A curious development is afoot at Nokia. Having to compete with low-cost manufacturers and low-end Android phones, the company has had to make some changes in the way it positions its Windows Phone 8 smartphones too. Nokia’s solution, it would seem, is to launch a Lumia smartphone running Windows Phone 8 for every budget. And the result is the Lumia 520, a smartphone that defines the low-end category for Windows Phone 8. The 520 comes as a replacement for the Lumia 510, which was only launched last October.

The Lumia 520, which was announced at the Mobile World Congress on Monday, is now the most affordable WP8 handset out there and is priced at $180 (approx Rs 9500). That should immediately get the attention of users looking for a complete smartphone experience without exchanging big bucks for it.  However, it doesn’t have any direct competition at this price point, so drawing a comparison with another handset is hard.

The Lumia 520 isn’t going to win any specification battles any time soon, but it looks like a decent phone on paper. Here’s a breakdown of the key specifications of the phone.

OS – Windows Phone 8
On the software side of things, it’s heartening to see Windows Phone 8 in a low-end handset. Windows Phone 8 brings many changes to the OS, including a more impactful Start Screen with more information available at a glance. As we have seen, the new features do not add any lag to the experience. There is a clear focus on making the OS easy to use and quick to operate. The Windows Phone app store is also seeing a slight improvement in terms of the number of apps; Microsoft is making the OS more developer-friendly with the launch of the Windows Phone Dev Centre and its associated app, which allows app makers to track downloads, crashes and receive feedback on their Windows Phone handset itself.

The 4-inch screen comes with a WVGA resolution

The 4-inch screen comes with a WVGA resolution

Cellular connectivity – Surfing on 3G
The Lumia 520 is a 3G handset and supports download speeds up to 21Mbps. Besides this, there is GPRS and EDGE connectivity as well. The handset uses a Micro SIM for all cellular connectivity.

Display – Nothing great, but not bad
Despite being the lowest priced handset of the Lumia range, the 520 does not have a display all that bad. Nokia has fitted the handset with a 4-inch IPS LCD with a resolution of 800 x 480. That results in a pixel density of around 233 ppi. However, as we have seen on the Lumia 620 with its 3.8-inch screen, the Windows Phone 8 OS looks great and vibrant. The screen on the Lumia 520 is protected by a scratch-resistant glass.

Form factor – A true-blue Lumia
The Lumia 520 cannot be mistaken for any handset but a Nokia. It has all the design hallmarks we have seen in past handsets, but in a small package. At 9.9 mm in thickness, the Lumia 520 is quite a slim handset for its features. In fact, it is thinner than the Lumia 620. But this reduction in depth has also resulted in a taller handset – the phone measures nearly 120 mm in height and has a width of 64 mm. At 124 g, the Lumia 520 is not a heavy handset. Overall, from the pictures, we see a very well-built handset with a typically Nokia polycarbonate chassis. Another Nokia signature is the range of bright colours the phone will be available in; red, cyan, white, black and yellow are the options for potential buyers. These can be swapped around as well, but you will have to buy them all separately.

Wi-Fi – Dual-band support
The Lumia 520 brings support for Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless standards. A neat inclusion is the dual-band support, which should allow it to play nicely with 2.5GHz as well as the newer 5GHz frequency. Since it is a WP8 device, it will get the Wi-Fi hotspot feature, allowing users to share their phone’s cellular connection with other devices.

The different back panels can be swapped

The different back panels can be swapped

SoC – Qualcomm MSM8227 dual-core processor
Despite its low-end leanings, the Nokia Lumia 520 is powered by a decently fast processor. The Qualcomm MSM8227 CPU has two Krait cores ticking at 1GHz. This is the same processor powering the European HTC Windows Phone 8S. It is manufactured with a 28nm process, so it should deliver power efficiency without a performance compromise. That along with 512MB of RAM should be more than enough for problem-free surfing, viewing videos and playing games. The handset also has an Adreno 305 GPU coupled with the processor. The combination sounds ideal for low-end smartphones and performs capably when rendering graphics. We will be testing the real world performance of this combo when we get our hands on the Lumia 520.

Internal storage
The Lumia 520 has a healthy 8GB of storage on board with the option of further expanding it with a microSD card slot that supports cards up to 64GB.

Primary camera – Looks paltry on paper
The 5 megapixel autofocus camera on the Nokia Lumia 520 is nothing to write home about, at least on paper. Having no flash, we don’t expect any miracles when the lighting isn’t ideal. There is no secondary camera on the Lumia 520, which we guess was a decision made to keep the cost so deliciously low.

The 5MP camera on the back comes without a flash

The 5MP camera on the back comes without a flash

Sensors – Accelerometer, proximity
We would have liked to see a gyroscope and an ambient light sensor on the Lumia 520 besides the accelerometer and proximity sensor, but we reckon that their exclusion is explained again by the price. In any case, that won’t inhibit the phone’s functionality greatly.

GPS – Comes with GLONASS
Nokia has included GLONASS support along with Assisted GPS. Thanks to GLONASS, location lock times should be faster. Being a Nokia phone, the Lumia 520 will come with the Nokia HERE app that integrates maps, satellite view, navigation and local guides.

Battery – A sore point
This is one aspect that is quite disappointing. At just 1430 mAh, the battery on the Nokia Lumia 520 seems quite measly, especially when considering it has to provide enough juice for a dual-core processor and power a 4-inch display. Thankfully, the back cover of the phone is removable, so carrying an extra battery is an option. We will have to wait for further testing to see if an extra battery will become a necessity.

Here's a quick look at the Lumia 520

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The bottom line
At under Rs 10,000, the Lumia 520 will attract a lot of eyeballs as it brings a modern OS and decent processing power to the table along with the low cost. We would have wished to see a larger capacity battery in there and some more tricks in the camera department to really set it apart. However, we will reserve all judgements for our final review of the phone.

The Lumia 520 has quite a lot going for it like the dual-core processor, a smooth Windows Phone 8 experience and a compact screen with a decent resolution. If Nokia keeps the March 2013 availability schedule, the Lumia 520 could change Windows Phone 8’s standing in the market.

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