This past week, Nokia quietly put up a product page for its long-rumored Lumia 525 smart phone, a device which is ostensibly the successor to the best-selling Lumia 520. But since the 525 isn't being made available in the United States or other top markets, some questions have arisen.
You can learn more about the Lumia 525 on Nokia's global web site. The firm hasn't issued a press release or blog post about it (yet), however, so we need to infer what happening based on this description. Fortunately, that's not hard: The Lumia 525 is simply a variant of the Lumia 520 that is aimed at Africa, the Middle East, China, India, and Viet-Nam.
You can also learn more about this device by reading my article In Praise of the Nokia Lumia 520. That's because this device—unlike, say, the Lumia 521, which is very close to the 520—is in fact physically identical to the 520 and is for the most part identical inside and out. This means that any accessory that works with the Lumia 520 will also work with the 525, including the snap-on color covers.
The Lumia 525 is different from the 520 in one major way: Instead of the 512 MB of RAM, the 525 offers 1 GB of RAM. This, of course, is what's triggering the questions.
Should you "wait" for a Lumia 525? (Though it's not clear it will ever be sold outside its current target markets)
Is the lack of that additional 512 MB of RAM a concern?
In both cases, I think the answer is "No." You won't notice any differences between a 512 MB and 1 GB Windows Phone handset, in my opinion, with the possible exception of a dwindling collection of high-end games that do require that much RAM. But I think the RAM difference has more to do with market targeting than anything else.
That is, the Lumia 520/521 serves a very different role in the United States, Western Europe, and other mature smart phone markets. There, it's seen a second or low-end device you can purchase off contract. It's something you'd use as an MP3 player, or give to a kid and not worry if they ruined in.
In the markets targeted by the 525, that device will in fact be used as the customer's primary smart phone or, in many cases, as their sole digital device. It makes sense that it should be able to run 100 percent of the available Windows Phone apps.
Obviously, switching out the Lumia 520 for the 525 here and in other established markets wouldn't be that hard. But unlike the fire sale priced Surface RT, the Lumia 520 still is a tremendous value and has been, I think, the best tech value available anywhere in 2013. You can get one of these things for under $100 in many places right now. That's just incredible.
If you're looking for the next Lumia 520, you need to look past the 525. I see two possibilities emerging, and both are bigger screen devices.
The first is a 5-inch device, or what I expect to be a coming higher-res version of the Lumia 625. That device currently offers a 800 x 480 screen, which is a bit low for such a big screen. A 720p or 1080p version would be an incredible media/companion device if sold cheaply enough without a contract.
The second already exists but, like the 525, isn't sold here. It's the Lumia 1320, which is basically a lower-end version of the Lumia 1520. This one offers a 6-inch 720p screen, and would make an excellent mini-tablet. It's sold in Europe, unlike the 525, but not here in the US.
In any event, don't let the arrival of the Lumia 525 scare you off the Lumia 520. If you're in the market for a very inexpensive, low-end Windows Phone handset, it's already here and it works very well as-is.