Tag Archives: Review

Send SMS with your Android smartphone from any device with EndlessJabber (Review)

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 8.12.19 PM

Send SMS with your Android smartphone from any device with EndlessJabber (Review) Reviewed by on Sep 1. Rating: 5

For years, one of the things I’ve always wanted was an easy way to be able to send text messages while on different devices, especially my laptop or desktop computer. This is one of the main reasons why services like Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts have always been my go to messenger services since I could just pickup where I left off chatting, whether I was on my desktop at work, laptop at home, tablet or my smartphone.

While I’ve tried a few apps in the past, none were perfect. One of the first that I remember trying many years ago was Koush’s DeskSMS, which to me, wasn’t as reliable and didn’t have as nice an interface as EndlessJabber does.

“To setup the app, it’s extremely simple. All you have to do is head to their website, www.endlessjabber.com, and click install, which will take you to Google Play where you can download the app on your Android smartphone. On your smartphone, go through the setup on the app, which the company says, “takes just 1 tap.” All you’re doing here is connecting the app to your Google account and granting the app access to your text messages, which will then sync all of your text messages to the app. Although they recommend using EvolveSMS from Klinker Apps, whom they partnered with, it works fine with other SMS apps, such as Google Hangouts, my default SMS app. With that done, all you need to do is go to www.endlessjabber.com/web on any other device and sign in to your Google account, then you can chat just as you would on your smartphone but through this web interface seen below.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 8.16.12 PMAll of the text messages on your device will show up when you head to the web interface. Besides just sending messages, you are able to attach photos from the current device you’re using to the SMS, view all your contacts on your smartphone, view a Gallery of photos you’ve been texted and view statistics such as how many texts you’re sending in a day, who you’re texting the most, etc. EndlessJabber will also tell you the current time and how much juice is left in your phone’s battery, just so you can be sure it doesn’t die on you.

The app is very well polished and I think the only issue I noticed is that emoticons didn’t always show up as pictures as they would on your smartphone. They would show up while accessing the web interface on Mozilla Firefox, but didn’t always show up in Google Chrome, although they were unique ones like beer mugs and fireworks. It would also be nice if you were able to access the gallery on your smartphone, but that’s not a deal breaker at all.

EndlessJabber also has a few extras that I wanted to mention. Along with the Android app and web interface, EndlessJabber also has Chrome and Firefox Extensions which will give you a notification whenever you receive a message so you don’t always have to be on that tab to see the messages you receive.

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 10.48.22 AM

One of the best things about the app is that it is free to use, unlike DeskSMS that was about $ 5 a year. Although I didn’t get to test it out, there is a paid version of the app, EndlessJabber Pro, that’s $ 1.99 a month after a free 7 day. It extends the experience with some “pro” features including JabberMode that enables you to instantly send and receive SMS messages by bypassing the free Google Cloud Messaging infrastructure, Search, so you can search for a specific text or bit of info you received, themes, the ability to schedule texts in advance to send at a later time, more analytics as well as XMPP integration to use it with other chat clients such as Pidgin and Trillian, among other features.

One last thing, EndlessJabber is currently seeking to raise funds through Kickstarter to help its app grow, since they are a small startup. Check out the campaign here.They note that funds from the campaign will be used to determine the appropriate marketing strategy to achieve their goals, find an appropriate marketing firm and execute on the marketing strategy. If you do decide to contribute, you can get nice rewards such as EndlessJabber Pro subscriptions, visibility on their site and social networks and even a t-shirt. Some of these rewards are pretty nice, especially since most will give you a discount on a pro subscription.

If EndlessJabber sounds like something you’ve been waiting for, don’t hesitate to check it out! If you need a little more help using EndlessJabber, here’s more info on their blog.


AndroidGuys

Test your luck in OMG! Fortune Free Slots (review)

omg-fortune-free-slots-dbb638-h900

Overall Score

4.75

Graphics

Variety

Gameplay

Value

Test your luck in OMG! Fortune Free Slots (review) Reviewed by on Sep 5. Rating: 5

If you love to gamble and are looking for a new casino game, you may want to check out OMG! Fortune Slots. It’s a new take on some older, more classic casino games like slots, scratch cards, BINGO, and Wheel of Fortune. With over 25 levels, let’s take a look to see if this game can become your new favorite pastime.

Interface

omg 2

OMG! Fortune Free Slots is incredibly bright and colorful. It’s filled with tons of animations that will keep you interested while you play. As much as we like the general interface of the app, we would change one thing about the app… how often it asks for real money. Every few minutes you’ll most likely be prompted with a change to invest in more coins. With daily deals and coin packages, the app is constantly reminding you that you have a change to buy more. It took away from the experience a tad, but nonetheless, the game relatively easy to navigate and move around.

Gameplay

OMG 1

You begin the game by entering the Lobby, where you can see all of your unlocked games. To begin, only one is available to you. If you work decently hard. the first few levels are a breeze. Around levels 6-7 is where we began having a bit of trouble completing the rounds on the first try. The aim of the game, obviously, is to rack up as much money as possible, all while completing daily, weekly, and monthly challenges. Also, with more than 25 unique levels to choose from, you won’t get bored very easily.

Each level has a bright and colorful theme that puts a fun twist on the classics – whimsical birds, Zodiac, city life, and more. As if the number of different games weren’t enough, they’ve also added a slew of mini games to be completed in between rounds.

What we like:

  • More than enough levels to keep you interested
  • Mini games add to the experience
  • Fun animations make the app great to view/navigate

What we would change:

  • Less-frequent reminders to buy coins with real money would make the experience much better

Would I recommend this app?

omg 3

If you love casino games, you’ll love this game, plain and simple. The fun animations make it one-of-a-kind, and for a free app, it makes the experience way better. Hit the download link below to start playing OMG! Fortune FREE Slots.


AndroidGuys

Test your luck in OMG! Fortune Free Slots (review)

omg-fortune-free-slots-dbb638-h900

Overall Score

4.75

Graphics

Variety

Gameplay

Value

Test your luck in OMG! Fortune Free Slots (review) Reviewed by on Sep 5. Rating: 5

If you love to gamble and are looking for a new casino game, you may want to check out OMG! Fortune Slots. It’s a new take on some older, more classic casino games like slots, scratch cards, BINGO, and Wheel of Fortune. With over 25 levels, let’s take a look to see if this game can become your new favorite pastime.

Interface

omg 2

OMG! Fortune Free Slots is incredibly bright and colorful. It’s filled with tons of animations that will keep you interested while you play. As much as we like the general interface of the app, we would change one thing about the app… how often it asks for real money. Every few minutes you’ll most likely be prompted with a change to invest in more coins. With daily deals and coin packages, the app is constantly reminding you that you have a change to buy more. It took away from the experience a tad, but nonetheless, the game relatively easy to navigate and move around.

Gameplay

OMG 1

You begin the game by entering the Lobby, where you can see all of your unlocked games. To begin, only one is available to you. If you work decently hard. the first few levels are a breeze. Around levels 6-7 is where we began having a bit of trouble completing the rounds on the first try. The aim of the game, obviously, is to rack up as much money as possible, all while completing daily, weekly, and monthly challenges. Also, with more than 25 unique levels to choose from, you won’t get bored very easily.

Each level has a bright and colorful theme that puts a fun twist on the classics – whimsical birds, Zodiac, city life, and more. As if the number of different games weren’t enough, they’ve also added a slew of mini games to be completed in between rounds.

What we like:

  • More than enough levels to keep you interested
  • Mini games add to the experience
  • Fun animations make the app great to view/navigate

What we would change:

  • Less-frequent reminders to buy coins with real money would make the experience much better

Would I recommend this app?

omg 3

If you love casino games, you’ll love this game, plain and simple. The fun animations make it one-of-a-kind, and for a free app, it makes the experience way better. Hit the download link below to start playing OMG! Fortune FREE Slots.


AndroidGuys

Review: Helidroid 3 : RC 3D Helicopter

Score:
78%

If you’re a fan of smartphones – or at least enough of a fan to be reading this – then the chances are that you like gadgets too, specifically radio-controlled gadgets. In a pretty good simulation, in ‘Helidroid 3 : RC 3D Helicopter’ you’re effectively left to play at home (with swimming pool, too!) and no interruptions, with three r/c helicopters and a variety of challenging ‘missions’ to accomplish. Easy to get started with, hard to master (in terms of time and stars), my only complaint here is that I’d like to see more variety and more missions.

Buy Link | Download / Information Link

One of the frustrations of radio controlled stuff in real life is that batteries don’t last very long – the ratio of playing to waiting is quite low. In ‘Helidroid 3 : RC 3D Helicopter’ every helicopter can fly forever and there are no recharging times. Happily there are no crashes either – with r/c planes and choppers it’s just so easy to hit a tree or (usually) the ground too hard and then it’s rebuild time. In this game, you fly and dodge and weave and hover and climb, with the only limits being that you can’t go far beyond the boundaries of the house and grounds.

Helidroid screenshot

The opening menu sets the scene. Your new play-house?

There’s still plenty to explore though, in terms of detail and furniture and textures, plus the radio control of the choppers is silky smooth. There are three options – simplified r/c with gyro stabilisation, which is what I used and works well, keeping the aircraft in check without too much spiralling out of control, plus an advanced ‘real’ set of controls and an accelerometer-based set, should you fancy either. 

Helidroid screenshot

These are the default ‘easy’ controls. Note the particle effects on the water surface from the rotor wash…

The goal of each mission is to achieve a specific task, flying a certain route or following another r/c aircraft, or picking up objects, even water from the swimming pool and then dropping/dispensing them as required. The pool is notable in that it’s the one thing you can crash into – submerging quickly and that’s the mission over.

Helidroid screenshot

Paid up (all of 79p!) and now playing my way through the full set of 18 missions….

Helidroid screenshot

Each mission is preceded by a 3D walkthrough, setting the scene and explaining what you have to accomplish…

As with many games based on levels, with different star ratings available, you can simply play through to try and ‘pass’, ignoring time and stars, or you can go back and retry levels to get a higher star score and faster time. ‘Helidroid 3 : RC 3D Helicopter’ helps here by explaining in the splash screen for each level what targets you need to hit in order to get each rating. For example, in one level you have to use a r/c Apache gunship (no, really) to clear a train track of targets before a toy train hits them and de-rails. Achieve this without using your machine gun (again, really), using rotor wash to blow the targets over in time, and you get three stars, muddle through with train de-railment damage being less than a certain quota and you get two, simply get the train to the end of the track and you have one star.

Helidroid screenshot

Stars are awarded intellgently and logically….

Helidroid screenshot

Taking a can (via the magnetic grab) over to the bin. Note the ‘release’ button – each copter type has a different action control…

The puzzle/star system is well pitched and, even after completing all 18 levels supplied, you can go back and retry levels in order to get three stars across the board – trust me, some of them are very hard indeed. Add in that all your r/c flying attempts are timed and there’s replay value in trying to beat a previous time too. 

It’s clear that the missions are all hand crafted and tuned (in terms of what you have to do, where objects and obstacles are placed, and so on), but the game hasn’t been updated since its launch in April, and I did note that many more (though different) missions are available in the previously released iOS and Android version, so presumably the Windows Phone version was something of an experiment and I’m hoping that the likes of this (mainly positive) review might generate enough interest on this platform that the developer might revisit the title and expand it.

The missions, such as they are, do contain some repetitions (e.g. flying through sequences of hoops, picking up magnetic cans), though at least the second time you encounter each style, the difficulty is ramped up.

Although largely glitch free, I did note one huge startup bug (knocking five points off the score above) – the game boots to a blank screen, after which the trick is to power the screen off and then unlock it again, after which the game proceeds normally. This would obviously have worked for the developer on release, so I can only assume that something in one of the Windows Phone platform updates has broken something under the hood. Something for the developer to attend to, and urgently – though at least you now know the trick. 

Helidroid screenshot

Flying through the 3D-rendered house….

The startup bug aside, this is a very pleasant, smooth and surprisingly addictive game on Windows Phone. The trial is very generous, offering half of the 18 missions – it took me about half an hour of gameplay to get through the first nine, and then it’s only a pound or so to buy/unlock the rest of the missions through the in-app-purchase in the Windows Phone Store. Another hour’s play got me most of the way through the 18, with only a couple that stumped me, though many missions weren’t exactly aced – see the replay comments above. Potentially, trying to get three stars across the board might mean dozens of hours of gameplay.

Helidroid screenshot

Only 79p in the UK, $ 1 in the USA, etc. Very good value!

Helidroid screenshot

Note the night lighting effects – here landing on the final pad…

One nice touch is that you don’t have to complete every mission in order to unlock the next one – there’s a couple of missions leeway, meaning that if you get stuck on one, you can still proceed with the rest of the game. Other developers, take note!

Helidroid screenshot

More star instructions, here gauging if you can put out a fire in the most efficient fashion!

Recommended if you have any affinity whatsoever for radio-controlled gadgets or indeed for real-world-based sims/puzzles.

Reviewed by at 18:10 UTC, September 1st 2014

Filed: > >

Platforms: Windows Phone 8
Categories: Games
 

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All About Windows Phone

Review: Helidroid 3 : RC 3D Helicopter

Score:
78%

If you’re a fan of smartphones – or at least enough of a fan to be reading this – then the chances are that you like gadgets too, specifically radio-controlled gadgets. In a pretty good simulation, in ‘Helidroid 3 : RC 3D Helicopter’ you’re effectively left to play at home (with swimming pool, too!) and no interruptions, with three r/c helicopters and a variety of challenging ‘missions’ to accomplish. Easy to get started with, hard to master (in terms of time and stars), my only complaint here is that I’d like to see more variety and more missions.

Buy Link | Download / Information Link

One of the frustrations of radio controlled stuff in real life is that batteries don’t last very long – the ratio of playing to waiting is quite low. In ‘Helidroid 3 : RC 3D Helicopter’ every helicopter can fly forever and there are no recharging times. Happily there are no crashes either – with r/c planes and choppers it’s just so easy to hit a tree or (usually) the ground too hard and then it’s rebuild time. In this game, you fly and dodge and weave and hover and climb, with the only limits being that you can’t go far beyond the boundaries of the house and grounds.

Helidroid screenshot

The opening menu sets the scene. Your new play-house?

There’s still plenty to explore though, in terms of detail and furniture and textures, plus the radio control of the choppers is silky smooth. There are three options – simplified r/c with gyro stabilisation, which is what I used and works well, keeping the aircraft in check without too much spiralling out of control, plus an advanced ‘real’ set of controls and an accelerometer-based set, should you fancy either. 

Helidroid screenshot

These are the default ‘easy’ controls. Note the particle effects on the water surface from the rotor wash…

The goal of each mission is to achieve a specific task, flying a certain route or following another r/c aircraft, or picking up objects, even water from the swimming pool and then dropping/dispensing them as required. The pool is notable in that it’s the one thing you can crash into – submerging quickly and that’s the mission over.

Helidroid screenshot

Paid up (all of 79p!) and now playing my way through the full set of 18 missions….

Helidroid screenshot

Each mission is preceded by a 3D walkthrough, setting the scene and explaining what you have to accomplish…

As with many games based on levels, with different star ratings available, you can simply play through to try and ‘pass’, ignoring time and stars, or you can go back and retry levels to get a higher star score and faster time. ‘Helidroid 3 : RC 3D Helicopter’ helps here by explaining in the splash screen for each level what targets you need to hit in order to get each rating. For example, in one level you have to use a r/c Apache gunship (no, really) to clear a train track of targets before a toy train hits them and de-rails. Achieve this without using your machine gun (again, really), using rotor wash to blow the targets over in time, and you get three stars, muddle through with train de-railment damage being less than a certain quota and you get two, simply get the train to the end of the track and you have one star.

Helidroid screenshot

Stars are awarded intellgently and logically….

Helidroid screenshot

Taking a can (via the magnetic grab) over to the bin. Note the ‘release’ button – each copter type has a different action control…

The puzzle/star system is well pitched and, even after completing all 18 levels supplied, you can go back and retry levels in order to get three stars across the board – trust me, some of them are very hard indeed. Add in that all your r/c flying attempts are timed and there’s replay value in trying to beat a previous time too. 

It’s clear that the missions are all hand crafted and tuned (in terms of what you have to do, where objects and obstacles are placed, and so on), but the game hasn’t been updated since its launch in April, and I did note that many more (though different) missions are available in the previously released iOS and Android version, so presumably the Windows Phone version was something of an experiment and I’m hoping that the likes of this (mainly positive) review might generate enough interest on this platform that the developer might revisit the title and expand it.

The missions, such as they are, do contain some repetitions (e.g. flying through sequences of hoops, picking up magnetic cans), though at least the second time you encounter each style, the difficulty is ramped up.

Although largely glitch free, I did note one huge startup bug (knocking five points off the score above) – the game boots to a blank screen, after which the trick is to power the screen off and then unlock it again, after which the game proceeds normally. This would obviously have worked for the developer on release, so I can only assume that something in one of the Windows Phone platform updates has broken something under the hood. Something for the developer to attend to, and urgently – though at least you now know the trick. 

Helidroid screenshot

Flying through the 3D-rendered house….

The startup bug aside, this is a very pleasant, smooth and surprisingly addictive game on Windows Phone. The trial is very generous, offering half of the 18 missions – it took me about half an hour of gameplay to get through the first nine, and then it’s only a pound or so to buy/unlock the rest of the missions through the in-app-purchase in the Windows Phone Store. Another hour’s play got me most of the way through the 18, with only a couple that stumped me, though many missions weren’t exactly aced – see the replay comments above. Potentially, trying to get three stars across the board might mean dozens of hours of gameplay.

Helidroid screenshot

Only 79p in the UK, $ 1 in the USA, etc. Very good value!

Helidroid screenshot

Note the night lighting effects – here landing on the final pad…

One nice touch is that you don’t have to complete every mission in order to unlock the next one – there’s a couple of missions leeway, meaning that if you get stuck on one, you can still proceed with the rest of the game. Other developers, take note!

Helidroid screenshot

More star instructions, here gauging if you can put out a fire in the most efficient fashion!

Recommended if you have any affinity whatsoever for radio-controlled gadgets or indeed for real-world-based sims/puzzles.

Reviewed by at 18:10 UTC, September 1st 2014

Filed: > >

Platforms: Windows Phone 8
Categories: Games
 

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.


All About Windows Phone

Review: Helidroid 3 : RC 3D Helicopter

Score:
78%

If you’re a fan of smartphones – or at least enough of a fan to be reading this – then the chances are that you like gadgets too, specifically radio-controlled gadgets. In a pretty good simulation, in ‘Helidroid 3 : RC 3D Helicopter’ you’re effectively left to play at home (with swimming pool, too!) and no interruptions, with three r/c helicopters and a variety of challenging ‘missions’ to accomplish. Easy to get started with, hard to master (in terms of time and stars), my only complaint here is that I’d like to see more variety and more missions.

Buy Link | Download / Information Link

One of the frustrations of radio controlled stuff in real life is that batteries don’t last very long – the ratio of playing to waiting is quite low. In ‘Helidroid 3 : RC 3D Helicopter’ every helicopter can fly forever and there are no recharging times. Happily there are no crashes either – with r/c planes and choppers it’s just so easy to hit a tree or (usually) the ground too hard and then it’s rebuild time. In this game, you fly and dodge and weave and hover and climb, with the only limits being that you can’t go far beyond the boundaries of the house and grounds.

Helidroid screenshot

The opening menu sets the scene. Your new play-house?

There’s still plenty to explore though, in terms of detail and furniture and textures, plus the radio control of the choppers is silky smooth. There are three options – simplified r/c with gyro stabilisation, which is what I used and works well, keeping the aircraft in check without too much spiralling out of control, plus an advanced ‘real’ set of controls and an accelerometer-based set, should you fancy either. 

Helidroid screenshot

These are the default ‘easy’ controls. Note the particle effects on the water surface from the rotor wash…

The goal of each mission is to achieve a specific task, flying a certain route or following another r/c aircraft, or picking up objects, even water from the swimming pool and then dropping/dispensing them as required. The pool is notable in that it’s the one thing you can crash into – submerging quickly and that’s the mission over.

Helidroid screenshot

Paid up (all of 79p!) and now playing my way through the full set of 18 missions….

Helidroid screenshot

Each mission is preceded by a 3D walkthrough, setting the scene and explaining what you have to accomplish…

As with many games based on levels, with different star ratings available, you can simply play through to try and ‘pass’, ignoring time and stars, or you can go back and retry levels to get a higher star score and faster time. ‘Helidroid 3 : RC 3D Helicopter’ helps here by explaining in the splash screen for each level what targets you need to hit in order to get each rating. For example, in one level you have to use a r/c Apache gunship (no, really) to clear a train track of targets before a toy train hits them and de-rails. Achieve this without using your machine gun (again, really), using rotor wash to blow the targets over in time, and you get three stars, muddle through with train de-railment damage being less than a certain quota and you get two, simply get the train to the end of the track and you have one star.

Helidroid screenshot

Stars are awarded intellgently and logically….

Helidroid screenshot

Taking a can (via the magnetic grab) over to the bin. Note the ‘release’ button – each copter type has a different action control…

The puzzle/star system is well pitched and, even after completing all 18 levels supplied, you can go back and retry levels in order to get three stars across the board – trust me, some of them are very hard indeed. Add in that all your r/c flying attempts are timed and there’s replay value in trying to beat a previous time too. 

It’s clear that the missions are all hand crafted and tuned (in terms of what you have to do, where objects and obstacles are placed, and so on), but the game hasn’t been updated since its launch in April, and I did note that many more (though different) missions are available in the previously released iOS and Android version, so presumably the Windows Phone version was something of an experiment and I’m hoping that the likes of this (mainly positive) review might generate enough interest on this platform that the developer might revisit the title and expand it.

The missions, such as they are, do contain some repetitions (e.g. flying through sequences of hoops, picking up magnetic cans), though at least the second time you encounter each style, the difficulty is ramped up.

Although largely glitch free, I did note one huge startup bug (knocking five points off the score above) – the game boots to a blank screen, after which the trick is to power the screen off and then unlock it again, after which the game proceeds normally. This would obviously have worked for the developer on release, so I can only assume that something in one of the Windows Phone platform updates has broken something under the hood. Something for the developer to attend to, and urgently – though at least you now know the trick. 

Helidroid screenshot

Flying through the 3D-rendered house….

The startup bug aside, this is a very pleasant, smooth and surprisingly addictive game on Windows Phone. The trial is very generous, offering half of the 18 missions – it took me about half an hour of gameplay to get through the first nine, and then it’s only a pound or so to buy/unlock the rest of the missions through the in-app-purchase in the Windows Phone Store. Another hour’s play got me most of the way through the 18, with only a couple that stumped me, though many missions weren’t exactly aced – see the replay comments above. Potentially, trying to get three stars across the board might mean dozens of hours of gameplay.

Helidroid screenshot

Only 79p in the UK, $ 1 in the USA, etc. Very good value!

Helidroid screenshot

Note the night lighting effects – here landing on the final pad…

One nice touch is that you don’t have to complete every mission in order to unlock the next one – there’s a couple of missions leeway, meaning that if you get stuck on one, you can still proceed with the rest of the game. Other developers, take note!

Helidroid screenshot

More star instructions, here gauging if you can put out a fire in the most efficient fashion!

Recommended if you have any affinity whatsoever for radio-controlled gadgets or indeed for real-world-based sims/puzzles.

Reviewed by at 18:10 UTC, September 1st 2014

Filed: > >

Platforms: Windows Phone 8
Categories: Games
 

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All About Windows Phone

Review: Nokia Lumia 530

Score:
72%

The Nokia Lumia 530 is here – and, showing the long time scales upon which phones are developed, there’s no mention of ‘Microsoft Mobile’ anywhere on the box – you actually have to remove the battery to see the first evidence of Microsoft’s involvement in the hardware. It’s the new bottom end of the Windows Phone range and in some ways it shows, but there’s still plenty of value for money for buyers.

After the release of the sub-£100 Lumia 630, I went on record as saying that the 630 was originally the 530 internally at Nokia and the model got bumped up a notch in the naming system at some point, so convinced was I that the 630 was the 520’s spiritual successor. It turns out that I was wrong – regardless of where the 630 sits, spiritually(!), the 530 is now the new bottom end of the Windows Phone range from Nokia/Microsoft, compromising intelligently in all but one case from the best selling 520’s specifications, in order to achieve a lowest street price of as low as £40 on pay-as-you-go in the UK, at launch, and no doubt regularly under £50 across the board as we get closer to Christmas.

Regardless of what negatives I might come up with below, it’s worth stopping to let the price sink in for a moment. Remember that all the Windows Phones now include full offline voice-guided sat-nav, full Office editing software, plus a smartphone UI that’s arguably more responsive than any other in the mobile world.

Lumia 530

The only flies in the ointment here come from competition within the Lumia range – last year’s 520 is just as cheap now, if you can find it, and offers a higher specification all round, while the newer 630 is as up to date as the 530 in terms of OS and chipset, but with much better display and camera. And, being controversial, I’d argue that the old Lumia 620 and 625 are even better than any of these, again for not much more money. Though ‘old’ is the operative word here, in that the 530 has a newer chipset and will be supported/available for longer.

But let’s consider the Lumia 530 on its own merits. it feels very solid in the hand, with display nicely centred in the front face and the body of the phone sitting in the usual ‘bucket’ shell for low end Lumias. The big advantages are that different colours can be used for these, even swapped day to day if desired, plus there’s the possibility of having a replaceable battery (not always a sure thing, as the 625 showed, though) and easy microSD and SIM access without having to deal with side-loading trays.

One normal disadvantage is that the solidity of the phone suffers from this two part approach, but the Lumia 530 is very solid indeed, with no creaks or uncertainties whatsoever. The front glass isn’t Gorilla Glass (so that’s the first design compromise driven by the build cost), but is smooth enough to use and I thought I detected an oleophobic coating – it’s certainly less sticky than the 520’s screen. 

Lumia 530 buttons

The three side buttons (volume up/down, lock/power) are part of the shell and obviously perfectly colour matched. The ‘bucket’ here is nicely curved, matching the typical human hand very well – contrast this with sharp edges on the Lumia 520 and 630, for example. The camera on the rear has a slightly raised edge, protruding beyond the plastic shell, ensuring that putting the phone down on a dirty surface shouldn’t pollute the camera glass too much.

Lumia 530 back

Getting the back shell off isn’t trivial – you either use strong nails or push on the camera glass (and then remember to wipe the latter later!) – but reveals a standard BL-5J battery (the same as in the 520) and microSD and microSIM bays – inserting anything into either of these means removing the battery. Which isn’t a massive problem but do note that a further cost cutting measure on the Lumia 530 means that there’s no ultra capacitor onboard to keep the system clock going in the meantime. So, after perhaps putting in a new microSD, you have to manually set data and time. Or, at the very least, check that this comes across OK from your mobile network.

Lumia 530 inside

None of this will be an issue to the target buyer, of course. Most newcomers to smartphones and non-geeks are rarely aware if their phone even has a microSD card and most are oblivious to the fact that SIM cards can be taken out of phones!

Lumia 530 lockscreen

Turning the Lumia 530 on and going through the usual Windows Phone 8 set-up sequence (account, wi-fi, and so on), it’s evident that the 530 has the first generation virtual controls (back, Start, search), with no way to swipe away the navigation bar. As things stand, the 4″ screen is thus reduced down to 3.93″ all the time, though it’s very likely that a firmware update in the near future (probably to ‘WP 8.1 Update 1’) will enable this navigation bar to be hidden and then swiped up again later, when needed.

The flexibility of having a software-filled navigation bar is partly used here, in that the icons rotate as you rotate the handset, so that they’re always ‘right way up’, but without a way to hide them altogether, the current experience is a little frustrating. At least there options in Settings to set the background colour or to make the nav bar transparent – in practice this rarely worked as I thought it should, but there’s zero point in getting upset because this functionality is all going to be improved shortly anyway.

The next – and biggest – compromise for the sake of build cost has been to use a cheap TFT display rather than the IPS panels on the likes of the Lumia 520 and 630 (the latter with an additional ClearBlack Display-lite linear polariser, itself a far cry from the full CBD circular polarisers seen on the top end and mid range models). Indoors, for casual use, this isn’t an issue, with content on screen being clear and crisp enough (FWVGA, so 854 by 480 pixels, with RGB pixel layout), albeit with some ‘tearing’ as content is swiped around (no ‘PureMotion’ enhancements here, and quite a slow screen refresh rate).

The problems come when you venture outdoors, with the reflectivity of the plain glass and the relative lack of power of the TFT panel being more of an issue. With the brightness set manually to ‘High’ (in yet another compromise for the recent low end Lumias, there’s no ambient light sensor, so everything’s under manual control), the 530 is workable outdoors in all but direct sunlight. However, when the sun’s out and you want to be enjoying the fresh air and perhaps taking a few photos of family and friends, the screen is at its hardest to see, making framing snaps harder than it should be. Sometimes it’s even hard to see the shutter firing icon. And no, there’s no physical shutter button either, in common with many other low end devices now.

Lumia 530 sunlight visibility

From left to right, Lumia 530, 630, 920. ‘Plain glass TFT’ vs ‘IPS LCD with ClearBlack Display ‘lite’ linear polariser’ vs ‘IPS LCD with ClearBlack Display circular polarisers’…. In truth, the 630’s screen looks to fare well here, though other angles reveal the truth.

Particularly interesting on the imaging front is that Nokia has gone for a 5MP fixed-focus camera, rather than the 520’s auto-focus component. Now, as a photography purist I should be horrified, but in exactly the same way as I felt for EDoF back in the day (2008 era Nokia), for the market demographic who will be picking up the Lumia 530, i.e. ‘normobs’ with very little photographic ambition in the grand scheme of things, a really good fixed focus camera might actually do a better job than an auto-focus one. After all, how many of us have seen people struggling with blurry out-of-focus images on their cheap smartphones? Usually because they assumed the shot was taken when actually the software was still focussing, and so moved too early. With a fixed focus camera unit, the user just points and taps and they’re done. Zero focussing delay, zero things to go wrong.

The proof is in the pudding, of course. Now, we’re still only talking about a smallish 1/4″ sensor and no doubt little expense has been lavished on maximising image quality at any stage, but even so the results are pretty good for a smartphone retailing at the very bottom of the price spectrum. The depth of field, in good light, is from about 30cm to (effectively) infinity. As light levels drop, the depth of field reduces, of course, with distinct blurring at the distance end of the scale.

Here are some Lumia 530 camera samples, click on each to download the original JPG for your own analysis:

Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download

With depth of field that’s as reasonable as this, one has to wonder why Nokia bothered with the whole ‘EDoF’ experiment in 2008/9… Even moderate macros (e.g. the budlea flower above left and the guinea pig below left) come out quite acceptably.

Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download

On the right, a real low light shot, it was pretty dark, as you can see by the shop lights. In fact, the supplied Nokia Camera application would let me shoot more realistically – this was just on defaults….

Of extra note is that, as on the Lumia 630 and 520, there’s no LED flash. The thinking is that LED-lit snaps on such low end camera hardware wouldn’t be enough to produce great results, so why bother, but it’s a shame that ‘torch’ functionality is not then possible – there are many such utilities in the Windows Phone Store that make use of a LED flash component in this way.

Video capture is at 480p, i.e. the same vertical resolution as the Lumia 530’s screen. So something of a bare minimum that works well when played back on the phone, but it’s obviously going to look blocky and sub-optimal on even the most modest desktop and TV panels. Happily, most target users will never do this, so 480p is one of the compromises that makes sense here.

Again I have to emphasise that the display deficiencies mentioned above also come back to bite the user when taking photos or videos outdoors, since it’s very hard to see the interface itself or indeed the subject, i.e. what’s being photographed. Especially given that conventional wisdom is that the sun should be roughly behind you when snapping a subject, exactly the conditions under which it’s hard for the TFT screen to be visible.

Other components have been well chosen too – the mono speaker in the 530 is very loud, just as in many other budget Nokias. Fidelity may not be top notch, but podcasts, speakerphone, sat-nav instructions are all very loud and very clear. The one design gotcha is that the speaker is set to output through a small hole in the back cover, a hole that it’s way too easy to block, with the palm of your hand or by putting the Lumia 530 back-down on a flat and/or soft surface.

As with the 520 and indeed the more expensive Lumia 630, the front facing camera is eschewed in the 530 – which makes no sense, in today’s selfie-obsessed world and with Skype video calling built so tightly into Windows Phone nowadays. All very strange, surely a cheap FFC would only add a dollar to the build cost?

I mentioned the lack of an ambient light sensor above already – also missing is a proximity sensor, so there’s no auto-shutoff of the display when you hold the Lumia 530 up near your face to take a call. Nokia/Microsoft has thought of possible issues though, with a software optimisation detecting unintentional face contact with the screen and turning the display off while contact is maintained.

As a Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone, the pros and cons of the marque are well known to AAWP readers. 8.1 isn’t perfect, but it’s a smooth UI that’s hard to bring down, especially for inexperienced newcomers to smartphones, those who wouldn’t know their multitasking from their location tagging. With the OS stepping in at every stage to make sure things keep moving, even with 512MB of RAM there’s just no slowdown, whatever applications or web pages you hit the phone with.

It’s true that there are some games which still require 1GB RAM, but these shouldn’t appear in the Store for devices like the Lumia 530 and so new users shouldn’t be confused. 

Internal storage capacity is just 4GB, with 1GB free out of the box, untenable (as on the HTC 8S) in the pre-Windows Phone 8.1 age, but add a meaty microSD (16GB or 32GB are now very cheap indeed) and all downloads and installs happen on the extra silicon. No card is supplied in the box, which is a shame, as it will require some extra buying effort on the part of the new user. I can’t help but wonder why a trivial 4GB card (under a dollar now?) wasn’t included in the package – or at the very least a piece of paper saying ‘Your phone requires a microSD card if you want to do stuff!’

Battery life was splendid here, helped enormously by both the efficiency of Windows Phone 8.1 and the relatively small screen limiting the ambition of which applications were used day to day. With what amounts to a sub-4″ display, lengthy web browsing and social network sessions are unlikely, with the fixed focus and low-res video capture camera, this is unlikely to be called on that often too, and the biggest power drain overall for the target market will probably be games. 

Lumia 530

Verdict

As I was writing this review, news came of the first sub-£40 pay-as-you-go offers on the Lumia 530 in the UK. It seems that pricing breakthroughs are where the Lumia 530 is at – and will continue to be. Sub-£50 Android phones are uniformly horribly built and specified, so the Lumia 530 seems to have the bottom end of the market well and truly sewn up, with only a few compromises mentioned above (display, chiefly, plus the lack of a front facing camera) perhaps available to irritate.

The Lumia 530’s main competition sits at a slightly higher price point – the Motorola Moto E, for example, at £80 or so, with very similar specifications (a very slightly higher resolution screen and auto-focus camera are the main differences) and Android 4.4 on board. You could argue a winner between this and the 530 for a long time and not get anywhere – it’s as much a choice of which OS, UI and ecosystem someone wants to join.

At (say) £40 or £50 on PAYG (in the UK) and a nominal £7/month on contract, the Lumia 530 is pretty much unbeatable. And, despite the lack of Gorilla Glass, it’s also pretty durable, with the solid plastic build, plus the front face protected by a thin ridge of black plastic that goes all the way around the screen. So – add it all up: low cost, durable, an OS that’s hard to abuse, good for casual gaming, colourful back cover options. This is the perfect first smartphone for a kid or teenager, say anyone under 14, in Western markets.

The sheer number of compromises in the 530’s specifications had me predisposed to dislike it, but the cheerful colour and easy replaceability won me over. Not for myself to use, or any other AAWP readers personally, but I’ll bet you can think of at least one person in your family tree for whom the 530 will be absolutely perfect.

Reviewed by at 6:47 UTC, August 31st 2014

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All About Windows Phone

Review: Nokia Lumia 530

Score:
72%

The Nokia Lumia 530 is here – and, showing the long time scales upon which phones are developed, there’s no mention of ‘Microsoft Mobile’ anywhere on the box – you actually have to remove the battery to see the first evidence of Microsoft’s involvement in the hardware. It’s the new bottom end of the Windows Phone range and in some ways it shows, but there’s still plenty of value for money for buyers.

After the release of the sub-£100 Lumia 630, I went on record as saying that the 630 was originally the 530 internally at Nokia and the model got bumped up a notch in the naming system at some point, so convinced was I that the 630 was the 520’s spiritual successor. It turns out that I was wrong – regardless of where the 630 sits, spiritually(!), the 530 is now the new bottom end of the Windows Phone range from Nokia/Microsoft, compromising intelligently in all but one case from the best selling 520’s specifications, in order to achieve a lowest street price of as low as £40 on pay-as-you-go in the UK, at launch, and no doubt regularly under £50 across the board as we get closer to Christmas.

Regardless of what negatives I might come up with below, it’s worth stopping to let the price sink in for a moment. Remember that all the Windows Phones now include full offline voice-guided sat-nav, full Office editing software, plus a smartphone UI that’s arguably more responsive than any other in the mobile world.

Lumia 530

The only flies in the ointment here come from competition within the Lumia range – last year’s 520 is just as cheap now, if you can find it, and offers a higher specification all round, while the newer 630 is as up to date as the 530 in terms of OS and chipset, but with much better display and camera. And, being controversial, I’d argue that the old Lumia 620 and 625 are even better than any of these, again for not much more money. Though ‘old’ is the operative word here, in that the 530 has a newer chipset and will be supported/available for longer.

But let’s consider the Lumia 530 on its own merits. it feels very solid in the hand, with display nicely centred in the front face and the body of the phone sitting in the usual ‘bucket’ shell for low end Lumias. The big advantages are that different colours can be used for these, even swapped day to day if desired, plus there’s the possibility of having a replaceable battery (not always a sure thing, as the 625 showed, though) and easy microSD and SIM access without having to deal with side-loading trays.

One normal disadvantage is that the solidity of the phone suffers from this two part approach, but the Lumia 530 is very solid indeed, with no creaks or uncertainties whatsoever. The front glass isn’t Gorilla Glass (so that’s the first design compromise driven by the build cost), but is smooth enough to use and I thought I detected an oleophobic coating – it’s certainly less sticky than the 520’s screen. 

Lumia 530 buttons

The three side buttons (volume up/down, lock/power) are part of the shell and obviously perfectly colour matched. The ‘bucket’ here is nicely curved, matching the typical human hand very well – contrast this with sharp edges on the Lumia 520 and 630, for example. The camera on the rear has a slightly raised edge, protruding beyond the plastic shell, ensuring that putting the phone down on a dirty surface shouldn’t pollute the camera glass too much.

Lumia 530 back

Getting the back shell off isn’t trivial – you either use strong nails or push on the camera glass (and then remember to wipe the latter later!) – but reveals a standard BL-5J battery (the same as in the 520) and microSD and microSIM bays – inserting anything into either of these means removing the battery. Which isn’t a massive problem but do note that a further cost cutting measure on the Lumia 530 means that there’s no ultra capacitor onboard to keep the system clock going in the meantime. So, after perhaps putting in a new microSD, you have to manually set data and time. Or, at the very least, check that this comes across OK from your mobile network.

Lumia 530 inside

None of this will be an issue to the target buyer, of course. Most newcomers to smartphones and non-geeks are rarely aware if their phone even has a microSD card and most are oblivious to the fact that SIM cards can be taken out of phones!

Lumia 530 lockscreen

Turning the Lumia 530 on and going through the usual Windows Phone 8 set-up sequence (account, wi-fi, and so on), it’s evident that the 530 has the first generation virtual controls (back, Start, search), with no way to swipe away the navigation bar. As things stand, the 4″ screen is thus reduced down to 3.93″ all the time, though it’s very likely that a firmware update in the near future (probably to ‘WP 8.1 Update 1’) will enable this navigation bar to be hidden and then swiped up again later, when needed.

The flexibility of having a software-filled navigation bar is partly used here, in that the icons rotate as you rotate the handset, so that they’re always ‘right way up’, but without a way to hide them altogether, the current experience is a little frustrating. At least there options in Settings to set the background colour or to make the nav bar transparent – in practice this rarely worked as I thought it should, but there’s zero point in getting upset because this functionality is all going to be improved shortly anyway.

The next – and biggest – compromise for the sake of build cost has been to use a cheap TFT display rather than the IPS panels on the likes of the Lumia 520 and 630 (the latter with an additional ClearBlack Display-lite linear polariser, itself a far cry from the full CBD circular polarisers seen on the top end and mid range models). Indoors, for casual use, this isn’t an issue, with content on screen being clear and crisp enough (FWVGA, so 854 by 480 pixels, with RGB pixel layout), albeit with some ‘tearing’ as content is swiped around (no ‘PureMotion’ enhancements here, and quite a slow screen refresh rate).

The problems come when you venture outdoors, with the reflectivity of the plain glass and the relative lack of power of the TFT panel being more of an issue. With the brightness set manually to ‘High’ (in yet another compromise for the recent low end Lumias, there’s no ambient light sensor, so everything’s under manual control), the 530 is workable outdoors in all but direct sunlight. However, when the sun’s out and you want to be enjoying the fresh air and perhaps taking a few photos of family and friends, the screen is at its hardest to see, making framing snaps harder than it should be. Sometimes it’s even hard to see the shutter firing icon. And no, there’s no physical shutter button either, in common with many other low end devices now.

Lumia 530 sunlight visibility

From left to right, Lumia 530, 630, 920. ‘Plain glass TFT’ vs ‘IPS LCD with ClearBlack Display ‘lite’ linear polariser’ vs ‘IPS LCD with ClearBlack Display circular polarisers’…. In truth, the 630’s screen looks to fare well here, though other angles reveal the truth.

Particularly interesting on the imaging front is that Nokia has gone for a 5MP fixed-focus camera, rather than the 520’s auto-focus component. Now, as a photography purist I should be horrified, but in exactly the same way as I felt for EDoF back in the day (2008 era Nokia), for the market demographic who will be picking up the Lumia 530, i.e. ‘normobs’ with very little photographic ambition in the grand scheme of things, a really good fixed focus camera might actually do a better job than an auto-focus one. After all, how many of us have seen people struggling with blurry out-of-focus images on their cheap smartphones? Usually because they assumed the shot was taken when actually the software was still focussing, and so moved too early. With a fixed focus camera unit, the user just points and taps and they’re done. Zero focussing delay, zero things to go wrong.

The proof is in the pudding, of course. Now, we’re still only talking about a smallish 1/4″ sensor and no doubt little expense has been lavished on maximising image quality at any stage, but even so the results are pretty good for a smartphone retailing at the very bottom of the price spectrum. The depth of field, in good light, is from about 30cm to (effectively) infinity. As light levels drop, the depth of field reduces, of course, with distinct blurring at the distance end of the scale.

Here are some Lumia 530 camera samples, click on each to download the original JPG for your own analysis:

Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download

With depth of field that’s as reasonable as this, one has to wonder why Nokia bothered with the whole ‘EDoF’ experiment in 2008/9… Even moderate macros (e.g. the budlea flower above left and the guinea pig below left) come out quite acceptably.

Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download

On the right, a real low light shot, it was pretty dark, as you can see by the shop lights. In fact, the supplied Nokia Camera application would let me shoot more realistically – this was just on defaults….

Of extra note is that, as on the Lumia 630 and 520, there’s no LED flash. The thinking is that LED-lit snaps on such low end camera hardware wouldn’t be enough to produce great results, so why bother, but it’s a shame that ‘torch’ functionality is not then possible – there are many such utilities in the Windows Phone Store that make use of a LED flash component in this way.

Video capture is at 480p, i.e. the same vertical resolution as the Lumia 530’s screen. So something of a bare minimum that works well when played back on the phone, but it’s obviously going to look blocky and sub-optimal on even the most modest desktop and TV panels. Happily, most target users will never do this, so 480p is one of the compromises that makes sense here.

Again I have to emphasise that the display deficiencies mentioned above also come back to bite the user when taking photos or videos outdoors, since it’s very hard to see the interface itself or indeed the subject, i.e. what’s being photographed. Especially given that conventional wisdom is that the sun should be roughly behind you when snapping a subject, exactly the conditions under which it’s hard for the TFT screen to be visible.

Other components have been well chosen too – the mono speaker in the 530 is very loud, just as in many other budget Nokias. Fidelity may not be top notch, but podcasts, speakerphone, sat-nav instructions are all very loud and very clear. The one design gotcha is that the speaker is set to output through a small hole in the back cover, a hole that it’s way too easy to block, with the palm of your hand or by putting the Lumia 530 back-down on a flat and/or soft surface.

As with the 520 and indeed the more expensive Lumia 630, the front facing camera is eschewed in the 530 – which makes no sense, in today’s selfie-obsessed world and with Skype video calling built so tightly into Windows Phone nowadays. All very strange, surely a cheap FFC would only add a dollar to the build cost?

I mentioned the lack of an ambient light sensor above already – also missing is a proximity sensor, so there’s no auto-shutoff of the display when you hold the Lumia 530 up near your face to take a call. Nokia/Microsoft has thought of possible issues though, with a software optimisation detecting unintentional face contact with the screen and turning the display off while contact is maintained.

As a Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone, the pros and cons of the marque are well known to AAWP readers. 8.1 isn’t perfect, but it’s a smooth UI that’s hard to bring down, especially for inexperienced newcomers to smartphones, those who wouldn’t know their multitasking from their location tagging. With the OS stepping in at every stage to make sure things keep moving, even with 512MB of RAM there’s just no slowdown, whatever applications or web pages you hit the phone with.

It’s true that there are some games which still require 1GB RAM, but these shouldn’t appear in the Store for devices like the Lumia 530 and so new users shouldn’t be confused. 

Internal storage capacity is just 4GB, with 1GB free out of the box, untenable (as on the HTC 8S) in the pre-Windows Phone 8.1 age, but add a meaty microSD (16GB or 32GB are now very cheap indeed) and all downloads and installs happen on the extra silicon. No card is supplied in the box, which is a shame, as it will require some extra buying effort on the part of the new user. I can’t help but wonder why a trivial 4GB card (under a dollar now?) wasn’t included in the package – or at the very least a piece of paper saying ‘Your phone requires a microSD card if you want to do stuff!’

Battery life was splendid here, helped enormously by both the efficiency of Windows Phone 8.1 and the relatively small screen limiting the ambition of which applications were used day to day. With what amounts to a sub-4″ display, lengthy web browsing and social network sessions are unlikely, with the fixed focus and low-res video capture camera, this is unlikely to be called on that often too, and the biggest power drain overall for the target market will probably be games. 

Lumia 530

Verdict

As I was writing this review, news came of the first sub-£40 pay-as-you-go offers on the Lumia 530 in the UK. It seems that pricing breakthroughs are where the Lumia 530 is at – and will continue to be. Sub-£50 Android phones are uniformly horribly built and specified, so the Lumia 530 seems to have the bottom end of the market well and truly sewn up, with only a few compromises mentioned above (display, chiefly, plus the lack of a front facing camera) perhaps available to irritate.

The Lumia 530’s main competition sits at a slightly higher price point – the Motorola Moto E, for example, at £80 or so, with very similar specifications (a very slightly higher resolution screen and auto-focus camera are the main differences) and Android 4.4 on board. You could argue a winner between this and the 530 for a long time and not get anywhere – it’s as much a choice of which OS, UI and ecosystem someone wants to join.

At (say) £40 or £50 on PAYG (in the UK) and a nominal £7/month on contract, the Lumia 530 is pretty much unbeatable. And, despite the lack of Gorilla Glass, it’s also pretty durable, with the solid plastic build, plus the front face protected by a thin ridge of black plastic that goes all the way around the screen. So – add it all up: low cost, durable, an OS that’s hard to abuse, good for casual gaming, colourful back cover options. This is the perfect first smartphone for a kid or teenager, say anyone under 14, in Western markets.

The sheer number of compromises in the 530’s specifications had me predisposed to dislike it, but the cheerful colour and easy replaceability won me over. Not for myself to use, or any other AAWP readers personally, but I’ll bet you can think of at least one person in your family tree for whom the 530 will be absolutely perfect.

Reviewed by at 6:47 UTC, August 31st 2014

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Platforms: Windows Phone 8
Categories: Hardware
 

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All About Windows Phone

Review: Nokia Lumia 530

Score:
72%

The Nokia Lumia 530 is here – and, showing the long time scales upon which phones are developed, there’s no mention of ‘Microsoft Mobile’ anywhere on the box – you actually have to remove the battery to see the first evidence of Microsoft’s involvement in the hardware. It’s the new bottom end of the Windows Phone range and in some ways it shows, but there’s still plenty of value for money for buyers.

After the release of the sub-£100 Lumia 630, I went on record as saying that the 630 was originally the 530 internally at Nokia and the model got bumped up a notch in the naming system at some point, so convinced was I that the 630 was the 520’s spiritual successor. It turns out that I was wrong – regardless of where the 630 sits, spiritually(!), the 530 is now the new bottom end of the Windows Phone range from Nokia/Microsoft, compromising intelligently in all but one case from the best selling 520’s specifications, in order to achieve a lowest street price of as low as £40 on pay-as-you-go in the UK, at launch, and no doubt regularly under £50 across the board as we get closer to Christmas.

Regardless of what negatives I might come up with below, it’s worth stopping to let the price sink in for a moment. Remember that all the Windows Phones now include full offline voice-guided sat-nav, full Office editing software, plus a smartphone UI that’s arguably more responsive than any other in the mobile world.

Lumia 530

The only flies in the ointment here come from competition within the Lumia range – last year’s 520 is just as cheap now, if you can find it, and offers a higher specification all round, while the newer 630 is as up to date as the 530 in terms of OS and chipset, but with much better display and camera. And, being controversial, I’d argue that the old Lumia 620 and 625 are even better than any of these, again for not much more money. Though ‘old’ is the operative word here, in that the 530 has a newer chipset and will be supported/available for longer.

But let’s consider the Lumia 530 on its own merits. it feels very solid in the hand, with display nicely centred in the front face and the body of the phone sitting in the usual ‘bucket’ shell for low end Lumias. The big advantages are that different colours can be used for these, even swapped day to day if desired, plus there’s the possibility of having a replaceable battery (not always a sure thing, as the 625 showed, though) and easy microSD and SIM access without having to deal with side-loading trays.

One normal disadvantage is that the solidity of the phone suffers from this two part approach, but the Lumia 530 is very solid indeed, with no creaks or uncertainties whatsoever. The front glass isn’t Gorilla Glass (so that’s the first design compromise driven by the build cost), but is smooth enough to use and I thought I detected an oleophobic coating – it’s certainly less sticky than the 520’s screen. 

Lumia 530 buttons

The three side buttons (volume up/down, lock/power) are part of the shell and obviously perfectly colour matched. The ‘bucket’ here is nicely curved, matching the typical human hand very well – contrast this with sharp edges on the Lumia 520 and 630, for example. The camera on the rear has a slightly raised edge, protruding beyond the plastic shell, ensuring that putting the phone down on a dirty surface shouldn’t pollute the camera glass too much.

Lumia 530 back

Getting the back shell off isn’t trivial – you either use strong nails or push on the camera glass (and then remember to wipe the latter later!) – but reveals a standard BL-5J battery (the same as in the 520) and microSD and microSIM bays – inserting anything into either of these means removing the battery. Which isn’t a massive problem but do note that a further cost cutting measure on the Lumia 530 means that there’s no ultra capacitor onboard to keep the system clock going in the meantime. So, after perhaps putting in a new microSD, you have to manually set data and time. Or, at the very least, check that this comes across OK from your mobile network.

Lumia 530 inside

None of this will be an issue to the target buyer, of course. Most newcomers to smartphones and non-geeks are rarely aware if their phone even has a microSD card and most are oblivious to the fact that SIM cards can be taken out of phones!

Lumia 530 lockscreen

Turning the Lumia 530 on and going through the usual Windows Phone 8 set-up sequence (account, wi-fi, and so on), it’s evident that the 530 has the first generation virtual controls (back, Start, search), with no way to swipe away the navigation bar. As things stand, the 4″ screen is thus reduced down to 3.93″ all the time, though it’s very likely that a firmware update in the near future (probably to ‘WP 8.1 Update 1’) will enable this navigation bar to be hidden and then swiped up again later, when needed.

The flexibility of having a software-filled navigation bar is partly used here, in that the icons rotate as you rotate the handset, so that they’re always ‘right way up’, but without a way to hide them altogether, the current experience is a little frustrating. At least there options in Settings to set the background colour or to make the nav bar transparent – in practice this rarely worked as I thought it should, but there’s zero point in getting upset because this functionality is all going to be improved shortly anyway.

The next – and biggest – compromise for the sake of build cost has been to use a cheap TFT display rather than the IPS panels on the likes of the Lumia 520 and 630 (the latter with an additional ClearBlack Display-lite linear polariser, itself a far cry from the full CBD circular polarisers seen on the top end and mid range models). Indoors, for casual use, this isn’t an issue, with content on screen being clear and crisp enough (FWVGA, so 854 by 480 pixels, with RGB pixel layout), albeit with some ‘tearing’ as content is swiped around (no ‘PureMotion’ enhancements here, and quite a slow screen refresh rate).

The problems come when you venture outdoors, with the reflectivity of the plain glass and the relative lack of power of the TFT panel being more of an issue. With the brightness set manually to ‘High’ (in yet another compromise for the recent low end Lumias, there’s no ambient light sensor, so everything’s under manual control), the 530 is workable outdoors in all but direct sunlight. However, when the sun’s out and you want to be enjoying the fresh air and perhaps taking a few photos of family and friends, the screen is at its hardest to see, making framing snaps harder than it should be. Sometimes it’s even hard to see the shutter firing icon. And no, there’s no physical shutter button either, in common with many other low end devices now.

Lumia 530 sunlight visibility

From left to right, Lumia 530, 630, 920. ‘Plain glass TFT’ vs ‘IPS LCD with ClearBlack Display ‘lite’ linear polariser’ vs ‘IPS LCD with ClearBlack Display circular polarisers’…. In truth, the 630’s screen looks to fare well here, though other angles reveal the truth.

Particularly interesting on the imaging front is that Nokia has gone for a 5MP fixed-focus camera, rather than the 520’s auto-focus component. Now, as a photography purist I should be horrified, but in exactly the same way as I felt for EDoF back in the day (2008 era Nokia), for the market demographic who will be picking up the Lumia 530, i.e. ‘normobs’ with very little photographic ambition in the grand scheme of things, a really good fixed focus camera might actually do a better job than an auto-focus one. After all, how many of us have seen people struggling with blurry out-of-focus images on their cheap smartphones? Usually because they assumed the shot was taken when actually the software was still focussing, and so moved too early. With a fixed focus camera unit, the user just points and taps and they’re done. Zero focussing delay, zero things to go wrong.

The proof is in the pudding, of course. Now, we’re still only talking about a smallish 1/4″ sensor and no doubt little expense has been lavished on maximising image quality at any stage, but even so the results are pretty good for a smartphone retailing at the very bottom of the price spectrum. The depth of field, in good light, is from about 30cm to (effectively) infinity. As light levels drop, the depth of field reduces, of course, with distinct blurring at the distance end of the scale.

Here are some Lumia 530 camera samples, click on each to download the original JPG for your own analysis:

Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download

With depth of field that’s as reasonable as this, one has to wonder why Nokia bothered with the whole ‘EDoF’ experiment in 2008/9… Even moderate macros (e.g. the budlea flower above left and the guinea pig below left) come out quite acceptably.

Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download

On the right, a real low light shot, it was pretty dark, as you can see by the shop lights. In fact, the supplied Nokia Camera application would let me shoot more realistically – this was just on defaults….

Of extra note is that, as on the Lumia 630 and 520, there’s no LED flash. The thinking is that LED-lit snaps on such low end camera hardware wouldn’t be enough to produce great results, so why bother, but it’s a shame that ‘torch’ functionality is not then possible – there are many such utilities in the Windows Phone Store that make use of a LED flash component in this way.

Video capture is at 480p, i.e. the same vertical resolution as the Lumia 530’s screen. So something of a bare minimum that works well when played back on the phone, but it’s obviously going to look blocky and sub-optimal on even the most modest desktop and TV panels. Happily, most target users will never do this, so 480p is one of the compromises that makes sense here.

Again I have to emphasise that the display deficiencies mentioned above also come back to bite the user when taking photos or videos outdoors, since it’s very hard to see the interface itself or indeed the subject, i.e. what’s being photographed. Especially given that conventional wisdom is that the sun should be roughly behind you when snapping a subject, exactly the conditions under which it’s hard for the TFT screen to be visible.

Other components have been well chosen too – the mono speaker in the 530 is very loud, just as in many other budget Nokias. Fidelity may not be top notch, but podcasts, speakerphone, sat-nav instructions are all very loud and very clear. The one design gotcha is that the speaker is set to output through a small hole in the back cover, a hole that it’s way too easy to block, with the palm of your hand or by putting the Lumia 530 back-down on a flat and/or soft surface.

As with the 520 and indeed the more expensive Lumia 630, the front facing camera is eschewed in the 530 – which makes no sense, in today’s selfie-obsessed world and with Skype video calling built so tightly into Windows Phone nowadays. All very strange, surely a cheap FFC would only add a dollar to the build cost?

I mentioned the lack of an ambient light sensor above already – also missing is a proximity sensor, so there’s no auto-shutoff of the display when you hold the Lumia 530 up near your face to take a call. Nokia/Microsoft has thought of possible issues though, with a software optimisation detecting unintentional face contact with the screen and turning the display off while contact is maintained.

As a Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone, the pros and cons of the marque are well known to AAWP readers. 8.1 isn’t perfect, but it’s a smooth UI that’s hard to bring down, especially for inexperienced newcomers to smartphones, those who wouldn’t know their multitasking from their location tagging. With the OS stepping in at every stage to make sure things keep moving, even with 512MB of RAM there’s just no slowdown, whatever applications or web pages you hit the phone with.

It’s true that there are some games which still require 1GB RAM, but these shouldn’t appear in the Store for devices like the Lumia 530 and so new users shouldn’t be confused. 

Internal storage capacity is just 4GB, with 1GB free out of the box, untenable (as on the HTC 8S) in the pre-Windows Phone 8.1 age, but add a meaty microSD (16GB or 32GB are now very cheap indeed) and all downloads and installs happen on the extra silicon. No card is supplied in the box, which is a shame, as it will require some extra buying effort on the part of the new user. I can’t help but wonder why a trivial 4GB card (under a dollar now?) wasn’t included in the package – or at the very least a piece of paper saying ‘Your phone requires a microSD card if you want to do stuff!’

Battery life was splendid here, helped enormously by both the efficiency of Windows Phone 8.1 and the relatively small screen limiting the ambition of which applications were used day to day. With what amounts to a sub-4″ display, lengthy web browsing and social network sessions are unlikely, with the fixed focus and low-res video capture camera, this is unlikely to be called on that often too, and the biggest power drain overall for the target market will probably be games. 

Lumia 530

Verdict

As I was writing this review, news came of the first sub-£40 pay-as-you-go offers on the Lumia 530 in the UK. It seems that pricing breakthroughs are where the Lumia 530 is at – and will continue to be. Sub-£50 Android phones are uniformly horribly built and specified, so the Lumia 530 seems to have the bottom end of the market well and truly sewn up, with only a few compromises mentioned above (display, chiefly, plus the lack of a front facing camera) perhaps available to irritate.

The Lumia 530’s main competition sits at a slightly higher price point – the Motorola Moto E, for example, at £80 or so, with very similar specifications (a very slightly higher resolution screen and auto-focus camera are the main differences) and Android 4.4 on board. You could argue a winner between this and the 530 for a long time and not get anywhere – it’s as much a choice of which OS, UI and ecosystem someone wants to join.

At (say) £40 or £50 on PAYG (in the UK) and a nominal £7/month on contract, the Lumia 530 is pretty much unbeatable. And, despite the lack of Gorilla Glass, it’s also pretty durable, with the solid plastic build, plus the front face protected by a thin ridge of black plastic that goes all the way around the screen. So – add it all up: low cost, durable, an OS that’s hard to abuse, good for casual gaming, colourful back cover options. This is the perfect first smartphone for a kid or teenager, say anyone under 14, in Western markets.

The sheer number of compromises in the 530’s specifications had me predisposed to dislike it, but the cheerful colour and easy replaceability won me over. Not for myself to use, or any other AAWP readers personally, but I’ll bet you can think of at least one person in your family tree for whom the 530 will be absolutely perfect.

Reviewed by at 6:47 UTC, August 31st 2014

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Review: Nokia Lumia 530

Score:
72%

The Nokia Lumia 530 is here – and, showing the long time scales upon which phones are developed, there’s no mention of ‘Microsoft Mobile’ anywhere on the box – you actually have to remove the battery to see the first evidence of Microsoft’s involvement in the hardware. It’s the new bottom end of the Windows Phone range and in some ways it shows, but there’s still plenty of value for money for buyers.

After the release of the sub-£100 Lumia 630, I went on record as saying that the 630 was originally the 530 internally at Nokia and the model got bumped up a notch in the naming system at some point, so convinced was I that the 630 was the 520’s spiritual predecessor. It turns out that I was wrong – regardless of where the 630 sits, spiritually(!), the 530 is now the new bottom end of the Windows Phone range from Nokia/Microsoft, compromising intelligently in all but one case from the best selling 520’s specifications, in order to achieve a lowest street price of as low as £40 on pay-as-you-go in the UK, at launch, and no doubt regularly under £50 across the board as we get closer to Christmas.

Regardless of what negatives I might come up with below, it’s worth stopping to let the price sink in for a moment. Remember that all the Windows Phones now include full offline voice-guided sat-nav, full Office editing software, plus a smartphone UI that’s arguably more responsive than any other in the mobile world.

Lumia 530

The only flies in the ointment here come from competition within the Lumia range – last year’s 520 is just as cheap now, if you can find it, and offers a higher specification all round, while the newer 630 is as up to date as the 530 in terms of OS and chipset, but with much better display and camera. And, being controversial, I’d argue that the old Lumia 620 and 625 are even better than any of these, again for not much more money. Though ‘old’ is the operative word here, in that the 530 has a newer chipset and will be supported/available for longer.

But let’s consider the Lumia 530 on its own merits. it feels very solid in the hand, with display nicely centred in the front face and the body of the phone sitting in the usual ‘bucket’ shell for low end Lumias. The big advantages are that different colours can be used for these, even swapped day to day if desired, plus there’s the possibility of having a replaceable battery (not always a sure thing, as the 625 showed, though) and easy microSD and SIM access without having to deal with side-loading trays.

One normal disadvantage is that the solidity of the phone suffers from this two part approach, but the Lumia 530 is very solid indeed, with no creaks or uncertainties whatsoever. The front glass isn’t Gorilla Glass (so that’s the first design compromise driven by the build cost), but is smooth enough to use and I thought I detected an oleophobic coating – it’s certainly less sticky than the 520’s screen. 

Lumia 530 buttons

The three side buttons (volume up/down, lock/power) are part of the shell and obviously perfectly colour matched. The ‘bucket’ here is nicely curved, matching the typical human hand very well – contrast this with sharp edges on the Lumia 520 and 630, for example. The camera on the rear has a slightly raised edge, protruding beyond the plastic shell, ensuring that putting the phone down on a dirty surface shouldn’t pollute the camera glass too much.

Lumia 530 back

Getting the back shell off isn’t trivial – you either use strong nails or push on the camera glass (and then remember to wipe the latter later!) – but reveals a standard BL-5J battery (the same as in the 520) and microSD and microSIM bays – inserting anything into either of these means removing the battery. Which isn’t a massive problem but do note that a further cost cutting measure on the Lumia 530 means that there’s no ultra capacitor onboard to keep the system clock going in the meantime. So, after perhaps putting in a new microSD, you have to manually set data and time. Or, at the very least, check that this comes across OK from your mobile network.

Lumia 530 inside

None of this will be an issue to the target buyer, of course. Most newcomers to smartphones and non-geeks are rarely aware if their phone even has a microSD card and most are oblivious to the fact that SIM cards can be taken out of phones!

Lumia 530 lockscreen

Turning the Lumia 530 on and going through the usual Windows Phone 8 set-up sequence (account, wi-fi, and so on), it’s evident that the 530 has the first generation virtual controls (back, Start, search), with no way to swipe away the navigation bar. As things stand, the 4″ screen is thus reduced down to 3.93″ all the time, though it’s very likely that a firmware update in the near future (probably to ‘WP 8.1 Update 1’) will enable this navigation bar to be hidden and then swiped up again later, when needed.

The flexibility of having a software-filled navigation bar is partly used here, in that the icons rotate as you rotate the handset, so that they’re always ‘right way up’, but without a way to hide them altogether, the current experience is a little frustrating. At least there options in Settings to set the background colour or to make the nav bar transparent – in practice this rarely worked as I thought it should, but there’s zero point in getting upset because this functionality is all going to be improved shortly anyway.

The next – and biggest – compromise for the sake of build cost has been to use a cheap TFT display rather than the IPS panels on the likes of the Lumia 520 and 630 (the latter with an additional ClearBlack Display-lite linear polariser, itself a far cry from the full CBD circular polarisers seen on the top end and mid range models). Indoors, for casual use, this isn’t an issue, with content on screen being clear and crisp enough (FWVGA, so 854 by 480 pixels, with RGB pixel layout), albeit with some ‘tearing’ as content is swiped around (no ‘PureMotion’ enhancements here, and quite a slow screen refresh rate).

The problems come when you venture outdoors, with the reflectivity of the plain glass and the relative lack of power of the TFT panel being more of an issue. With the brightness set manually to ‘High’ (in yet another compromise for the recent low end Lumias, there’s no ambient light sensor, so everything’s under manual control), the 530 is workable outdoors in all but direct sunlight. However, when the sun’s out and you want to be enjoying the fresh air and perhaps taking a few photos of family and friends, the screen is at its hardest to see, making framing snaps harder than it should be. Sometimes it’s even hard to see the shutter firing icon. And no, there’s no physical shutter button either, in common with many other low end devices now.

Lumia 530 sunlight visibility

From left to right, Lumia 530, 630, 920. ‘Plain glass TFT’ vs ‘IPS LCD with ClearBlack Display ‘lite’ linear polariser’ vs ‘IPS LCD with ClearBlack Display circular polarisers’…. In truth, the 630’s screen looks to fare well here, though other angles reveal the truth.

Particularly interesting on the imaging front is that Nokia has gone for a 5MP fixed-focus camera, rather than the 520’s auto-focus component. Now, as a photography purist I should be horrified, but in exactly the same way as I felt for EDoF back in the day (2008 era Nokia), for the market demographic who will be picking up the Lumia 530, i.e. ‘normobs’ with very little photographic ambition in the grand scheme of things, a really good fixed focus camera might actually do a better job than an auto-focus one. After all, how many of us have seen people struggling with blurry out-of-focus images on their cheap smartphones? Usually because they assumed the shot was taken when actually the software was still focussing, and so moved too early. With a fixed focus camera unit, the user just points and taps and they’re done. Zero focussing delay, zero things to go wrong.

The proof is in the pudding, of course. Now, we’re still only talking about a smallish 1/4″ sensor and no doubt little expense has been lavished on maximising image quality at any stage, but even so the results are pretty good for a smartphone retailing at the very bottom of the price spectrum. The depth of field, in good light, is from about 30cm to (effectively) infinity. As light levels drop, the depth of field reduces, of course, with distinct blurring at the distance end of the scale.

Here are some Lumia 530 camera samples, click on each to download the original JPG for your own analysis:

Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download

With depth of field that’s as reasonable as this, one has to wonder why Nokia bothered with the whole ‘EDoF’ experiment in 2008/9… Even moderate macros (e.g. the budlea flower above left and the guinea pig below left) come out quite acceptably.

Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download

On the right, a real low light shot, it was pretty dark, as you can see by the shop lights. In fact, the supplied Nokia Camera application would let me shoot more realistically – this was just on defaults….

Of extra note is that, as on the Lumia 630 and 520, there’s no LED flash. The thinking is that LED-lit snaps on such low end camera hardware wouldn’t be enough to produce great results, so why bother, but it’s a shame that ‘torch’ functionality is not then possible – there are many such utilities in the Windows Phone Store that make use of a LED flash component in this way.

Video capture is at 480p, i.e. the same vertical resolution as the Lumia 530’s screen. So something of a bare minimum that works well when played back on the phone, but it’s obviously going to look blocky and sub-optimal on even the most modest desktop and TV panels. Happily, most target users will never do this, so 480p is one of the compromises that makes sense here.

Again I have to emphasise that the display deficiencies mentioned above also come back to bite the user when taking photos or videos outdoors, since it’s very hard to see the interface itself or indeed the subject, i.e. what’s being photographed. Especially given that conventional wisdom is that the sun should be roughly behind you when snapping a subject, exactly the conditions under which it’s hard for the TFT screen to be visible.

Other components have been well chosen too – the mono speaker in the 530 is very loud, just as in many other budget Nokias. Fidelity may not be top notch, but podcasts, speakerphone, sat-nav instructions are all very loud and very clear. The one design gotcha is that the speaker is set to output through a small hole in the back cover, a hole that it’s way too easy to block, with the palm of your hand or by putting the Lumia 530 back-down on a flat and/or soft surface.

As with the 520 and indeed the more expensive Lumia 630, the front facing camera is eschewed in the 530 – which makes no sense, in today’s selfie-obsessed world and with Skype video calling built so tightly into Windows Phone nowadays. All very strange, surely a cheap FFC would only add a dollar to the build cost?

I mentioned the lack of an ambient light sensor above already – also missing is a proximity sensor, so there’s no auto-shutoff of the display when you hold the Lumia 530 up near your face to take a call. Nokia/Microsoft has thought of possible issues though, with a software optimisation detecting unintentional face contact with the screen and turning the display off while contact is maintained.

As a Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone, the pros and cons of the marque are well known to AAWP readers. 8.1 isn’t perfect, but it’s a smooth UI that’s hard to bring down, especially for inexperienced newcomers to smartphones, those who wouldn’t know their multitasking from their location tagging. With the OS stepping in at every stage to make sure things keep moving, even with 512MB of RAM there’s just no slowdown, whatever applications or web pages you hit the phone with.

It’s true that there are some games which still require 1GB RAM, but these shouldn’t appear in the Store for devices like the Lumia 530 and so new users shouldn’t be confused. 

Internal storage capacity is just 4GB, with 1GB free out of the box, untenable (as on the HTC 8S) in the pre-Windows Phone 8.1 age, but add a meaty microSD (16GB or 32GB are now very cheap indeed) and all downloads and installs happen on the extra silicon. No card is supplied in the box, which is a shame, as it will require some extra buying effort on the part of the new user. I can’t help but wonder why a trivial 4GB card (under a dollar now?) wasn’t included in the package – or at the very least a piece of paper saying ‘Your phone requires a microSD card if you want to do stuff!’

Battery life was splendid here, helped enormously by both the efficiency of Windows Phone 8.1 and the relatively small screen limiting the ambition of which applications were used day to day. With what amounts to a sub-4″ display, lengthy web browsing and social network sessions are unlikely, with the fixed focus and low-res video capture camera, this is unlikely to be called on that often too, and the biggest power drain overall for the target market will probably be games. 

Lumia 530

Verdict

As I was writing this review, news came of the first sub-£40 pay-as-you-go offers on the Lumia 530 in the UK. It seems that pricing breakthroughs are where the Lumia 530 is at – and will continue to be. Sub-£50 Android phones are uniformly horribly built and specified, so the Lumia 530 seems to have the bottom end of the market well and truly sewn up, with only a few compromises mentioned above (display, chiefly, plus the lack of a front facing camera) perhaps available to irritate.

The Lumia 530’s main competition sits at a slightly higher price point – the Motorola Moto E, for example, at £80 or so, with very similar specifications (a very slightly higher resolution screen and auto-focus camera are the main differences) and Android 4.4 on board. You could argue a winner between this and the 530 for a long time and not get anywhere – it’s as much a choice of which OS, UI and ecosystem someone wants to join.

At (say) £40 or £50 on PAYG (in the UK) and a nominal £7/month on contract, the Lumia 530 is pretty much unbeatable. And, despite the lack of Gorilla Glass, it’s also pretty durable, with the solid plastic build, plus the front face protected by a thin ridge of black plastic that goes all the way around the screen. So – add it all up: low cost, durable, an OS that’s hard to abuse, good for casual gaming, colourful back cover options. This is the perfect first smartphone for a kid or teenager, say anyone under 14, in Western markets.

The sheer number of compromises in the 530’s specifications had me predisposed to dislike it, but the cheerful colour and easy replaceability won me over. Not for myself to use, or any other AAWP readers personally, but I’ll bet you can think of at least one person in your family tree for whom the 530 will be absolutely perfect.

Reviewed by at 6:47 UTC, August 31st 2014

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Platforms: Windows Phone 8
Categories: Hardware
 

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All About Windows Phone