The Lumia 535 is the first device in the Lumia range to come without the Nokia brandname. And honestly, that has been a bit of a burden for it. For, everyone expects something unusual and special, and ah, un-Nokia, from it. “The first Microsoft phone” many whispered at its launch, blissfully forgetting about the unfortunate Kin One and Two, launched in 2010 (and discontinued a year later. That’s another story). Some even called it the Non-Nokia Lumia – a tad unfair when you consider that the phone comes with the same stack of apps and design ethos that defines the Lumia range.
And nomenclature aside, let’s get this dead straight – the 535 feels just like a Nokia Lumia device would. And no, we are not with the crowd that feels that Microsoft should have commenced its branding of the Lumia range with a ‘flagship’ (read “phone that costs above USD 500”). Just as we loved the fact that Windows Phone 8.1 was first launched on an affordable device (the Lumia 630), so do we like the fact that Microsoft went with a more mainstream device for its first ‘Microsoft Lumia.’
To get back to the look and feel of the device, as we said, the Lumia 535 is a chip off the old Lumia block. We have the green model, and considering its price segment, it manages to be a decent mix of style and substance. The front has the 5.0-inch 960 x 540 pixel display with the three Windows Phone touch buttons beneath it and yes, we do appreciate the irony that Microsoft now has a dedicated search button on its mobile OS while Google seems to have moved away from it. The front also features two of the three ‘5’s that Microsoft talked about while promoting the Lumia 535 – the 5.0-inch display and the 5MP front facing camera.
Move on to the back and you have the 5.0-megapixel camera with a flash on the upper part, and a small speaker grille on the lower part. And between these two lies the centre of attraction for many in the device – the Microsoft branding. Truth be told, it is reasonably low profile and printed rather than engraved. The back is glossy plastic, just as we saw in the Lumia 730, and curves outwards from the front. And yes, it can be pulled off, although it takes a bit of time to figure out from where: just below the micro USB port at the base of the device is the answer. The battery is removable. In fact, you will have to remove it to be able to insert SIM cards in the device (it is a dual SIM one). You will also have to remove the back cover to be able to access the expandable memory card slot, which lies above the SIM card slots and the battery.
The Lumias have never been known to be super slim – the flagship Lumia 930 is almost 10 mm thick – but at 8.8 mm, the 535 is trim without getting into wafer territory (the 730 was 8.7 mm thin). The volume and display buttons are on the right of the device, the top houses the 3.5 mm audio jack and at the base is the micro USB port. The left side of the device is plain.
The bezels have not been done away brutally but have been kept narrow enough so that even though the 535 has a display as large as that of the Asus ZenFone 5, it actually is smaller in length, width and thickness, and is almost the same weight (146 grammes against the 145 grammes of the Asus device). It is also smaller in length and thickness and lighter than the Moto G (second generation), although it is a tad wider. This is a device that will fit many hands a lot more comfortably than some of the 5.0-inch display ones that we have seen.
In terms of hardware, the Lumia 535 is definitely on the solid budget side – a 5.0-inch 960 x 540 display, a Qualcomm Snadpdragon 200 quad core processor clocked at 1.2 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 8 GB storage (expandable), the two 5.0-megapixel cameras, dual SIM connectivity and 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth connectivity. It does have a software ace up its sleeve, however: it comes with Windows Phone 8.1 with the Denim update, which comes with a few handy features, the most spectacular of which is access to Cortana. And yes, you have the usual flurry of apps that you see in Lumia devices – the Lumia camera app, Here maps, MixRadio and so on.
All in all, we like the look and feel of the Lumia 535. It is built on solid lines and its colors will turn heads. And our initial experience of the device has been decent so far, although we still cannot figure out why Microsoft could not have made access to the front facing camera easier (this is after all, being promoted as a ‘selfie’ camera device), and yes, we would have liked a dedicated camera button, something we really think is a must in most large screen devices. And yes, so far Cortana has not done a bad job of recognizing our voice either. The big test for the Lumia 535 will however come when it is compared to the likes of the Xiaomi Redmi Note and the Asus ZenFone 5, both of which are in the same price range (the Lumia 535 is priced at Rs 9199, the Redmi Note at Rs 8999 and the ZenFone 5 at Rs 9999) and come with their own software and hardware muscle. That will have to wait for a full review. Until then, what we definitely can say is that Microsoft has delivered its first Lumia. And it feels just as solid and looks as funky as a Nokia one.
And you know, that’s not a bad thing. That’s not a bad thing at all.