Nokia Lumia 530 review: big shoes to fill

“The dual-SIM Lumia 530 is the most affordable Windows Phone handset available. How does it fare?”

A sequel to a successful movie has a lot riding on it, taking the story forward, and also surpass viewers’ expectations set by its predecessor. However, it’s not an easy task, which is evident from the fact that there are only a handful of sequels that have gone ahead to become superhits. The same formula applies in the world of mobile devices – the successor of a device must take it to the next level instead of being an iterative upgrade. Nokia’s best-selling smartphone, the Lumia 520 has just received a successor in the form of Lumia 530 (first impressions). It remains to be seen whether it surpasses our expectations or fails to meet the standard set by its predecessor. Let’s find out.

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Specs at a glance

  • Measures 119.7 x 62.3 x 11.7 mm
  • 129g weight
  • 4-inch display, 854 x 480 pixels (245ppi)
  • 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 4GB internal storage, expandable up to 128GB
  • 5MP primary camera
  • Dual-SIM 3G support (in first SIM slot only), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS
  • 1,430mAh detachable battery
  • Windows Phone 8.1 with Nokia Cyan update
Short on time? Have a look at the Nokia Lumia 530 review in pictures

It’s compact and embodies Lumia’s colourful persona

In terms of design, the Nokia Lumia 530 follows its predecessor with slight changes. Up front, lies the display surrounded by wide bezels, with the earpiece and Nokia branding at the top. You’d notice that there are no capacitive keys at the bottom – that’s because the smartphone has onscreen keys. While the left is devoid of any controls, the right side houses the volume rocker with the power button below it. The 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top, whereas the micro-USB port for charging and data transfer is located on the bottom. Compared to the 520, the Lumia 530 also misses out on a dedicated camera shutter key.

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At the rear, the phone gets the main camera unit along with Nokia branding in vertical position at the centre, as well as a circular speaker grille placed lower. Compared to its predecessor, the Nokia Lumia 530 is slightly more curved at the rear edges, similar to the Lumia 630, and thus improves upon handling. Just like the Lumia 520, the rear cover extends to the edges and can be pried open. This allows you to remove the battery and get access to a pair of micro-SIM card slots along with the microSD card slot.

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The device is available in multiple hues such as bright orange and green, along with classic grey and white. Our review unit was in grey. Thanks to the matte finish at the rear, it doesn’t pick up smudges and fingerprints easily, although it does become slippery after prolonged usage.

In terms of handling, the smartphone nestles into your hands well and you can comfortably use it with a single hand. The weight and thickness is also ideal. The build quality is top-notch, despite the polycarbonate body.

The display leaves a lot to be desired

Just like its predecessor, the Nokia Lumia 530 is fitted with a 4-inch display. It bears the screen resolution of 854 x 480 pixels (a shade better than 800 x 480 pixels on the Lumia 520), equating to a pixel density of 245ppi. While the pixel density is slightly better than its predecessor and the Windows Phone platform is pretty vibrant, the display looks fine only at first glance. As soon as you look closely, you’ll notice pixelation. The screen is also very reflective and thus causes problems when you’re trying to view it outdoors since the brightness is also not that good. The touch doesn’t seem to be very smooth either.

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Comparing it to the Lumia 520, it’s successor doesn’t have a protective coating of scratch-resistant glass. It’s also misses out on a glove mode, which enables users to use the display with their gloves on. The refresh rate of the display is also on the lower side as you can see the halo around the icons when scrolling up or down.

With the Lumia 530 losing out everywhere against its own predecessor, you’d expect it to have some advantages. However, that’s not the case, since just like the 520, it’s devoid of a proximity sensor as well as an ambient light sensor. This means that you’ll need to change brightness manually, as well as turn off the display before bringing the phone to your ears in case of a phone call.

A barebones camera

In the camera department, the Nokia Lumia 530 follows the brand’s other budget offerings, including its predecessor and simply offers a 5-megapixel fixed-focus camera at the back. There’s no LED flash to help in shooting low-light images or a front-facing camera.

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In terms of quality however, even the 5-megapixel camera can shoot some decent images in adequate lighting. It’s good enough for your personal usage or sharing it between friends and family. Here’s a look at a few images clicked from the smartphone. Click on the thumbnails to view them in their original sizes.

Nokia Lumia 530 camera performance review Nokia Lumia 530 camera quality Nokia Lumia 530 camera samples

You can also improve the images with the Nokia Camera app allowing you to choose between Auto and Pro modes. The Pro mode allows you to adjust exposure, brightness, enable HDR mode and more.

Nokia Lumia 530 screenshot (34) Nokia Lumia 530 screenshot (35)

Interestingly, while the Lumia 520 allowed video captures of 1,280 x 720 pixels, the Lumia 530 takes a step backward and only shoots video in 480 pixels.

Windows Phone 8.1 brings the platform at par with the competition, but still suffers from the app gap

The Nokia Lumia 530 runs Windows Phone 8.1, which was unveiled back in April during the Microsoft BUILD annual conference and brings a ton of improvements – both big and small, to the OS.

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The first and foremost is the Action Center, which allows you to quickly toggle various settings like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, change brightness and more, and also allows you one-click access to all your notifications. The Action Center can be accessed from anywhere by a simple downward swipe, even on a lock screen. These quick settings can also be customised.

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The live tile-based UI continues to be the platform’s mainstay, which also acts as a major differentiator against other mobile interfaces. However, now you can change the format and fit in more tiles if you want, although it looks quite weird on the Lumia 530’s small screen. You can also customise the background, and the tiles (only the transparent ones) adapt to it. Swiping to the left on the home screen displays all the apps installed on the device.

Nokia Lumia 530 screenshot (5) Nokia Lumia 530 screenshot (6)

The set of virtual navigation keys, which we talked about in the design department, is also a part of the key changes brought by WP 8.1. The navigation keys have the usual functionality of returning to the previous screen, home screen or search which is powered by Bing. The virtual keys are still visible when viewing full screen-content like a game or a video though, which we think is a waste of screen real estate.

All the preloaded Nokia apps are available, such as MixRadio, HERE Maps for navigation, and the Camera app which we already discussed among others. The handset also comes with some Indian apps such as BookMyShow and Snapdeal. We also appreciate the functionality offered by the Sense suite of apps which include Storage sense, Data sense and Wi-Fi sense.

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Coming to the usability aspect of the OS, if you’re an Android or iOS user then you might find it difficult to adapt initially. However, for a first-time smartphone user, there shouldn’t be any such problems. Also, we don’t need to reiterate the fact that if you’re invested in Google’s ecosystem of apps and services, then you’d find it really difficult to adjust to WP since there’s no trace of native Google apps. Gmail, for instance, is accessible via the default email app and you can’t use the label functionality or star emails for quick access (to reflect on Gmail on web as well).

We also loved the enhanced keyboard in the refreshed OS, allowing you to quickly swipe-to-type, referred as Word Flow, just like in Android. Even otherwise, the keyboard is quite accurate, though it feels cramped on the 4-inch screen of the phone.

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We’ve discussed WP 8.1 in detail in our Lumia 630 review, so you can head there if you want to know more.

Churns out decent performance but skimps on storage

At its heart beats a quad-core Snapdragon 200 processor clocked at 1.2GHz. This is the only visible upgrade compared to the Lumia 520 which drew power from a dual-core 1GHz chipset. Complementing the processor is 512MB of RAM, which is same as the Lumia 520. The Adreno 302 GPU is also available for handling graphics, though it’s a shade lower than Adreno 305 powering its predecessor. In day-to-day usage, the device offers smooth performance despite the meagre RAM, since WP isn’t resource intensive. While we question the low amount of RAM, we must say, that even while playing an intensive title like Asphalt 8: Airborne, there was no trace of lag, although graphics could have been better. However, that doesn’t mean that we’re happy to see Nokia using 512MB RAM again, since it did launch a version of the Lumia 520 with a full gigabyte of RAM called the Lumia 525. Due to the 512MB RAM, you’ll not be able to many popular games such as Halo: Spartan Assault, Order & Chaos and more. Sadly for some reasons, we noticed considerable lag while playing a 720p video.

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Sadly, like most phones these days, the Lumia 530 heats up after playing a game for 10 to 15 minutes continuously, or even when 3G  or navigation is used for long. What’s more frustrating is that the device heats up at the front, so just hope that you don’t get a call during this time.

Nokia Lumia 530 screenshot (1) Nokia Lumia 530 screenshot (20)

As far as memory is concerned, the Lumia 530 offers a paltry 4GB of NAND storage, which is half the amount of storage available in the Lumia 520. We still can’t figure out the exact reason why the Microsoft-owned Nokia actually reduced the storage capacity in a device that’s supposed to be a successor. The end users only get about 1.3GB space for themselves. Thankfully, Windows Phone 8.1 allows you to transfer apps to the microSD card, which can be up to 128GB capacity. You don’t need to transfer the apps manually as you can simply set this option by default through storage sense. But if you don’t have an external memory card, then the internal storage fills up very fast.

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When it comes to battery life, the smartphone draws juice from a 1,410mAh battery. During our usage, we’d say that the battery life is average at best. It barely manages to keep up through an entire working day, and if you’re using the smartphone for accessing cellular data and navigation, then make sure that you’re near a charging point or carrying a portable battery bank with you.

Connectivity-wise, the handset has support for the usual features including dual-SIM compatibility (3G only in the first SIM slot), Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS. Windows Phone 8.1 offers a useful feature called Smart Dual SIM to forward the calls to the other SIM, if one of them is busy.

Better than its predecessor?

Well, that’s the question which even we’re trying to find an answer to, after using the Nokia’s latest offering for more than a week. Let’s try to answer it in the same manner as we started writing this review – a movie and its sequel(s). The movie sequel can only be popular if it takes the story forward and manages to surpass the expectations set by the first one. Applying the same idea on the Lumia 520 and its successor, the Lumia 530, you can see that the latter is simply hoping to cash in on the success of Nokia’s best-selling smartphone. While it does bring some interesting things to the table like a powerful quad-core processor and dual-SIM functionality, we believe it compromises on many things like storage and display compared to the Lumia 520. Even the fact that the 530 runs the latest iteration of Windows Phone isn’t really advantageous as the OS will also come to its predecessor with all the functionality.

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In essence, the smartphone fails to exceed the expectations set by the Lumia 520 and it seems that the 520 still comes across as a better buy than the Lumia 530. There’s also the upcoming WP-based phone from the Indian vendor Micromax, the Canvas Win W092 (first impressions) which address all the shortcomings we pointed out.

Have a few doubts about the smartphone? Read Nokia Lumia 530 FAQs

That’s the option if you’ve set your eyes on just Windows Phone-based devices, but if you’re ready to cross the bridge then the world of Android offers some really superb devices in its price range. If you can get your hands on the Xiaomi Redmi 1s (review | FAQs), then it’s one of the most prized possessions in this segment. Other options include the ASUS Zenfone 4 (review | FAQs), available in 4- and 4.5-inch models, the Micromax Unite 2 (review | FAQs) and the Moto E (review | FAQs).

In essence, the Nokia Lumia 530 doesn’t seem like a worthy upgrade to the Lumia 520 considering both are selling at similar price points.

Price: Rs 6,500 (online)

Editor’s rating: 6 / 10


  • Good design
  • Dual-SIM functionality


  • Poor display
  • Missing proximity and ambient light sensors
  • No front camera
  • No LED flash

Photos by Pratik Vyas

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