Recently, the Microsoft Store held a sale on the budget Lumia 635 smartphone, bringing it down from an already reasonable $80 price tag to a preposterous $49. As I’m sure you’re well aware, I have a fascination with both exploring diverse computing ecosystems and “good enough” computing, so naturally I snapped one up. The Lumia 635 mates a competent budget Windows Phone 8.1 experience to an LTE modem for a price only slightly above that of the older, 3G-only Lumia 520 (which as of time of writing is available for an equally absurd $29). So I have spent the last week or so using the Lumia 635 as my daily smart phone in place of my Galaxy S5 in order to get a feel for where both this device specifically and the Windows Phone 8.1 ecosystem lie. What follows, then, is not so much specifically a review of the Lumia 635 specifically as a piece of hardware, but more of a loose treatise on both Microsoft’s place in the smartphone economy and the general state of budget-vs-flagship smartphones.
Sure, the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S5 or HTC One is much, much faster than the Lumia 635. Yes, they have higher-density displays, better cameras, more advanced wireless connectivity, and more sensors. But you could buy thirteen Lumia 635s for the price of an iPhone 6.