Following last month's launch of Microsoft's newest high-end phones, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, the Redmond, Wash. IT giant today announced the official launch of the Lumia 550.
"Sales of the new Microsoft Lumia 550, which offers the best of Microsoft to people who value affordability and uncompromised quality, begin today in Europe," said the company's Devices group in a Dec. 7 announcement. "Other regions around the globe will follow in the coming weeks."
With a price tag of $139, the Lumia 550 is the company's most affordable 4G LTE phone running Windows 10 mobile. In addition to the new operating system, the 4.7-inch (1,280 pixels by 720 pixels) handset comes bundled with Office, (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), OneDrive cloud storage, Outlook Mail and Calendar and the Cortana digital assistant.
The Lumia 550 is powered by a 1.1GHz, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor and 1GB of RAM. The smartphone ships with 8GB of on-board storage, though it can be expanded with up to 200GB of Micro SD flash storage.
On the back is a 5-megapixel camera that can shoot 720P video at 30 frames per second. The front-facing camera is rated at 2 megapixels. Color options include a glossy-white or matte-black backing.
The smartphone also represents a low-priced entry point into Microsoft's vision of a connected software and cloud services ecosystem anchored by Windows 10.
"With Lumia 550, if you create a Word document on your Surface Pro 4, just save it on OneDrive so that you can access it on your Lumia 550 on your commute home on the train and work on it further with the built-in Office apps on your phone," stated the company. Cortana, the company's smarter-by-the-minute virtual assistant, also plays a starring role.
"If you're sitting at your laptop (such as the Surface Book) and ask Cortana to remind you to pick up something on the way home, Cortana syncs reminders across devices and will notify you on your Lumia at the right time and place," stated Microsoft.
According to IDC, the Lumia 550 and future Windows smartphones face an uphill battle against Android and Apple iOS in the coming year. Last week, the research firm forecast that Windows will close 2015 with just 2.2 percent of the market on shipments of 31.3 million smartphones. Microsoft will barely move the needle in 2019, with 2.3 percent of the market, predicted IDC.
By comparison, the Android mobile operating system will dominate 2015 with a whopping 81.2 percent of the market on shipments of more than 1.1 billion units. In 2019, those figures will climb to 82.6 percent of the market and over 1.5 billion units.
As a brand, Lumia may not even survive that long. "There has been a premium, metal-based device in the works for some time but this appears to have been cancelled to be replaced with a device that will carry the Surface brand into mobile," said Richard Windsor, an analyst for Edison Investment Research, in a research note sent to eWEEK. "This means that the device will sit alongside the Surface Pro tablet and Surface Book laptop and, I assume, abandoning the Lumia brand."