Nokia is busy gaining even more ground in the entry level smartphone market. The Lumia 620 was already easy to like, and the Lumia 520, which is essentially the same package at a lower price point, is even harder to resist.
The Nokia Lumia 520 should be getting ready to enjoy a corner of the market, more or less free of natural predators. In this price range, you can't get a perfectly smooth Android smartphone, so the light-on-the-hardware Windows Phone 8 is really made to count. Of course, that comes at the price of somewhat more limited functionality but little of it should matter to those shopping on a budget.
One would think Nokia played its Lumia aces months ago in the 920 and 820, but the Lumia 520 is showing plenty of promise too. It's a package combining voice-guided navigation (be it in a single country), Nokia's Music app, digital lenses (Cinemagraph and others) and a display that can be used with gloves on.
For the price, those are some more than reasonable specs. And with the Asha range close at hand, there should be no shortage of potential upgraders.
But let's take a look at what kind of competition the Lumia 520 should be preparing for.
We start off with an in-house competitor in the face of the Lumia 620. It's powered by the same processor and although it has a slightly smaller 3.8" screen, it has an edge in terms of image quality thanks to the ClearBlack technology. The other notable advantage of the Lumia 620 is the global sat-nav license. The rest of the hardware is virtually identical though, and the Lumia 520 will be saving you quite a few bucks.
On paper, the HTC Windows Phone 8S has the same screen, camera and processor as the Nokia Lumia 520. The WP 8S is clearly the more attractive of the two and comes with a Beats Audio amplifier. It does cost considerably more than the Lumia 520 (even a Lumia 620 for that matter), so unless you are really in love with the design, it can't match the Finnish value for money.
Huawei has the Ascend W1, which is comparable in terms of screen, camera and processor (although it's clocked higher at 1.2 GHz) and also has expandable storage. It looks like the one that comes closest to the Lumia 520's price and has a larger battery, but finding one at your local retail store might be an issue. Besides, you'll have to live without the Nokia-exclusive software.
Of course, Android is still very much an option for first-time smartphone buyers. The three most prominent names in or around this price range are the HTC Desire X, the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 and the Sony Xperia sola. They can't quite match the fluid simplicity of the Nokia Lumia 520 or even its processing power but they offer access to a superior number of apps through the Google Play Store as well as a more mature platform to rely on.
To be honest though, at least in the low-to-midrange it looks like Windows Phone is done playing catch up and is taking initiative by cramming the space with offerings that may as well start shaking Android out of its comfortable seat.
The Lumia 520 isn't without faults but at this price point they're easy to live with. When talking entry-level smartphones, it's all about cutting the right corners and ticking the right boxes and the latest Nokia smartphone comes across as a superbly balanced phone. If you're after a package that covers the basics and then some, delivers on budget but looks classy and is a smartphone, with an app store and all, very few seem to fit the description better than the Nokia Lumia 520.