Back in July, when Microsoft first announced the Lumia 530, I was unimpressed with the specs. As I note in Nokia Lumia 530 Preview, the device is a step down from its predecessors, the Lumia 520 and Lumia 521, and its place in the sweet spot of the Windows Phone lineup has been usurped by the superior Nokia Lumia 635, which is a fine little handset. So why would anyone choose a Lumia 530?
The first—perhaps only—answer, as always, is the price.
Available later this week for just $50 on Cricket—or under $80 at T-Mobile, which is where my review unit comes from—the Lumia 530 is the most affordable Windows Phone handset in the United States ... assuming you can't play the long game. The BLU Win JR—which I recently started evaluating as well—is available on Amazon.com right now for $89. And that price is for an unlocked device, whereas the Cricket and T-Mobile-based Lumia 530s require a wireless contract.
Lumia 520 (left) and Lumia 530 (right)
You should refer to BLU Win JR First Impressions for my overview of that device, but know this: The Lumia 530 and BLU Win JR are kissing cousins, devices that are so similar they're almost identical. Choosing between these handsets—assuming you have this kind of Faustian bargain to make—will be difficult.
Less difficult, I think, is the choice between the Lumia 530 and the Lumia 635, the latter of which offers a bigger, nicer screen, a faster processor, more onboard storage, and better battery life. If you can afford it, please, get a Lumia 635. It is the superior low-end Windows Phone handset.
Lumia 530 (left) and Lumia 635 (right)
That said, the Lumia 530 does address a certain need. A smart phone for a child with no need to worry about them destroying the device: You can replace the Lumia 530 for less than the cost of an iPhone 6 screen replacement. A second smart phone, which you may use as a GPS, mobile media player, or whatever. Or a temporary phone replacement while you wait for your contract to run out so you can get the higher-end upgrade you really want.
Left to right: Lumia 635, Lumia 530, Lumia 520
I'm still sorting through the exact list of features in the 530 to determine what's there and what's missing with regards to sensors and other important bits. But here's what I can glean so far.
The Lumia 530 represents the very low-end of the market, the entry-level. The device itself is pedestrian, with a quad-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 200 processor, 512 MB of RAM, and 4 GB of internal storage (which can be updated with a 128 GB microSD card). If you look over the BLU WIN JR's specs, these will all look familiar.
Indeed, the tiny 4-inch Lumia 530 screen is the same weird, low-quality thing I see on the BLU. Maybe I'm just getting used to bigger screens, but the Lumia 635—whose 4.5-inch screen also runs at the same and supposedly paltry 854 x 480 resolution as the Lumia 530—looks wonderful by comparison. Turns out it's not the resolution that's the problem, it's the screen: The 635 features a Clear Black IPS unit while the 530 uses a plain LCD panel. (The BLU JR has the same basic LCD screen, but at 800 x 480 because it uses physical—well, capacitive—command buttons.)
Lumia 530 (top) and Lumia 520 (bottom)
The Lumia 530 comes in white, but you can pop-off that back cover—love that—to get at the battery, SIM card slot and microSD slot, and to replace the cover with a different color. Green, orange, white, black and blue are available. (The WIN JR does offer dual SIM slots, which the 530 lacks. Nokia sells a dual-SIM in other markets though.)
Like the Lumia 635, the Lumia 530 lacks a hardware camera button, which I think stinks.
Ultimately, the screen and the existence of the Lumia 635 appear to sink the Lumia 530 value proposition, though I'll put the handset through its paces before rendering a final verdict. Certainly, there are things to recommend here—the incredible Nokia Lumia apps, for example, and the bundled Lumia Cyan firmware—and of course the price. But where the Lumia 520 was such a fantastic bargain last year, the Lumia 530 faces a different market today. I'll try to figure out where it stands.