There’s a wide variety of Lumia phones with various combinations of features and specs. With the recent announcement of the Lumia 540 we again heard rumblings about yet another low range Lumia being released. While many of these devices seem to have similar specs, there are key differences between the various lines of Lumias. We’ve compiled a chart of the latest phone from each Lumia line, compared the main specs, and come to a verdict about which Lumia is fairest of them all.
Before we get to direct comparisons it’s worth briefly explaining how the Lumia number system works. Generally speaking, if phones start with the same number, they are in the same line. Newer phones often jump by five or ten such as the 635 being followed by the 640. This extends across all of the Lumia devices and allows each line to develop independently. While the 9xx line is up to the 930, the 15xx line is only at the 1520.
With a few notable exceptions, the higher the line the higher end the phone will be. For example the 930 is a higher range phone than the 735. This isn’t a perfect way to compare lines of Lumias though since so many phones are released that a newer mid-range phones may have features that were considered exclusive to higher end phones when they originally came out. This is why we run into the problem of a lower devices having features that higher end devices don’t. A good example is how the 830 has Glance Screen but the 930 does not.
So with that out of the way let’s delve into some charts and comparisons.
From this chart it’s clear that the number of features jump up the higher end you get. Double tap to wake is on every device
except the relatively old 1020. Screen projecting, NFC, and Sensorcore appear on every Lumia device from the 640 and up except for the 1020. Wireless charging appears on every device from the 735 and up, though the 1020 requires a cover to do so. As you can see, the 1520 has every feature listed. The 830 and 930 come in a close second.
A curious inconsistency from that trend is that of Glance Screen. Glance Screen is noticeably absent from the Lumia 930 but appears on its affordable flagship cousin the 830. The new Lumia 640 and 640 XL have Glance Screen, but the 735 does not. We’ll have wait to see if this is standard on all mid and high end Lumias going forward. It took me one day of having Glance Screen to know that I want it on every device I ever own. Hopefully Microsoft has come to the same realization.
The hardware specifications lineup is much more linear than that of available features. You have a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 in the 435 and 540, jump up to the 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 for the 640, 640XL, 735, and 830, and have the 2.2 GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 800 in the 930/Icon and the 1520. The 1020 is off in its own corner running the 1.5 GHz Dual-core Snapdragon S4.
RAM is similarly linear with 1GB of RAM being present all the way up to the 830 and then jumping to 2 GB for the 930/Icon, the 1020, and the 1520.
Storage is slightly different. While there’s a very linear jump from low to high end, the ability to expand that storage with a MicroSD card varies. The latest Lumias can use a MicroSD card except for the 930/Icon and the 1020. All of the Lumias that do support expansion with MicroSD cards support up to 128 GB.
except for the 1520 which came out before those cards even existed.
When it comes to cameras on Lumia devices, the constancy depends on if you’re considering front or rear facing cameras. When it comes to the main rear facing cameras, it’s pretty straightforward. With a few exceptions, such as the 640XL, 735, and 1520, main cameras go up linearly.
What widely fluctuates is the front facing camera line. The 435 has an abysmal 0.3 MP front facing camera and the 640 and 830, both sporting a low 0.9 MP front facing camera don’t do much better. This wouldn’t be so confusing if the 540 didn’t support a respectable 5 MP front shooter. Lumias are known for their cameras and built the 5xx line on front facing cameras. The fact that they have an “affordable flagship” device with such a poor front facing camera is worrisome.
That being said, cameras are a large factor in the price of a phone so there's a chance that to play around with various features fitting into lower end devices serious sacrifices have to be made.
When it comes to displays, Lumias do fairly well and their compared pixel densities are somewhat consistent. The 435 starts the line of with a low 800x400 but after that every device has at least a 1280x720 display. The 930/Icon and the 1520 take the top spot. Both have 1920x1080 displays.
When measuring screen quality, pixels per inch is an important measure. The 930 wipes the floor with everyone else boasting 441 ppi. The 1520 comes in second at 368 ppi and the 1020 and 735 follow with pixel densities in the low 300’s. Every phone except the 435 has what could be classified as an HD display.
Here’s another one where you don’t always get more with higher end phones. Despite having a 2420 mAh battery the 930 only gets a listed 9 hours of Wi-Fi browsing time. The 1520 boasts a 3400 mAh battery and more than solid 14 listed hours of browsing. The Lumia 640 XL has a massive 3,000 mAh battery that is listed at getting 14.2 hours of Wi-Fi browsing. It seems that phablets provide some of the best battery life which isn't surprising considering the space the give Microsoft to work with. When it coms to standard size phones, the 830 reigns supreme with 14 hours out of its 2,200 mAh battery.
This one is pretty straightforward. You have the option for dual SIM up to the 640XL. When it comes to 4G you don’t get it until the 640 but every device higher than that has it.
Microsoft has a very unique situation. They produce nine lines of smartphones that have their respective latest models come out at different times. With that comes some inherent inconsistency. The Lumia lineup is respectable when it comes to features after you hit the 640 and as you get higher you generally get more features.
The Lumia 1520 stands alone as the only phone in our comparison to have every feature we looked at. Additionally it has a massive battery and goes toe to toe with just about any other Lumia device in every measurable category. Unfortunately the champion of this comparison is no longer for sale by Microsoft and AT&T. If you are willing to find one elsewhere, the downside for many is that to get that device you have to make the jump to a 6” phablet.
The 930 and 830 come in a close second. Which one is better is up to your own personal preferences and needs.
Where does Microsoft go from here?
I think that the Lumia line is very impressive and is not the root of Windows Phone’s struggles. Their low range devices are extremely inexpensive, their mid-range devices have good features for their price point, and their high end devices stack up well against almost every competitor. After doing this comparison it’s clear to me that the larger problems for Windows Phone must be elsewhere, most likely in the ever talked about app gap, and poor marketing and brand recognition.
Where I would suggest Microsoft goes from here is to create a 5" version of the 1520. That device would likely be the successor to the 930. If Microsoft announces a phone like that at Build and it is marketed as a true Windows 10 flagship, I think they can focus the rest of their efforts on the more glaring problems facing their mobile platform.
If you want to see the full chart in one place with more info including color options and phone weights and thicknesses you can follow the link below. I didn’t include prices because prices vary greatly based on conversion rate, retailer, and which variant and color of the phone you are trying to purchase. Additionally some phones can only be purchased on contract, some aren't available, and others are available unlocked and SIM free.
Edit: Some of the charts and comments related to them have been updated thanks to new information from our readers. Specifically the 1520 now supports up to 128GB MicroSD cards and the Lumia 1020 has double tap to wake. Thank you for helping us provide accurate news.