There's just no denying it when it comes to Nokia's lowest-end smartphone. It's designed to be cheap, however that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Nokia Lumia 530 has an impressive pair of boots to fill, considering it's the successor to the widely-popular Lumia 520. Has Nokia managed to improve upon the Lumia 520, or has it taken a step backward? In short, both.
Nokia's focus with the Lumia 530 doesn't seem to be developing the device as a "successor", but more going backwards. An immediate reaction to that remark would be "how is going backwards better?" in which case might I remind you that with the Lumia 5xx range, it isn't a race to the top, but more a race to the bottom.
If you're buying a Lumia 5xx, you're most likely fully aware that it's a cheap device. Buyers who are out to buy cheap devices aren't looking for awesome specs and a high-quality casing, they want it as cheap as it can go. Nokia's main goal with the Lumia 530 was to make it cheaper than its predecessor, and that's exactly what they did. The question is simple. Is it a good device for the price?
Corners have been cut
From the get go, Nokia removed many functions from the device to help lower the cost. None of these features are deal-breakers, however as someone who has come from higher-end devices, the removal of some of these features is definitely noticeable. Nokia has cut corners on hardware buttons, meaning the "Back, Start, and Search" buttons are gone in favor of on-screen, software alternatives. The dedicated camera button has also been removed meaning no quick access to the camera when your device's screen is powered off.
Nokia has also removed things like the proximity and ambient light sensors, meaning the device will not automatically adjust its brightness settings when you enter certain lighting environments. It's very small things, but some buyers may notice, especially if you're coming from another low-end device. If you like selfies, the Lumia 530 isn't for you. Nokia has not included a front-facing camera, meaning you'll have to take "flash selfies" with the rear-facing camera... just without the flash, as there is no flash sensor either.
Speaking of the rear-facing camera, the Lumia 530 includes a 5MP shooter. It's definitely nothing special -- tap to focus isn't available and the shooter itself isn't a Carl Zeiss unlike its higher-end brothers. Still, the camera is capable in daylight, and since the display on the device isn't the best, you won't be able to really see the low quality-ness of the camera, unless you're viewing your photos on another device of course.
The display is nothing special either, being a 4-inch, 480x854 screen at 246 PPI. Nokia has not implemented any special screen technology, meaning blacks are not pure and viewing angles are poor. As the display is rather small, the on-screen buttons appear to be a little small too. They're usable, but it just feels like they could be a little bit bigger.
Let's talk about the insides for a minute. The Lumia 530 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 quad-core processor @1.2ghz with 512MB of RAM. It's nothing fancy, but it will get you around Windows Phone 8.1 just fine, and for the price you pay, it isn't really anything to complain about. Something that I think is a legitimate thing to complain about is the fact that the device comes with 4GB of internal memory. Yes, four. That leaves you with less than 2GB of usable storage to save apps, pictures, videos and so on.
4GB internal storage leaves less than 2GB to play with
Luckily, Nokia has included a MicroSD card slot, meaning you can add up to an additional 128GB. With Windows Phone 8.1, you can finally save things like apps onto the MicroSD card too, which is a lifesaver. From one man to another, you'll definitely need a MicroSD card if you plan on using the Lumia 530 as your primary phone. To gain access to the MicroSD card slot, you can remove the back cover of the device, which means the Lumia 530 supports changeable covers.
Build Quality and Battery
The removable covers mean you can change the color of your device on the fly. This is great news for those who love to personalize their device. You can choose from Orange, Green, White or Black. The covers are easy to change too, and work just like you'd expect them to. Taking off the cover reveals the battery, MicroSD card slot, and MicroSIM slot.
Battery life with the Lumia 530 isn't too shabby. Considering the low-specifications of the device, the battery doesn't need to power too much under the hood. Nokia claims you'll get about 10 hours of talk-time with the Lumia 530, and our tests match that with around 11 hours per day. The battery itself is a 1430mAh battery, while that isn't the biggest battery ever, it still powers the device for longer than you'll most likely need.
Even though the Lumia 530 supports interchangeable covers, the build quality of the device is solid. The device doesn't creak in any place, and feels sturdy and unbreakable, much like the old Nokia way. I'm not afraid to drop this device, as I'm pretty confident it'll survive the fall. Just don't be throwing the device off the Eiffel Tower and you'll be fine.
The device isn't the thinnest of the Lumias, but it's still pretty thin. We have no complaints as to thickness of the Lumia 530. Considering the build quality of the device as a whole, it's not like you're going to need a case on top of those interchangeable covers, so thickness isn't an issue.
Performance on the Lumia 530 is, for the most part, fantastic for the specifications underneath. It's fast, smooth and an overall happy experience. It does fall down at some hurdles however, and the camera is super slow, as is taking photos. Cortana can sometimes take a second or two to load-up fully, but apart from those small inconveniences, the operating system runs fine on the Snapdragon 200 processor.
I mean, it's not blazing fast. It's fantastic for what you've actually got under the hood though. You won't be disappointed with its speed for the most part.
Another area in which the Lumia 530 sometimes falls down is when you decide to play a game. Considering the low specifications of the device, some games aren't the most lightweight to run. It can also take forever for a game to finish loading before you can actually play it, but again for the price you pay you can't expect blazing fast graphics and load times.
Of course, considering the Lumia 530 comes with a mere 512MB of RAM, not all apps are compatible with the device. The majority are, and the essentials definitely are such as Facebook and Twitter, but some of the more fun apps may require 1GB of RAM, and if that's the case you'll be out of luck trying to get those apps running on the Lumia 530.
As one would imagine, the speaker included with the Lumia 530 is no stereo replacement, however it's okay overall. It can be a little but tinny, and it isn't very bassy either, but it's extremely loud if you want it to be.
Cranking the Lumia 530 up to max volume produced some impressive levels of sound. Since the quality of the speaker isn't superb, having the device play music at max volume doesn't make music sound too fantastic. One thing is for certain though, you'll definitely know when someone has sent you a text or is calling you.
The Lumia 530 is usually free on any contract here in the UK. If you're one for buying devices outright, you can generally find it for less than £100. In the US, you can get the device for $49.99 via Cricket Wireless.
Make sure you're not paying over $100 for this device, as it's definitely not supposed to be priced that high. We've seen the device listed for as high as $164 on Amazon, which is definitely not a deal. Sub-$100 is about right for the Lumia 530, and of course pricing varies depending on whom you're getting the device from and where you are in the world.
Overall thoughts and should you buy
The Lumia 530, again, for its price, is awesome. It's rugged, fast and an overall happy experience. Sure, the device falls down here and there, especially with the screen and camera, but for the price you're paying you can't really complain about that. The Lumia 530 is designed to be cheap, and cheap is what they made it.
If you're in the market for a new smartphone that doesn't have all the top-notch bells and whistles and just works, then the Lumia 530 is an awesome device for you. If you're in the market for something sub-$100, then the Lumia 530 is an awesome choice, especially if you're a Windows Phone lover.
If you're in the market for a smartphone that does have more than below average specs and a few more bells and whistles than your average phone, then the Lumia 530 is not for you.
Nokia has done wonders on making the Lumia 530 the cheapest it can go whilst trying to prevail a premium standard. It did well on the build quality, but fell short on the screen and camera. We'd recommend the device for casual users who just want to text, check social networks, and call their grandma every now and then.
And to finish off with the question in which we started with; Is it a good device for the price? Yes. We think for the price, you get more than what you'll ever need in this low-range smartphone market.