Hands on: Lumia 535

The low-budged phone business is an important one for Windows Phone – nowhere else does it have high market shares. The low-end Lumia 520 is the best selling Windows Phone to date and only thanks to low-end devices, Windows Phone is outselling the iPhone is 24 businesses.

Of course then, a phone like the Lumia 520 needs a successor – the Lumia 530. However, with the first device coming from Microsoft itself, the 530 gets a big brother: The Lumia 535.
Like every year, Nokia, now the part of Microsoft, invited some of Germany’s tech bloggers to Düsseldorf. Not only for having a great day together as always, but also to let them take a look at the newly announced device: The Lumia 535.

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How it feels and looks

Typically for Nokia the device is well build and  feels solid. It feels great it the hand as the smooth, round corners and the rounded edges fit greatly into the hand. The bezels of the screen are surprisingly thin for this price range and therefore the device is nicely narrow for a 5” device.
However, as always, on the bottom there is much space wasted. The screen is not really 5” when the virtual softkeys are always displayed (which can be turned on and off by the user) and since there are no hardware buttons, the space below the screen could have been cut. I am always saying this, but it is true. It only makes the device unnecessarily tall.
The back cover is typically made of plastic, but thick plastic which makes it appear solid. The material – a glossy polycarbonate – has a nice surface and it does not slip out of one’s hand. Also, since it has changeable back covers that are available in black, white, green, orange and – hell yeah – cyan, the user can always swap the color depending on their mood.
The device would look kinda good, if there was not that huge and ugly Microsoft logo on the front and back. On the front, there should be nothing, but the simple Microsoft lettering is okay. However, on the back, the logo and the lettering look so cheap! It uses way too much space, it does not look any nice. It is hard to describe but it somewhat makes the device look cheap. Maybe it is the black color which pops out, maybe it is the name, maybe the size. I do not know, but it does not look good. On the front and back the logo maybe? I think that would look much better. Or simply stay with “Lumia”. It even sounds so much better than “Microsoft”.

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This also applies to the naming. Microsoft Lumia 535. It is not about the length of the name, Samsung Galaxy S5 mini is not any shorter, but it just sounds awkward. While (Samsung) Galaxy S5 Mini is a name that can be pronounced smoothly, and that can be easily assigned with the product, Microsoft Lumia 535 sounds simply awkward. It is not even the Microsoft name at the front, Nokia Lumia 1520 is not any better. While most people will know what to associate with the name Lumia, nobody will know what kind of phone the number at the end stands for. Lumia – is great. Microsoft – is ok, but it should not be written on the phones this strikingly. XXX(X) – please, stop that. Still, this are just my two cents.

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How it performs

You might be surprised, but the Lumia 535 is really fast. The Snapdragon 200 Quad Core combined with 1GB of RAM let the device run not only very smoothly, but also very quickly. There are no loading screen throughout the whole OS – ok, the OS itself, not talking about 3rd or first party apps – and animations are fast but smooth.
However, on the Lumia 535 the new concept of “updateable core apps” really starts to get annoying. For example the calendar – on 8.0 it was a core app that opened immediately. Now it is not a core app anymore, it is a preinstalled store app by Microsoft, so it can be easily updated through the Windows Phone store. The latter is a nice thing, but taking the app out of the OS itself leads to slowness. I still remember core apps opening immediately on the Lumia 520 – the calendar was one of them – but now the core apps that are updateable via store open very slowly. For example: The people hub, which is still a core app, is usable directly after you press the tile. The calendar opens, and then you see its splash screen for 3 seconds. I am not joking! Without any other apps open in the background the calendar took max. 3 seconds to open. Sometimes it was a little quicker, but still slow. This also applies to all the other ex-core apps, like battery sense, music, video… Not all take 3 seconds, but they are significantly slower than on 8.0.

The screen is… good. Of course in relation to the price. Colors are washed out, the screen is pixelated and not the sharpest, and it totally lacks contrast. It is very dark and black is a very mirroring grey. Still, all this is normal, considering it is a phone for not whole 120€, and for this price, all these negatives are nicely weak. There are worse screens, even on phones that are about 200€. Do not expect too much, but it is far from unusable.

Also the cameras. Again, you cannot expect high end stuff, but while the 5MPX main camera was taking usable results in good light only, the 5MPX front camera really does a good job. It is the same as in the Lumia 730, and the selfies are really not bad. Of course the front facing camera is worse than the main camera, but so are all, actually, and considering this the front camera is one of the best you will find in any smartphone. My Lumia 1520 does take worse photos with its front facing camera.
However, we were not allowed to download the pictures we took to our devices, as the software is not final yet. It was running Lumia denim, by the way.

The combination of a good building quality, a very low price, a good performance and many features – like Cortana and MixRadio – make the phone very interesting in my eyes. Whether it can eventually live up to this expectations only the final release will show, but I am sure this device will find its buyers.

Are any questions left unanswered? Let us know in the comments below and I will do my best giving you an answer!

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