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Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530

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Microsoft's ex-Nokia phones unit has produced the successor to the Lumia 520, its best-selling Windows Phone by miles, topping the charts in the UK's Crimbo sales.

The Lumia 530 is priced at €85 (£67) before taxes or subsidies, or an initial street price of €100, around £79. It's clearly designed to sit in the £70 sweet spot occupied in developed markets by the 520 today.

The competition is much stiffer this year with Lenovo's Motorola's E (reviewed here) already on the market.

The 530 is a smaller device than the Lumia 520 or recently launched Lumia 630/635, with a 4-inch display. Yet it still packs a quad core processor and can take memory cards of up to 128GB. As with the 520 and 630, the designer omits a front-facing camera and LED flash. A dual-SIM variant will be available in some markets. It bundles offline maps, free navigation and an Office client, with some 15GB cloud storage for new users. As you'd expect, it's 2G and 3G only, not LTE.

There's more at the Nokia corporate site - yes, still Nokia - here.

Colourful: Nokia's new Lumia 530

While the performance of Android at the low end has improved greatly, there's still a sliver of daylight for Microsoft ODMs. Windows Phone can still give the user smoother performance on cheaper hardware: low-end Lumias typically pack 512MB performance, compared to the 1GB required on the Moto G and E, for example. And the design of Windows Phone makes the choice of a coarser, low-quality screen permissible.

Here, as with the 630/635, the display resolution is 480 x 854, the bottom 54 pixels being used for a soft navigation bar. Vitally, the platform itself is effectively cheaper than Android. Both are now "free", but Android manufacturers must still pay Microsoft royalties, which according to estimates are $10 to $15 per device, and that's a fortune at this end of the market. Even though Microsoft has said it will snuff out its own X Android range, Android is still a highly profitable business for Microsoft.

However "Nokia" - really Microsoft Mobile Devices, even though Nokia is all over the boxes - has much stiffer competition this year from upstart Windows Phone rivals. Last year, the only competition for the Lumia 520 in the Windows Phone bargain bin was the even older Lumia 510. However this year, over a dozen new OEMs have shown or announced Windows Phone devices, following Microsoft's decision to scrap royalties for the platform.

Firms including Quanta, Wistron (which spun off from Acer in 2000), Pegatron, BYD and LongCheer Holdings are all apparently competing for orders, with a dozen Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers on board. Microsoft doesn't seem to value Nokia's distribution footprint in these markets - and last week it emerged it was mothballing everything except Lumia. ®

Bootnote

Microsoft said the Nokia phones division shipped 5.5 million Lumias in Q2 2014, a quarter three weeks shorter than normal, which is down from the 7.4 million it shipped in Q2 2013. Considering that most of the the product line is a year old, with nothing new at all until the final month of the quarter, that's not the end of the world.

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