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August 8th 2014 11:25 am

How would you change Nokia's Lumia 520?

Like Samsung, Nokia’s smartphone strategy has always been focused around choice. Sometimes this results in products that are so very similar that it’s impossible to tell the difference. That’s not an issue with Nokia’s Lumia 520, the ultra-budget device that was totally swallowed in the shadow of the 620. Sharif Sakr swaddled the phone in derision, criticizing its poor performance, bad camera, unevenly-lit display and poor build quality. For many of you, we imagine you wound up getting this handset for price reasons alone, so the question that we have to ask is simple: what did you like, what did you hate, and what would you have changed?

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19 replies

It's really hard to critique this phone considering the price it runs but here is a few of my notes from owning it:

1. That plastic screen is not nearly as nice as a glass one could have been
2. Yeah it's camera wasn't stellar, Sharif isn't wrong
3. Could have used a slightly bigger battery

The thing is, instead of following up with a better phone, in my opinion the changes Nokia made (in terms of the 530, set to replace this one) is much much worse:

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I agree with you, and even though WP can run with only 520 megs on ram, i totally love that came with 1 gig of ram.
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1GB Ram would make this phone almost perfect.
To make it perfect (at this price point) a slightly better screen and a larger battery.
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I think most of comments below captures the sentiments, however, enlarging on the finish of the product, my power button stopped working after 3 months, which means I need to to use double tap to wake up the phone. I also notice that sometimes when it goes to sleep mode double tap is not working, and I have to press the camera button.

For a cheap phone it is hard to get it any better than this, it does at times respond a little slower than it's bigger Lumia brothers, but all in all it respons well, I think the addition of 512 MB would solve this. I lso impacts how fast it is to read large volumes of music to add it to the music app and how responsive the phone is to show information in that app, and do have a fast 64 GB Micro SD card in it.

The camera actually takes decent photos, but it would be nice to have an LED flash as well.

I also have to say those capacitive touch buttons annoy me, I especially touch the search button all the time when I put the phone into my pocket, I would love to be able to control when and how it responds.

The phone is great value for money, where will you ever find a phone that performs so well for that price. Navigation is great and works perfectly. It is a great phone for those who dont want to spend a lot and get a good intro to how well Windows phone works. A great backup phone for those who are more passionate about their smart phone. I bought it as a backup phone but now it is currently my main phone. While it gets me through the day, I do miss my 920.
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i got one for $59 and to be honest its nearly impossible to fault it at that price. I have several small kids and have thought about getting several and giving them each one. My only knock as it shipped was the inability to disable the capacitive buttons (kids have a habit of hitting them and jumping out of apps). I've heard 8.1 may allow something similar but, If I could disable those buttons, lock an app I'd like that. Finally I would've liked the ability to add NFC so my kids can tap various objects in my house and have the phone tell them what they are in various languages so my kids can explore and learn on their own.
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I got this phone for free by renewing my Vodafone contract. Having used this phone only casually and for navigation, until my Android phone broke down last month, here are a few of my notes:

1: @TgD That plastic screen is not nearly as nice as a glass one could have been.
This is true, the plastic screen is not as nice to touch and is not as clear and bright as gorilla glass. Camera is OK for this price.
2: The voice call quality is amazingly good. It is loud and clear and has an unbelievable presence, almost like from a good quality studio loudspeaker. The difference jumps out at you after getting used to the Android phone for almost 2 years.
3: GPS and Here Maps are in another league compared to Google. My brother uses a Galaxy S4 as co-driver and, comparing side by side, the Here Maps from 520 wins the overall experience hands down.
4: Everyday use: Multitasking is OK. I don't use the 520 for heavy multitasking or heavy web-browsing or games so haven't tested it to the limit yet. The worse problem is Windows 8 because I don't have any confidence in storing my contacts and calendar in the 520. Google cloud/drive keeps track of all my data and I don't have to worry about losing more than 1 week's data update when my new Android phone arrives. For 520 I probably will have to spend a lot more time restoring things should I lose it.
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The calendar/contacts are backed up to your Microsoft account; sign in with the same account into OneDrive/Windows 8 and you'll see them there.
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I have played that 'Synchronize your phone contacts with Outlook' game many times before. It is not nearly as simple and straightforward as Google Drive.

In fact, I am typing on my company laptop at the moment, and any new entries in Outlook 2013 Calendar always saved to 'This computer only'. When I go home this evening, my home PC will not get synchronized at all with my work computer. It will have a separate, 'This computer only' calendar for the Home PC.

The only thing that sync between work and home PC are the Inbox folders. I login to Outlook using the same email at work and at home by the way.

Going back to the 520, my 'Linked Inbox' does sync with all my email accounts. But why risk all your important contacts and calendar on a system that is complicated to setup, when you can have one Google account that is proven 100% works?
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I'm sorry, but I can't agree with your point on Here+. I liked it at first until I realized that I risked it getting purged from memory if I locked the phone. Things that I miss from Google Maps is live traffic, and labels on buildings when you zoomed in. The GPS radio locks on quickly though, that's a plus.
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Best $59 + $100 I've spent for a 128GB MP3 player ($100 for the 128GB SanDisk MicroSD card). It's also my backup phone if my iPhone goes on the fritz (I have an adapter to make the SIM fit).
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I own the Tmobile variant, the Lumia 521. It really IS an amazing phone for the price. I LOVE the speakerphone and the 2 stage camera button. And for such a low end, low memory phone, I don't think I could live without the SD card slot. There are 2 things I would like to see improved though. I've seen 2 hardware buttons go flaky. Also, the performance needs to be slightly better. It is sometimes frustratingly slow. Though I have seen improvement in the latest developer preview builds of WP8.1.
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Why doesn't Nokia/MS streamline their products?!?
Its so beneficial, especially with all the job cuts and financial burdens its transitioning through.

Product 1) Entry level, $99 unlocked
4inch 480p LCD, QSD 400 1.2GHz Quad, 512MB RAM, 8GB NAND, microSD, VGA ffc, 5MP rear cam, weak led flash, dualSIM+CDMA.

Product 2) Low-tier, $199 unlocked/$0 contract
4.2inch 540p LCD, QSD 400 1.6GHz Quad, 1GB RAM, 16GB NAND, microSD, 1.3MP ffc, 5MP rear, weak led flash, dualSIM+CDMA

Product 3) Medium tier, $299 unlocked/$99 contract
4.5inch 720p IPS, QSD 400 1.5GHz Dual, 1GB RAM, 16GB NAND, microSD, 1.3MP ffc, 8MP rear, led flash, 4G

Product 4) Flagship model, $599 unlocked/$199 contract
4.8inch 1080p IPS, QSD 800 2.0GHz Quad, 2GB RAM, 32GB NAND, SkyDrive, microSD, 2MP ffc, 20MP PureView + OIS + Xenon, 4G

Product 5) Luxury/phablet model, $749 unlocked/$249 contract
5.8inch 1080p IPS, QSD 800 2.3GHz Quad, 3GB RAM, 64GB NAND, SkyDrive, microSD, 5MP ffc, 40MP PureView + OIS + Xenon, 4G

As you move up in product category's the device gets:
-higher name, more sensors, larger battery, thinner, better feeling materials, higher quality parts (ie clearer loudspeaker etc etc)

Its so simple, yet the idea flys past MS and Nokia. Don't do a 1/2 device approach like Apple, but don't do a 500 model device approach like Samsung. And slowly upgrade specs across the whole board, doesn't matter if its not much better than last years... people who want to upgrade are more likely to upgrade base models than simply year models. And those that convert from Apple/Google would do so for the flagship/luxury models anyway.

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I paid $64 +tax for this phone and honestly, the ONLY thing I would've changed would be to add a simple LED so I could have a light at night.

Sure the performance is slow, the camera take mediocre pictures (better than my moto x I'd say), and the battery needs charged half way thru the day, but show me another phone this price (and I mean non commitment price you 2-year contractors!) that can get the latest os update within weeks of other high end hardware getting it.
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  • 1GB RAM
  • Glass screen
  • Symmetric square design with rounded corners
  • Smaller bezels
  • Remove logo from the front
  • $80
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For the price, it is one of the best phones you could buy. I have been using it for about a year now. it does the job very well. it is what a smart phone should be. camera is pretty good for the price, no other phone gives that good camera for that price, with the same non laggy user experience. I could play almost all games on that. I told almost all not so tech savvy people to buy lumia 520 and they are not regretting their decision.
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This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but:
Smaller. I consider 3.7in to be the perfect size screen for a pocketable device. Very easy to carry, can use the whole screen with one hand without problems. Almost nothing, certainly not Windows Phones, are made in this size any more.
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  1. Proximity Sensor - want to operate my cell when on a call, dont want the display to turn off on touch event
  2. Front camera
  3. Gorilla glass
  4. Redesigned outerside, currenlty very fragile...my display got broke easily once already
  5. Nothing more!
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The problems that I have with this phone are actually probably more problems that I have with the ecosystem itself. Cortana crashes, apps crash, or remove themselves from the recent app list, no true multitasking, showing all notifications from a single app in the pulldown instead of stacking them, no Google support, very few stable first party apps. The camera's not too great, and I would have liked a flash and a front facing camera. I get that it's a cheap phone, but a 2mp camera on front can't be that expensive.
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What did I like:
  • Windows 8.1
  • Elegant design
  • Good size
What did I hate:
  • Crashes
  • Sophisticated features, need to get used to them :D
  • The poor quality buttons
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