Microsoft Lumia 535 – First impressions of the latest budget Windows Phone

The Lumia 520 was in many ways just as iconic as the Lumia 920 but for very different reasons. The unassuming low-end device took the Windows Phone by storm, quickly becoming one of the top-selling devices ever for the fledgling OS. Fast forward to 2014 and low-end Windows Phones dominate the scene.

The Lumia 535 is the first Windows Phone with the Microsoft banner emblazoned across it instead of Nokia. The phone likely emerged during Nokia's tenure, but Microsoft is taking the credit on the packaging. Budget phones are tough to write about, but the Lumia 535 appears to get so much right when compared to the Lumia 530 and Lumia 635 it is hard to not get a little excited about it.

Let us not beat around the bush: the Lumia 535 should be the low-end device for Windows Phone. The Lumia 530 is not a bad phone per se it is just the 'value to dollar' ratio seems off, considering how much is omitted. The Lumia 635 is an outstanding device putting aside the ridiculous 512 MB RAM limitation and no front-facing camera. The Lumia 535 though hits all the right notes though and for most users on a budget it is the ideal phone.

Lumia 535 specifications

  • Single and dual-SIM variants
  • Windows Phone 8.1 (build 14192) with Lumia Denim
  • 5-inch IPS LCD (960 x 540), Gorilla Glass 3
  • 1.2 GHz quad-core processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 200
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 GB storage
  • Ambient light sensor
  • MicroSD card support (Up to 128 GB)
  • Removable 1905 mAh battery (13-hour talk-time)
  • 5MP rear camera with auto-focus and LED flash
  • 5MP front-facing fixed-focus camera
  • Six colors: green, orange, white, black, grey or cyan (swappable covers)

Coming in at just 146 grams and 8.8 mm thin, the Lumia 535 is the perfect weight and size for a 5-inch phone. It just feels outstanding in the hand with its curved edges and removable polycarbonate back. The specs also 'fix' everything that is wrong with the Lumia 530:

  • Larger, better display
  • More RAM to run all apps and games
  • Autofocus rear camera with a flash; a 5MP front-facing camera
  • More internal storage
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Double-tap-to-wake; audio equalizer, virtual surround for headphones

Even compared to the Lumia 635, the Lumia 535 edges it out in some areas (though the Lumia 635 has the enviable ClearBlack display and 4G LTE support).

Overall, the Lumia 535 brings a lot to the table and seemingly makes up for the odd Lumia 530 and the almost-perfect Lumia 635. At 5-inches, it is the ideal size for 2015 and just feels great to hold and use. For those in emerging markets where dual-SIM is preferred, the Lumia 535 even has that as an option. One issue I did notice was touch-sensitivity was a little low for my tastes, resulting in occasional mis-taps on the display.

Considering the price for the Lumia 535 should be between $130-160 off contract, depending on SIM configuration and regional taxes, it is a phone that Microsoft can be proud to put their name on. Throw LTE on this and release it in the States, and this phone could make a splash.

In conclusion, so far I am quite impressed with the Microsoft Lumia 535.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • +1520
  • -1520. I don't get why MS would remove the camera button on their own device. I thought the idea behind lifting that restriction was so that Android manufacturers could use the same hardware.
  • They dropped it from the Lumia 635 and the 730 as well, but kept it for the 830.  So it's a cost thing.  Going forward, it looks like less expensive Lumias won't have it, but higher-end Lumias will.
  • let them charge a dollar more and put that damn button.
  • I'm not sure but I think Microsoft said that only lumias with pureview tech will have dedicated camera button.
  • The 620 has it.. I think the best budget phone would be 620 with 1gb ram and maybe a 5mp front camera
  • if that my lumia 520 has a pureview ,, haha
  • The 520 and 620 came before the "specs" were relaxed.
  • Yeah... the 620 even has nfc and glance. It's basically fully featured except for wireless charging. After 620 they started removing features from low end phones... I really think it's more about creating more differentiation between models than cost. Screen size used to be the differentiator, but now they make large cheap phones, so they have to strip things away to make step up models. Loved that 620... great to have a smaller phone with all the "stuff" baked in.
  • For every model they stepped it up a bit 820/830, 720/730, 920/930, but with the 630 they stripped everything good the 620 has, even the 530 is slightly worse the the 520.
  • Not quite. I would not consider the 830 an upgrade for my 820. Just hoping the 835 comes out before end of Feb so I have an upgrade option when my contract expires.
  • How can you not consider 830 an upgrade? It has upgraded everything from SoC to screen (size, resolution) to camera (PureView, higher MP). Heck even the build has changed and added a metal frame for a more flagship feeling. It's the ideal device for me.
  • The problem is that in many ways it is just "barely" an upgrade. CPU is better at some things, slightly worse at others. GPU definitely seems a bit weaker. The metal is preferred by some, not by others. Same with screen size... most will prefer the slightly larger display. Camera is definitely a bit better. But for the most part... it's nearly neck and neck. For a device two years on, people expect it to be much faster. Don't get me wrong, I like the 830. But I do definitely think it should have a beefier processor.
  • Right. The APU is at best equivalent, but low power graphics is not an upgrade for me. The screen is only LCD and a few extra pixels does not make up for the loss of OLED. No mention of Glance on the features page, but I suppose with LCD it would be pointless anyway. The shell seems delicate, do they sell the robust shell option as with the 820? Can't see it mentioned. The only upgrades are to the camera (not really a big thing for me, hence why I have an 820) and the glass (supposedly, as my non-gorilla 820 has proven very sturdy so I doubt I'll need GG3 to resist my usage). Nothing to see here for the 820 owner. Heck, I'd rather buy an old 820 than a new 830. If I was given a free one it'd go to Ebay. I am waiting for the 835 to get the true upgrade. Really hanging out for some news on that one as an upgrade for the 820 is way past due now.
  • I own a 620 and the camera button is a blessing.
  • +720
  • This is the stuff that MS does that I will never understand. They are already struggling, why piss off their customers. The 53x should be better than the 52x in every way. Furthermore the Lumias specifically should stand out and above. The Xbox One suffers in this respect when compared to the 360. At least with the One its only a software problem, and being fixed every month. Is there an easy way to launch the camera, or is that something Android does better too?
  • Action center camera button. It's not too bad.
  • Perhaps they went all out with cheap on the 530 so that it could be sold at places like Best Buy for $35. Unbelievably cheap does sell phones. I thought it was only a weekend sale, but I looked and it's still only $35 as of Wednesday morning.
  • The MS has already said, Phones with "Pure View" will have the the camera button, and those that doesn't have the "Pure View" view won't, that the same matter of put the physical button or not, just for save money and make a cheapest phone
  • That Microsoft logo placement is too bad! I think it should be horizontal and on bottom of the phone
  • Yes and illuminated with MSFT colors when the phone is in use. Other than that it is nice to see only MSFT logo on Lumia devices.,
  • I don't like the logo, it looks crude and designed by a 2 yr old in ms paint as it is just 4 squares...
  • whats wrong with simplicity?
  • Nothing's wrong with simplicity, I was hoping they would use the windows logo like they did with the 1st gen Surface or just use "Lumia" in similar styling as the 2nd gen +. Right now it just doesn't fit with any of their previous windows hardware in terms of branding.
  • It fits with the way Nokia did theirs though, I guess they're just trying not to change too much too fast.
  • The problem with simplicity is that it's too simple.
  • I thought they would have gone with the same style logo as the start button, the tilted windows icon.  Still think Lumia would have been better on the front too, but each to their own! Does look like a good phone though, not sure I'm a fan of the green
  • You're right. It should be an indentation of Cortana's bossom. I could rub my fingers over it in my pocket _and know_ that I have the power of Bing and Azure in my pants. I'd be aroused and knowledgeable all day long. Halo chick FTW
  • Moron.
  • I agree. Going vertical on the back of the device just doesn't look as good as it could. I think if they did it the way Apple does it would look amazing. Microsoft logo on the back with the name "Lumia"  below would look amazing.
  • Then people would say they Microsoft copied Apple.
  • Well, that's pretty much how the Surface is, and I've never he