Its face is dominated by the black display panel, adorned by the Microsoft logo and frontal camera above it. No capacitive buttons can be found under the screen, as this Lumia employs virtual buttons, so the device’s front is almost entirely black when the display is off – quite plain-looking. The back is, of course, covered by the removable, wrap-around plastic cover, which we’re used to seeing on Lumias, complete with the camera-housing hill near the top, a LED flash, and the Windows logo in the center. As for hardware buttons – it has the usual power key and volume rocker. Sorry, the shutter key didn’t make it this far down the Lumia line. The Lumia 550 delivers there – it sits well in the hand, and we don’t feel like the phone invites us to clumsily drop it, or have it slip out of our hand.
The Microsoft Lumia 550 has a 4.7-inch 720 x 1280 screen, which is fairly large and high-resolution for a budget phone, giving it a pixel density of 315 pixels per inch. That’s nowhere near flagship territory, but it does make it pretty crisp and clear. Visuals aren’t the richest we’ve ever seen, so if you want colours that pop out of the screen you’ll want to look elsewhere- perhaps to one of the Super AMOLED phones favoured by Samsung, but it’s pretty impressive overall for a budget handset and with Gorilla Glass 3 it’s also got basic protection from scrapes and scratches.
4G connectivity is included with the Lumia 550, as well as support for 3G and 2G networks. It’s Wi-Fi-enabled, and has Bluetooth and USB, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack. Positioning services A-GPS, A-GLONASS and BeiDou are also supported.
Windows Phone 10
Like the Lumia 950, the 550 belongs to the first wave of phones to run Windows Phone 10. WP10 keeps much of what we liked best about WP8. Live Tiles are still here, and you can choose which apps appear on your home screen, and re-size and position them at will. Apps like YouTube, OneNote, Outlook, Skype and Office are all included. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and LinkedIn are pre-installed. The excellent MixRadio is still here, Which is like Spotify but free, and without adverts. There are some changes. Edge replaces Internet Explorer as the web browser. Instead of HERE Maps, Windows 10 comes with Windows Maps, which keeps all the features we liked, including offline maps, turn-by-turn directions for walking and driving, and public transport information. The Lumia 550 misses out on the iris scanning security of the 950, relying on a PIN or password for device security. Neither does it have the Continuum feature, which lets you connect the Lumia 950 to a display dock.
The Lumia 550 has a 5 MP snapper with an F2.4 aperture for a main cam. Nothing mind-blowing, sure, but we could say that the photos it takes are adequate, especially when considering the price-tag.Of course, favorable lighting is a must here, and we will have to put it to the test when we have more time to play with it thoroughly, but at first sight – we can’t say that the camera has just been stuck there as an adornment. Its capable of taking 720p videos at 30 FPS, and supports continuous autofocus. The front camera is a 2 MP snapper – not the most flattering selfie-taker, and we assume you’d rather only use it for video calls.
Processor and memory
As can be expected – corners had to be cut, and the device’s hardware definitely suffered. Equipped with the bare minimum, the Lumia 550 has a 1.1 GHz, quad-core, Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 under its hood, paired with an Adreno 304 GPU, and 1 GB of RAM. It’s certainly not the best, but it can accomplish basic tasks well, thanks to Windows’ famed effectiveness on underpowered hardware. Still, don’t expect to push a lot of apps and games on this device. Onboard memory is quite limited, with just 8GB available. You can add a microSD card for extra data storage, and we’d recommend that you invest in one. The maximum size card accepted is a massive 200GB, but a 16GB or 32GB card will probably do for most users.
The Microsoft Lumia 550 has a 2,100 mAh battery. That’s not massive but it should be plenty for a phone of this size and power. The phone is quoted for up to 14 hours of talk time, 60 hours of music or 672 hours of standby, which should equate to slightly above average life.
The Microsoft Lumia 550 is packed full of features. The star of the show, other than the price, is surely Windows 10 Mobile itself, which gives users a whole lot of power, with a suite of apps, customisation options and improvements. Couple that with a great screen (for the price), a reasonable camera, expandable storage, 4G and a sturdy build and the Microsoft Lumia 550 starts to look like a real bargain. It’s not the most powerful phone around and it lacks advanced features like NFC and fingerprint scanners, but based on our first impressions it seems you’ll be hard pressed to do much better for the money and if you want Windows 10 Mobile this could be one of the most affordable and best entry points.