Microsoft Lumia 535 heralds the end of the Nokia phone era

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We can’t say we’ve been blown away by Nokia’s travails in the Smartphone market, largely because of the abundance of very capable competitors, but few could question their impact on the mobile industry in general. For many, a Nokia was their first phone, and if it wasn’t it would be the second or third. Cheap, reliable, solidly built – Nokia were the most popular phones around. It was a sad day when Microsoft finally announced it would be removing the old branding for good, then, and the device with the unenviable job of heralding the dawn of a new era is the Lumia 535.

Naturally it’s a Windows 8.1 smartphone and as the first branded by Microsoft, one that the company will hope can help kick-start an assault on Android and iOS. What’s interesting here is that it hasn’t gone for a powerhouse game-changer – in fact quite the opposite. Intended to tap the sub-£100 market it has perhaps quite sensibly focused on building numbers and tapping developing markets to increase interest in the mobile OS.

The 535 has a 5” IPS display with 960×540 resolution and 220ppi that’s coated in Gorilla Glass 3, a  Qualcomm Snapdragon 200, 1GB of RAM and 8GBb of internal storage with microSD expansion. Like many recent phones it also caters for the “selfie” generation with a 5MP camera on the front and back, though there’s no support for 4G. As expected it’ll be available in a wide range of colours, so our first thoughts are that it’ll be a bit of a hit with the youngsters.

There are no full reviews yet but various sources have gone hands-on. Let’s see if there’s enough about it to have a decent go at its target market.

TrustedReviews laments the passing of Nokia (as do we all) but points out that while the new 535 is steeped in Nokia heritage, is still a significant upgrade over the uninspiring Lumia 530. Reasons include the display, with IPS and decent overall performance marking it as “an improvement over the ugly TN-based LCD screen of the Lumia 530.”  Other immediate improvements include the camera, with a front-facer that has a wide-angle lens for “group selfies”, and a noticeable upgrade in terms of focusing speed and performance compared to the 530.

This doesn’t apply everywhere though – “the Lumia 535 uses the same quad-core Snapdragon 200 processor as the 530. This sounds good, but we weren’t impressed by its performance in the 530 and it’s arguably less powerful than the dual-core processor found in the ageing Nokia Lumia 520.”

Forbes discusses Microsoft’s strategy in this market, and defends its stance to make its first branded model a relatively low powered device. “This isn’t an afterthought from Microsoft, nor is it a lacklustre attempt to crack a market it doesn’t properly understand like other manufacturers. This is Microsoft’s mobile phone business plan – its entire strategy. The 535 is the flagship of budget smartphones and its price tag of $130 is supposed to cement Microsoft’s dominance in this area.” It goes on to describe the 535 as a “slightly better than average” budget device that retains a strong identity with the Lumia range with familiar brightly covered plastic and rounded edges. Not exactly an aesthetic triumph, but factors such as expandable storage and a removable battery are important features for developing markets that prioritise functionality over form.

It also discusses Microsoft’s “five great integrated Microsoft experiences”. These would be Skype, Office, 15GB of free OneDrive cloud storage, Cortana and Outlook – an attempt to one-up the competition and establish a more box-ready device

“This is Microsoft’s main gambit – access to its other services. Where cheap Android phones might leave the user in the wilderness in terms of updates and apps that provide a connected experience, Windows Phone users will have these out of the box.”

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We’ll conclude with CNet’s wrap-up of the 535, which it generally liked while acknowledging that there’s nothing particularly outstanding about it, which at the price point is probably to be expected.

“The Microsoft Lumia 535 isn’t exactly a standout device, which is surprising, as I was hoping Microsoft would use its first phone to show off what it can do. Instead, you get more of the same, though this is no bad thing.”

The Lumia 535 and Lumia 535 Dual SIM will begin rolling out to key markets in November, and will be available in bright green, bright orange, white, dark grey, cyan and black. Pricing for Lumia 535 and Lumia 535 Dual SIM will vary by market and operator, but is estimated to be around 110 EUR before taxes and subsidies.