When Nokia (now part of Microsoft) launched the Lumia 520 entry-level smartphone back in 2013, we said the company had a real winner on its hands. The 520, we said, was an “extremely capable device at a great price”.
It seems the market agreed, with the 520 becoming a hot seller for Nokia. Indeed, to date, the 520 is the bestselling Windows Phone device in the South African market.
Well, Microsoft is continuing the tradition with the latest in the line-up, the Windows Phone 8.1 (Denim)-powered Lumia 535, which has just gone on sale in South Africa.
Priced at R1 839 through Vodacom (shop around for the best deal), the new handset is surprisingly good for its price. Indeed, just four or five years ago you’d have been hard pressed to find a top-end device, costing R8 000 or more, that does what this phone is capable of.
Okay, first let’s downplay expectations. This does not by any stretch of the imagination compete with high-end phones. It doesn’t have a full-HD display – or even an HD display at all – and it’s 8GB of internal storage and 1GB of RAM certainly won’t appeal to power users.
But for people buying their first smartphone – or migrating from an entry-level BlackBerry – the 535 offers great value.
The phone is attractively packaged in a plastic shell – our review unit was white, but there are a number of bright colours available (luminous green, anyone?), and the covers are swappable. Removing the cover to insert a micro Sim card and an SD card (up to 128GB cards are supported) can be a little tricky, though. The battery, which has to be lifted to insert the Sim card, is a 1 905mAh affair capable of delivering a solid day’s juice.
The rear of the phone has a 5-megapixel, f/1.4 autofocusing camera with flash and supported for geotagging. It’s not going to take the world’s best pictures, but it’s okay for sharing pictures with friends on Facebook. The “selfie” camera is also 5 megapixels — unusually good in a phone in this price range – and it comes bundled with a dedicated “Lumia Selfie” app for taking quick snaps with friends.
The screen measures a large five inches, but the resolution is not great – at 540×900 pixels with a pixel density of 220ppi, it’s clear this was one of the biggest areas where Microsoft has kept its materials invoice in check. The screen isn’t awful — it’s just that for anyone who’s been spoilt by using a high-density display, the pixellation is noticeable. This is unlikely to be a big issue for someone upgrading from a feature phone, an older BlackBerry or, indeed, a Lumia 520.
The Lumia 535 is powered by a quad-core, 1,2GHz Cortex-A7 processor, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 chipset and an Adreno 302 graphics processing unit.
There’s support for Wi-Fi up the “n” variant and DLNA for sharing media. Bluetooth, assisted GPS, Glonass and FM radio are also included. It supports 3G (high-speed packet access), but, perhaps not surprisingly, not 4G/LTE. There’s also an accelerometer and a proximity sensor.
In use, the phone can feel a little sluggish at times (probably a function of the processor), though it’s not a deal breaker. You’re not going to get great frame rates in graphics-intensive games, but as a basic productivity tool for browsing the Web, reading and answering e-mail, and chatting on social networks or using Skype, the 535 is more than adequate.
The 535 comes with the latest (Denim) update to Windows Phone, which introduces an Android-style notification panel which is accessed by sliding down from the top of the screen.
As we’ve pointed out in other reviews, we really like Windows Phone, but its app store remains relatively poor next to the Google and Apple versions — although the situation is improving over time. You’ll need to consider your app needs carefully if you’re migrating from iOS or Android.
The software, however, runs all the apps most users might need, including an Exchange e-mail client, Skype and Office.
In summary, then, the 535 is a very respectable entry-level smartphone that’s likely to appeal to those moving up from a feature phone or an older BlackBerry. To keep costs down, Microsoft has used a low-resolution screen and a low-powered processor and left out 4G connectivity.
Despite these limitations, we expect – just as with the 520 before it – that the Lumia 535 is going to prove popular among budget-conscious consumers. — © 2015 NewsCentral Media