Microsoft teased the imminent arrival of the first non-Nokia Lumia last week, and now it has unveiled the Lumia 535, a budget device priced at €110 (that’s just under US$140) with improvements across the board.
The phone looks much like previous Lumia incarnations with an obvious branding difference. Gone are the Nokia logos, replaced instead by Microsoft’s name on the front — above the screen — and written horizontally on the colorful back of the device.
That basic difference apart, the Lumia 535 looks like, well, a Lumia, albeit with some important changes under the hood. Microsoft has given the phone five-megapixel cameras on the front and back, and equipped it with a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor and 1GB RAM. There’s 8 GB of on-device memory, which can be expanded by up to 128 GB via an external memory card.
That RAM is an increase on previous mid-range Lumia devices, while the most recent budget-minded Lumias — the 630 and 635, announced back in April — strangely lacked a front-facing camera altogether. In a clear sign that the Lumia 535 is principally targeted at Asian markets, the phone is available as a dual-SIM variant.
Software-wise, it will run the latest Windows 8.1 operating system, including the most recent Lumia Denim update. The company is also bundling a range of its services — including Skype and OneNote — which is part of its strategy to get (and lock) customers into its services ecosystem, the idea being that they will buy another Lumia phone when it is time to upgrade their device.
Microsoft said the phone will go on sale in China, Hong Kong and Bangladesh this month, with “other countries to follow.”
That’s a pretty aggressive price point given the decent specs of the device. Under Nokia’s parentage, the budget devices in the Lumia family performed best — last year’s top seller was the Lumia 520, which accounted for one quarter of the line’s sales. Microsoft seems to see the potential in playing to that strength and offering something bright, shiny and capable at a price point that won’t break the bank.
Microsoft opted to remain in the cellphone game — launching the $25 Nokia 130 in August — but the new Lumia 535 is our first look at the kind of devices that it thinks will attract first-time smartphone buyers and those on a budget. This new Lumia focus is Redmond’s answer to Nokia’s X range of Android phones and the budget Asha range, both of which were slated for emerging markets but quickly axed following the completion of Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia.