By Will Goodbody, Science & Technology Correspondent
Premium smartphones get most of the press. But in reality many cannot afford, nor want the latest high end iPhone, Samsung or HTC handset, and are quite happy with basic but respectable functionality.
Enter the Microsoft Lumia 535 – a solid, though far from inspiring budget smartphone which does those basics reasonably well.
Among its selling points is its 5 inch FWVGA LCD display, which is a whole inch bigger than its Lumia 530 cousin, and an attractive size for those watching video or playing games. However, with a resolution of 960x540, its quality is still a long way off the offerings at the premium end of the scale. Colours are quite dull, and pictures can look a little fuzzy. And it can be unresponsive at times to touch. But overall it’s ok for a budget phone.
The overall design is more or less in keeping with other Lumia models. It has a round edged plastic interchangeable cover, with on/off and volume buttons on the side. The headphone jack is on top, with charging port at the bottom. It’s easy to hold, though given its size some might find it a stretch to type with one hand.
The camera situation is something of an improvement from the Lumia 530, which only had a rear facing lens. The 535 comes with front and rear cameras, both 5MP, which are decent enough for selfies, but disappointing enough for everything else. The rear facing unit doesn’t cope well in low light and even with average or high light the end result isn’t fantastic. But there is a flash on the 535, and all told the camera setup is acceptable given the price point.
Inside, the phone is powered by a quad-core 1.2Ghz Snapdragon 200 processor – no improvement from the 530 – but the RAM is better, at 1GB. The result is a reasonably paced Windows 8.1 interface, though most apps experienced a bit of a lag while opening. At 8GB there is more on board storage on the 535 than the 530 and it also has a MicroSD slot, expandable to 128GB.
The removable 1905mAh battery promises a maximum standby time of 23 days, with maximum talk time on 3G of 13 hours. There’s an accelerometer and proximity sensor on board, but this isn’t a phone for those interested in fitness tracking.
A big downside is that the Lumia 535 only has 3.5G connectivity – there’s no LTE, which is fast becoming a standard, even at this budget level.
The phone runs Windows Phone 8.1, which is fine for those who like the operating system, and should be eligible for a free upgrade to Window 10 when it is released. It also comes with the Cortana digital assistant, Here maps and 15GB of free cloud storage. The number of apps available in Microsoft’s app store is growing all the time, but still limited in comparison to the Google and Apple equivalents.
In summary, the Lumia 535 is a perfectly adequate smartphone for those looking for a cheap all-rounder on the Windows platform. That price is one of its most attractive features, as well as its 5MP front facing camera, and the likelihood that it will qualify for an upgrade to Windows 10 when launched. However, the rear facing camera and the display are disappointing, as is the absence of 4G.
But then generally speaking you get what you pay for.
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