Going by the name, the Nokia Lumia 530 might seem like an iterative refresh to last year's Lumia 520. But a look at the specs leave you wondering if Microsoft intended a downgrade from the successful predecessor. It comes with lesser storage space - down from 8GB to 4GB, and a 854 x 480 resolution TFT replacement to last year's IPS display. Microsoft has maintained similar hardware specifications including the 4-inch screen, a 1430mAh battery, a 5MP main camera with no front camera, which don't quite keep up with 2014 standards.
However, there's one big change in Microsoft's latest budget device. The Lumia 530 is one of the first smartphones to ship with the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system (now Windows OS), which has been touted to be the best OS Microsoft has churned out for its mobile devices so far. The latest OS comes with features such as the one-swipe notification area called the Action Center, and the fast Word Flow keyboard. Microsoft also offers 15 GB of free cloud storage on Microsoft OneDrive and free Office apps. Can Windows Phone 8.1 become the phone's saving grace? Read our detailed review to find out.
Design and build
Unlike the Lumia 625 and Lumia N series phones, there’s no hard polycarbonate casing in the Lumia 530. Instead, it has gone for a flimsy plastic back, which flexes a lot and looks and feels cheap in the hands.
The surface of the back cover is a dirt magnet and the bright orange colour of the phone we received made the dirt more noticeable. While the phone comes in a variety of colours, it might be best to opt for the black colour model.
The curved back and the diminutive size grips well and should easily fit into most pockets. The power and volume buttons are placed on the right and are easily accessible, thanks to the small size. The keys use slightly better quality of plastic, so they feel firmer than the back cover and better to use.
The Nokia Lumia 530 sports a 4-inch 854 x 480 display, which turns out to be one of the phone’s biggest setbacks. On-screen images lack detail and colours look washed out. Colour reproduction is poor, while viewing angles are awful. The screen is also very reflective, which makes it difficult to use in bright light.
To make things worse, the small screen renders text in webpages, icons and notifications too small for easy reading, especially among older users.
The Lumia 530 runs the latest Windows Phone 8.1 operating system, which adds well thought out additions such as a dropdown notification area or the Action Center, Word Flow keyboard for faster typing and Wi-Fi sense that helps you share Wi-Fi access to your home Wi-Fi to your friends, without giving them your password. It also comes with a voice-assistant called Cortana, but it’s not available for India yet. However, you can modify your device to get it on the Lumia 530 as well.
Despite the additions, the phone just like any other Lumia device, with homescreen tiles, some of which get updated in real time. All the apps appear vertically in alphabetical order and you can pin commonly-used apps to the homescreen. Similarly, you can choose which apps should appear on the Action Center.
The Word Flow keyboard is a pleasant surprise – it’s accurate even when you swipe, which helps you type really fast despite the diminutive screen. You also get free Office for creating and editing documents on the go and save them on OneDrive to access them from other devices.
The phone includes additional apps including Nokia camera, Snapdeal, Skype , Facebook, and MixRadio pre-installed. Each of these apps can be uninstalled from the device, so you can free up space to add alternative apps of your choice.
The Lumia 530's music player has a clean interface which neatly categorises your music into artists, albums, songs, genres and playlists. You can also pause, play or toggle between songs right from the lock screen. Sound quality from the supplied headphones is decent, though they lack inline controls for pausing the audio or adjusting the volume.
The low resolution screen and feeble hardware means it's not the best for watching or recording videos. The video camera captures in 480p footage (not HD), while HD videos struggle to play on the device with a noticeable stutter.
Sound quality of the speakers is superb for a smartphone this small. The volume can go really loud and there's decent clarity and detail in the audio.
1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 200 processor with just 512MB of RAM might sound like a deal-breaker, but the phone is pretty nippy thanks to the Windows Phone 8.1 OS that's not too demanding. The Lumia 530 works well for most uses including making calls, web browsing and running common apps.
It comes with 4GB of internal storage, of which, only 1.22 is available for use. You can pump it up with up to 128GB of external storage, though you'll always need a fair amount of internal storage for running most apps. The 512MB RAM is fine for most uses, unless you'll be using it to play a lot of games or watch high-definition videos.
Windows Phone 8.1 adds a cool set of gestures and animations, and is very different from using an Android or an iOS device. Nevertheless, it's easy to use even if you are a first-time user.
Sound quality on calls is average, though it struggles to cope with background noise in outgoing calls.
The Lumia 530 houses a 1430 mAh battery, which provides nearly 16 hours of web browsing over Wi-Fi. In our loop test, which includes four hours of web browsing, two hours of calls and and hour of gaming and video playback, the Lumia 530 had 23% of battery to spare. On average use, this should provide a day or more after a full charge. The Lumia 530 take a little over two hours to charge completely, which is on-par with most devices.
There’s also a Battery Saver mode which helps save some juice when you can’t charge the phone immediately.
The Lumia 530 is a dual-SIM phone and supports Internet connections via GPRS and EDGE at speeds up to 236.8 kbps. There’s support for Wi-Fi, 3G HSUPA and faster HSDPA connections as well. Both are micro SIMs and work only on the GSM network. Both SIM cards can run on the 3G network.
There's a microUSB is for charging and transferring data with PCs. Transferring data between the device and the computer can be carried out with the Windows Phone app for Desktop, which installs the first time you hook it to your desktop.
Internet Explorer is the default browser and, unlike most devices we've seen, displays the address bar at the bottom of the page. The web pages open quickly on the web browser and it includes some handy features. For example, you can save shortcuts of your favorite websites to the homescreen, add favorites and share them on Facebook, emails or text messages.
As with the low-resolution display, the camera isn't one of the Lumia 530's most proud features. Pictures taken with the 5MP snapper look dull and lacking in detail. Indoor shots and closeups are passable, while shots taken in low light are poor. There's no auto-focus unlike the 520, which results in blurry and inconsistent images and videos.
There's no front-facing camera, which might disappoint those you use their phones for voice calls and younger users who enjoy taking selfies.
Verdict and Price
When shopping for a Windows phone there are some obvious caveats you need to be aware of. While the Windows Store has improved a lot from its previous iterations, it still lacks the variety and quality you’ll find in the Android and iOS app stores. Even the user interface is not as refined, which might come as a surprise if you are an Android or iOS user. However, there are benefits of owning a Windows phone too, some of which outshine what Android and iOS devices currently provide. For starters, you get the full Microsoft Office suite free of cost, a free music streamer that lets you download songs for offline use, and Maps that allows you to download maps to use offline.
However, even if you are convinced you need a Windows Phone device, it's hard to recommend the Lumia 530. The low-resolution display is frustrating to use, which is something you'll be relying on for most tasks. The 5MP camera takes poor photos, while younger users may miss a front-facing camera. For a the same budget, there are other alternatives to choose from including the newly launched Android One smartphone Micromax Canvas A1, or the Moto E.
The Good: Great keyboard, pocketable size, free Microsoft Office
The Bad: Terrible screen, plastic body feels cheap, no front camera
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