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Microsoft Lumia 535 review

 Review: February 2015  

Last updated March 2015

Rating: 3 stars

In a nutshell: Microsoft's first smartphone is the entry-level Lumia 535. Selling for less than 100, or on very cheap contracts, the phone has a lot going for it, including a huge 5 inch display, a 5 megapixel front camera and good battery life.

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Cheap & cheerful design

It's a shame that Microsoft decided to make their first Lumia smartphone the entry-level model in the series. The high-end Lumia models are often superbly crafted, in contrast to the Lumia 535. Now, we know that this is a cheap phone, but the company has seemingly gone out of its way to make it look cheap.

The phone looks best in Black, but it's also available in Orange, Grey, Green, White and Blue - some of them finished in glossy plastic. It's not a look that appeals to us, but maybe we're just too old and grumpy. That's probably the explanation. In any case, the back covers are changeable, so if you want a change, that's easily fixed.

The phone is very large for an entry-level device, and that's because of its enormous 5 inch screen. This is truly a monster, and is a superb size for watching videos, browsing the web, or playing games. It does mean that the phone is proportionately large and heavy too, although it's fairly slim for a budget phone.

The screen is quite sharp, with a resolution of 540 x 960 pixels. It's not quite HD, but HD screens are extremely rare for the kind of money the Lumia 535 sells for, and we're willing to accept a 220ppi pixel density on a phone costing less than £100. The screen is an IPS display, with slightly muddy contrast, but good brightness. The screen is protected by scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3. We did note that the screen isn't as responsive as most modern touchscreens, and this could be frustrating.

Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana

One of the more positive features about the Lumia 535 is that it ships with Lumia Denim, the latest update of Windows Phone 8.1. This includes a number of nice-to-have features, including Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant. Cortana can listen to voice commands or text, and respond in kind.

At S21, we've long been supporters of Windows Phone, and the big screen of the Lumia 535 is perfect for the new 3-column home screen of Lumia Denim. The third-party app market is beginning to mature at last, with more than 375,000 apps now in Windows Phone Store. All the essential apps are free and many are pre-installed, such as the excellent HERE Maps and HERE Drive navigation system. You'll also find Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype and Internet Explorer 11 on your phone.

If you're switching from Android, or are getting the Lumia 535 as your first smartphone, we think you'll find it a very easy OS to get used to.

Quadcore with plenty of memory

The Lumia 535 uses a Snapdragon 200 processor, which is typical for an entry-level product. It's a quad-core processor with a clock speed of 1.2GHz and has plenty of power for a device of this type. Unless you plan to play a lot of 3D games, you won't find any signs of lag or other performance issues.

There's a comfortable amount of memory here too - 8GB onboard, with 1GB of RAM. A memory card slot lets you expand the storage by a massive 128GB, and you also get 15GB of free OneDrive cloud storage.

Dual 5 megapixel cameras

The Lumia 535 is in touch with the selfie trend, offering 5 megapixel cameras on both front and rear.

The main rear-facing camera is a reasonable effort with autofocus, flash and the ability to record video at 480 x 848 resolution. The front camera is more basic, with a fixed focal length and no flash, but it can be used for selfies, video recording and video chat. Remember that some budget smartphones don't even have a front camera, so the Lumia 535 is ahead of the pack here.


Perhaps not surprisingly, this is a 3G phone rather than a 4G one, but it does support download speeds up to 42Mbps. It's Wi-Fi enabled of course, and comes with the usual Bluetooth, microUSB and 3.5mm headphone connections. DLNA is supported too, and the phone can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot. You'll also find both GPS and GLONASS positioning.

Battery life

The Lumia has a 1905mAh battery, which is fairly hefty for a phone with these specs. It will deliver up to 13 hours of talktime, or an incredible 78 hours of music playback. Even when pushed to the max, it will still give you 6 hours or more of continuous video streaming before needing a recharge.

Conclusion - a reasonable first effort from Microsoft

Although our initial impressions of Microsoft's first Lumia product weren't stellar, the Lumia 535 quietly grew on us. We're impressed by its big screen, by the fluidity and user-friendliness of WP8.1, by the front camera, and the strong battery life.

Apart from our prejudice about the glossy colours, the only fault is the slightly unresponsive touchscreen experience. Still, it's a better option than the Nokia Lumia 530.

There's certainly no arguing with the price, and you'll struggle to find a much better smartphone for under £100. If you want to go cheaper still, the Lumia 435 will set you back around £50!

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Microsoft Lumia 535 user reviews

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Average rating from 4 reviews:

Reviewed by bradley from US on 30th May 2017
Nice Mobile with a good battery life. With microsoft branding this smartphone with windows give new OS overview with good hand feeling. It is a good Smartphone in that price section. It performs well but not up to the mark if we compare it with apple or Android Smartphones. Moreover I like its look.

Reviewed by Pawel from UK on 27th May 2016
Mobile nice and good size but battery live is very poor when I charge and left on standby was no longer then 2 days when start use it about 2-3 hours hardly not recommend this phone.

Reviewed by Tris from UK on 18th Oct 2015
Got this Lumia free with my tablet. I just use it as satnav in the car. It performs fairly well and does at a basic level everything you would expect from a phone. I wont go into spec details as s21 have already done that. This is a great first phone or one for non tech savvy who don't need bells or whistles. To be fair this isn't a bad device for business use also. The down points are the touchscreen can be overly sensitive and the phone isn't very powerful at all. I think s21's rating of this phone is spot on. A good phone for 50 but I wouldn't pay anymore then that.

Reviewed by vingo from Tanzania on 20th Sep 2015
Having used a samsung j1 previously the lumia is much better. Its only setback is the cramped keyboard which makes typing less funny. Another issue is the heating of the device with prolonged use. Otherwise it is a much better phone than the j1.

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