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Nokia Lumia 530 review
Big boots to fill - but the Lumia 530's feet just aren't big enough

You don't need to look beyond price for the Lumia 530's USP. The Lumia 520 was around £100 SIM-free on release, the 530 knocks £10 off that and we're already seeing deals to get it cheaper.

Nokia Lumia 530

Cheap enough to risk balancing it on a rock

The vast majority of the phones at this kind of price point are unequivocally awful, but the Lumia 530 is actually well-built and easy to use. It's not the best smartphone experience around, but it offers value for money.

Another differentiator is that the Lumia 530 comes with Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft's mobile platform is a distant third behind Android and iOS, but it's a solid operating system that's very accessible especially to the new smartphone user.

It's easy to customise, the tile system is neat, and the fact you can use a background photo enables you to create a unique look. As a user of Android and iOS I didn't find much of a learning curve with Windows Phone. The truth is that the mobile platforms have a lot more in common than their makers like to admit.

Nokia Lumia 530

If you have used iOS or Android you'll be able to figure out Windows Phone

Be warned, though, that if you are switching from Android or iOS, Windows Phone 8.1 still lags behind in terms of app numbers and quality. Most of the big names are available on the Lumia 530, but the experience with apps like Netflix, to give one example, is notably worse.

I was also disappointed to find that Cortana is still missing in action for UK customers. You'll find basic voice controls, but I was looking forward to testing out Microsoft's virtual assistant and comparing it to Google Now and Siri. When I asked 'What is today's date?' it listed Bing search results.

Discounting other Nokia phones, the only real competitors on price are Android releases like the Moto E. Windows Phone 8.1 isn't bad, but it offers nothing over Android. If you could buy a Nokia Lumia 530 running Android for the same price as the WP8.1 version I'd recommend you do that - although Windows Phone can run more smoothly on a lower-spec device, so it might come at the cost of performance.

Media

The Lumia 530 is not an entertainment powerhouse. The 4-inch display is not great quality and that detracts from anything you want to do on it. However, there is something in this phone that really surprised me.

Gaming is an unexpected strong point. The Lumia 530 seems perfectly capable of running even quite challenging games and I had no problems with a typical batch of casual titles like Subway Surfers and Tentacles: Enter the Mind.

You're obviously going to need a microSD card since there's less than 2GB free internally out of the box, but you do get 15GB of free cloud storage with OneDrive.

The microSD card I put in it from my Xperia Z2 had a few videos on it in MP4 format, which is apparently supported on the Lumia 530, but they wouldn't play for me. The audio worked, but the picture was scrambled.

I streamed The Usual Suspects from Netflix and it worked fine, but despite fast broadband being available and a Wi-Fi connection it was a low quality stream that kept pixelating.

The Netflix app is also pretty awful compared to its Android and iOS counterparts: for example, the genre tab was simply blank every time I flicked to it. I tried uninstalling the app and reinstalling it and the problem remained.

The sound comes from a single speaker on the back, so you have to be careful not to cover it if you want to use it. The quality is fairly tinny, about typical for a budget smartphone.

Nokia Lumia 530

This isn't an ideal media player phone, but the options are there

Nokia didn't bother to include earphones, which is to be expected with a budget device. To be honest most smartphones come with pretty horrible earphones anyway. Plug in a decent set of cans and the sound quality is vastly improved.

It's nice to find an FM radio app pre-installed. It's handy for when you're out of Wi-Fi range and don't want to use up data.

You can buy music, TV shows, or movies from Microsoft's Xbox Store via the pre-installed Music and Video apps. They work well if you know what you're looking for, not so great if you just fancy a browse, but the collection on offer seems to be pretty comprehensive.

You'll also find the MixRadio app, which offers free streaming with six skips an hour and helps you to create stations based on your favourite artists. It will keep playing when you quit out to do something else and you'll find controls on the lock screen.

It's not exactly Spotify, but there's no sign up or adverts, so it feels churlish to complain. Incidentally the Spotify app for Windows Phone 8.1 is actually pretty decent.