will be a $20 Win10 smartphone. And if it doesn’t then it will still be a phone.

Who is up for the gamble?

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1 September 1, 2016 um 12:24 pm

This a good time to continue the discussion about cloud reading apps.
If the browser is even half decent, then it would actually be quite a good device for reading library books. Check out a book from OverDrive and tap read now.
It should actually be quite a decent reading experience, no third party app support required.

Shirley Dulcey September 1, 2016 um 1:04 pm

I haven’t been able to find any info on a Windows 10 upgrade from Cricket. AT&T (which owns Cricket) has rolled out Windows 10 for the Lumia 640, but I don’t know whether Cricket customers can get the download.

Nate Hoffelder September 1, 2016 um 1:10 pm

I saw it in the press release announcement from Cricket. And yeah, I couldn’t find any proof they followed through, either.

So if I were to get one I would take it to my local Cricket store and lean on them.

Brian September 1, 2016 um 1:36 pm

With the Windows Insider program, one of the tiers is release preview. Microsoft added that one [I believe] to specifically get around carriers blocking updates. So you just need to join that, get the Windows 10 update and then you can leave the insider program. You should still get the security updates since I believe with Windows 10 the carriers can’t block those anymore.

Steve Gharibian September 1, 2016 um 4:27 pm

Very easy to.upgrade to windows 10, register or use your Microsoft account on the phone, then go to the Store app and install the Mixrosoft "Upgrade Advisor" app. Follow the instructions from there. You’ll need to upgrade to the Anniversary Edition of Win10, you’ll know you have that when you see icons next to everything once you go into a Settings section

Nate Hoffelder September 1, 2016 um 6:06 pm

Thanks for the info!

Eric September 3, 2016 um 10:15 am

This cricket wireless model doesn’t have a win 10 mobile upgrade yet so the upgrade advisor doesn’t do anything but tell you no upgrade is available. So like Brian wrote earlier, you need to join the windows insider program which then allows you to download an app that will let you upgrade to win 10. There’s no cost to join and it went smoothly for me.

I bought one yesterday at target after reading this article and really like it. I was expecting it to have a terrible screen, barely run and have cheap build quality like an android phone would be at this price….. but the screen is great, it runs fast and it feels like it should be like $200 instead of $20.

Tom S September 1, 2016 um 5:54 pm

I have one of these, got it on Microsoft store for $35 awhile back. I have never activated it for use as a phone.

It’s easy to upgrade to Windows 10, as noted above. Reading apps are few and far between: Kindle, Overdrive, Kobo and Freda. The latter two are Windows 'universal' apps that run on mobile and desktop Windows 10. Amazon is rumored to have such an app in the works (and desperately needed, the current Windows mobile app being shall we say deficient). Kobo is not much better, but least it knows what to do when you hide the system controls. No highlighting or notes. Overdrive _scrolls_! How cool is that!

Freda is pretty decent, lots of features, frequent updates. Worth it if you have a collection of DRM free ePub.

Adobe Acrobat Reader for PDF. Probably other PDF apps too but have not checked.

Ironically the Audible app is pretty good, and much better than the Audible player on Fire devices. Supports new features like Channels and audio clip creation and sharing. SD storage support.

I like the OS. Too bad it is probably not going to make it.

Nate Hoffelder September 1, 2016 um 5:58 pm


MKS September 1, 2016 um 7:43 pm

What’t the TTS like inside the Kindle App?
And in the Overdrive app?
Can you stop and resume at any point in a text?

(I ask because the TTS in Overdrive on my iPhone 5 will only stop and start at the beginning of chapters in books.)

Tom S September 1, 2016 um 9:11 pm

There’s no TTS, and Kindle app does not seem to have support for Narrator. Overdrive doesn’t work with it either.

I assume by TTS on iPhone you mean 'Speak Screen' feature, which is an Accessibility feature. Apps will have different levels of support for that. Kindle’s support for Accessibility is very good, as is iBooks. Other reading apps, not so much.

Max September 1, 2016 um 9:44 pm

It’s true that Windows phone lacks apps, but there are some usable reading programs. Hardware wise there’s nothing wrong with the 640. The screen is good, better than most cheap phones/tablets. You can install Windows phone 10, but there are few apps that require it.

Philip September 2, 2016 um 1:11 pm

Bookviser is a great book reading app for Windows Phone and newer. The developer has great support for the app, including a web service that allows you to sync reading position between multiple devices. It does do text-to-speech although that isn’t a feature I’ve used much.

No association other than a very happy user of the app.

Doug September 4, 2016 um 10:54 am

could this phone used without getting a cricket account? Can you just use it through WiFi as an ereader?

Steve Gharibian September 4, 2016 um 11:58 am

Yes. I bought mine at a Best Buy store in-person. It comes with a SIM card and instructions to activate, but no need to do so. If you buy online you may have to sign-up or buy a month’s service.

Perry September 4, 2016 um 1:13 pm

This is actually an excellent phone, I have one. The specs, screen, processor, etc. are comparable to $100 and higher phones. There’s nothing wrong with the operating system, I find it to be quite good and I’m not a fan of Microsoft. The problem is lack of apps, which really comes down to what apps you want or need. There are plenty of good apps available. There are a number of ereader apps available, for many, you can probably find something that suits your needs. There are also offline maps available. If you already have a cell phone with comparable or better specs, you don’t need it. If you don’t, $20 for a wifi device with this level of feature is a great deal.

Cris Van September 13, 2016 um 5:54 am

This is an excellent phone, with a loyal following. Before writing this brief article, the $20 purchase would have enlightened. This phone does amazing things. Or just download the manual to read! Add it all up – The great camera, GPS navigation (w/o cell connection!), a real operating system … the list goes on. The number of apps is greatly increased. Check the Microsoft Store. Lack of apps is an old myth.

Nate Hoffelder September 13, 2016 um 7:43 am

If I had waited to buy and use the phone then I would have missed the opportunity to tell everyone about the great deal.

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