Updated: May 29, 2015
I am not a big fan of smartphones. I like my stuff big and accessible, and playing with my thumbs is usually reserved for the bedroom. But then, I do love the Lumia line so very much that I decided to buy another, just for fun.
However, there's a big, important question here. Now that Lumia is no longer branded as Nokia but rather Microsoft, should we expect the same kind of no-nonsense simplicity and high quality? Well, let's take a look, shall we.
Unboxing, initial impressions and whanot
Priced at about USD150 for regular users and USD127 for Prime users, Lumia 535 is a relatively cheap smartphone. However, the spec is pretty decent. The phone comes unlocked and supports two SIM cards (one micro and one nano, not as labeled).
The display measures a rather hefty five inches, with the resolution of 540x960 pixels and 220 dpi pixel density. Lumia 535 is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A7 processor and Ardeno 302 GPU, and you have 1 GB RAM. There's internal 8GB storage, but you can insert micro-SD cards up to 128 GB in capacity. You can record video at 480p and 30 FPS, and snap stills at 5MP resolution. Not bad, but this is the one piece where you can feel the monetary savings.
On the software side, you get Windows Phone 8.1, and here it makes perfect sense, plus 15GB OneDrive storage. Nokia's flagship HERE Drive and Maps are also available, and when coupled with HERE Transit, it makes for the best navigation package around. For free. Last but not the least, my phone came with a wall-socket charger but no micro-SD cable, which is a shame, because one was supplied with Lumia 520.
The physical design is cushty. The phone is relatively big, but not quite as thin as most competitors, which is an advantage, as you can actually maintain a reasonable grip. It has simple and clean lines. Lovely.
The initial configuration was relatively simple and quick. Microsoft asks a whole bunch of questions, and then you need to setup or reuse your LIVE account. If you do the latter and have your settings and contacts saved to the cloud, they will be synced to the phone. You can also use the Nokia suite for older Nokia models to transfer your contacts into the OneDrive storage and then have them synced to Lumia 535.
If my memory serves me well, this new Microsoft-branded Lumia does asks a few questions more than Nokia did, and the level of online integration and intrusiveness is a tad higher than before, but it's nothing too radical, and still way below what you get on Android. Soon enough, you will be enjoying Lumia. And it's really fun to use. Clean, uncluttered, logical. Who would believe me saying that. Which only proves I am not against technology and trends but rather stupid and retarded manifestations thereof.
HERE I am, will you lend me an angel
Funny, no. The strong side of the Nokia/Microsoft family is the superior range of Nokia products. Well, used to be so. Now that HERE Drive is also available for Android, this monopoly has been diluted. Which is a good thing for everyone.
The camera isn't that good. It works fine, but you won't be making any stock photography any time soon. Not just because you aren't talented enough, also because the lens aren't built for art, not with the price tag you get here. Value for money means what it means. As an anectode, you may find it interesting that my old E6 machine has superior optics for still shots, despite its age.
Depth of field, blah blah. Color quality is decent, but details tend to get a little blurred here and there. I'm not doing any professional exeriment here, so relax. Overall, you won't be buying this phone for its camera, and if you need a good camera, then buy a good camera and not a smartphone.
The camera app itself is okay, I guess. It is simple to use, it comes with a bunch of filters, none of which seem to make a great difference, as there's only that much you can do in software to cover up for physical limitations of the (relatively) cheap hardware. Oh, you also get a separate app for taking selfies, which now makes the whole concept utterly retarded. But then, so are most people, which is fine.
If you want to be yelled at, there's Cortana. There's also a very good battery saver, which tells what you've been doing, and how you can preserve your battery life, although turning off Wireless, Mobile data and GPS are the three simplest, most efficient ways of doing it, no matter what the software tells you.
The default app set is pretty decent and varied without being crowded. You don't get too many spammy applications, which serve no purpose except to offer free, junky content, the way it often happens on OEM-branded hardware. Like comparing stock Android to Samsung. Same here. Microsoft has the luxury of offering its operating system pristine of violation, so that it runs faster, more smoothly, and ultimately harvest some happy customers.
You also get Xbox Video, if you want, but you will need a separate account for that. And there's a lot of good stuff available in the Store. It's nowhere near as powerful as Android, but it is pretty decent for people with a minimalistic sense of aesthetics and use, like myself. This is OCD heaven, and a practical, fun playground for smartphones.
On a closing note, just to be fully transparent, I do own both Nokia and Microsoft shares. However, this has nothing to do with how I perceive and use these products. I've used Nokia long before I could spell the word share, and Windows 8 for desktops is a turd de la creme. So there, transparency.
Microsoft Lumia 535 is a really nice bargain smartphone. Good value for money, good quality, and an operating system setup that balances usefulness with frugality. You also get a pretty decent application stack, which you can then grow as you see fit. Not as colorful as Android, but still quite useful.
Overall, this Lumia strengthens my affection for this brand. For people looking for a simple, sensible solution in the form of a smartphone, with a relatively low price and good specs, plus the ability to use an occasional app or three, Lumia offers the right mix of ingredients that is superior to most other competitors. Sure, you can't shake off the Windows feel, but it is not necessarily bad. Like Ubuntu in the distro space, hate is aplenty but not always justified. Sometimes, yes, but not here. Overall, 9/10. I like it. Bye bye now. Wait. Check my Ubuntu Phone review before you go go. Hi hi. Bye. For realz.