Nokia have made a steady start with their range of smartphones running the Windows Phone 8 OS, but so far the devices have been aimed mainly at the top end of the market. If Windows Phone is going to gain any traction and earn a significant share of the market, more devices will be needed in the mid range and budget end of the market, too.
Realising this, at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Nokia showcased two new smartphones running Windows Phone 8 that would be aimed squarely at these market segments, the Nokia Lumia 720 and the Nokia Lumia 520. We will be taking a look at the Lumia 720 in a later review, for now our attention is on the lower specified device, the Lumia 520.
The low end market for smartphones is dominated by Android devices, with a large number of choices from the likes of Samsung, HTC, LG, Huawei, ZTE and so on. For Nokia to make an impact, they need a device that is different enough to stand out from the crowd, whilst not going to high on price.
With the Lumia 520, the Finnish manufacturer is hoping to catch the eye initially by providing the handset in a range of stand out colours. As well as the usual Black, the handset will also be available in Yellow, Red, Cyan and White. Weighing in at a fairly decent 124g, the Lumia 520 measures 119.9 x 64 x 9.9mm. There is a 4.0 inch IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, which has a pixel resolution of 480 x 800.
The display is covered by a scratch resistant glass, and uses the same technology found in the high end Lumia 920, that allows the touchscreen to be operated even when the user is wearing gloves. The user interface on the handset is the standard Metro UI, which gives you a selection of 'Live Tiles' that populate the main standby screen, User selectable, these tiles show constant updates from a range of sources, such as email, SMS, Social Networks and News Feeds, that let you see the latest updates from these sources at a glance. The tiles can be moved around the screen, and resized, giving you a numerous number of arrangements you can use to personalise the phone to a style of your own choice.
Despite its budget status, the Lumia 520 proves to be good value for money, with a number of features that will be more than enough for the average phone user. Imaging on the handset is handled with a 5.0 Megapixel camera, which can also record video 720p HD video clips at 30 frames per second.
The camera has the Nokia Lens feature built in, which allows you to easily add a range of customisation options to your picture straight on the phone, before sharing it with friends via picture messaging or uploading it online. The camera also supports geotagging and touch focus, and has a number of picture options for capturing images in a variety of lighting conditions, including sports shots for fast moving subjects and a close up option. There is also a night mode, but capturing images on the handset in dark conditions will be a bit of an issue, as the handset does not include a flash.
Powered by a dual core 1GHz Snapdragon processor, the 520 has a 1430 mAh Li Ion battery, which is good for up to 360 hrs standby, and almost 15 hours of talktime from a single charge. Internal memory storage on the device is set to 8GB, with 512MB RAM. Memory expansion is available, with support for MicroSD memory cards up to 64GB in size.
High speed data on the phone is supported with HSDPA and HSUPA in place, plus dual band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n. GPRS and EDGE are also included for times when you are outside 3G coverage, and the device has quad band GSM support for excellent coverage when roaming outside the UK. In addition the phone includes GPS with aGPS and GLONASS, and Bluetooth, but there is no NFC on the handset.
A full media player is included, with support for multiple popular digital formats for both audio and video. There is a 3.5mm audio jack, and stereo Bluetooth support for wireless connectivity to a compatible Bluetooth headset. The handset offers music playback for up to 61 hrs, and includes the Nokia Music and Mix Radio apps.
All round, the Nokia Lumia 520 is a solid package, and offers a decent alternative choice to the high number of Android devices to those who are shopping for a smartphone on a budget. There is no real stand out feature, but with an adequate camera, music capabilities, decent battery, expandable memory and HSPA for mobile internet, the phone is a decent all round performer. As with other Windows Phone 8 devices, the handset is weaker for a lower number of available apps, but with many of the top apps available this is less of an issue than it has been in the past.
The Nokia Lumia 520 will be available on all the major UK networks, on both Prepay and Pay Monthly deals. The handset is expected to start shipping this month.