Nokia Lumia 520 review: Best buys

GSMArena team, 16 April 2013.

Store for apps, games and music

The Windows Store (formerly Phone Marketplace) is still catching up with the Apple App Store and Google Play. The number of apps available crossed the 100,000 mark a while ago and, while that doesn't quite compare to Android and iOS, Microsoft says that most of the top 50 apps are already available for WP8.

Apps written specifically for Windows Phone 8 won't work on the older versions but all of the older apps will be compatible with the new WP8. One thing that might be a problem is that not all apps support devices with 512MB RAM like the Lumia 520. At least not initially, many apps eventually do get 512MB support.

The Store is divided in three main sections - applications, games and music. Another section called Updates shows up when one of your installed apps has received an update - there's an Update all button, which will save you the hassle of updating each app individually.

Anyway, each app will be listed with a short description, a rating and user reviews, a few screenshots and permissions. While the list of permissions isn't as elaborate as it is on Android, the Store will explicitly ask you about the important stuff (e.g. location info).

Big downloads (anything north of 40MB) need a Wi-Fi connection to work. Alternatively, you can download those jumbo apps using the desktop Zune software.

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The Windows Store

The Application section starts with a featured app, then it's on to the categories (you can list all or free apps only), followed by the top apps, a list of new ones and a longer list of featured apps.

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The Application store

Nokia App Recommendations will help you get the best apps, including a number of Nokia Lumia-exclusives (things like the Nokia Weather Channel, which you might have missed) and categories like Starter pack or Shop 'till you drop.

The Music section is actually the Xbox (previously known as Zune) Marketplace. Its structure is similar to the Application section. First, a featured artist of the week, three more featured artists, and then a list of new releases, top albums and genres.

Genres themselves are separated into sections too - new releases and top artists/albums/songs/playlists. For each song, you get a 30 second preview (same as iTunes). If you have a Zune pass, you can stream the entire song (or download it DRM-protected), just like you would on a Zune player (it's 10 US dollars a month).

The Games section is divided into Xbox Live, New, Featured and Genres. A great thing about games in the Windows Phone Marketplace is the trial option, which is available to many games and apps. You can try before you buy.

The new and featured sections act as what's new/hot reference.

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Exploring the games section

The Store on Windows Phone can be accessed via your WP device, the Zune software on your PC and the windowsphone.com website.

Search is available in the Store but right now it pulls together search results from all sections - games and apps alike. Microsoft have fixed the issue where songs would get mixed up in the search too, which was annoying.

Xbox LIVE tile

Xbox Live is at the heart of the Games hub. It carries over many features from the Xbox - from your avatar to your scores and achievements. The Spotlight feature is available too (it shows info on new stuff) and also Requests - which shows you game invites from your friends.

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Xbox LIVE tile

Anyway, the games themselves are housed in the Collection section. Nothing much to see here, the installed games are arranged in a square grid and there's a Get more games shortcut, which launches the Windows Store.

Not all games support Xbox Live - the ones that do are in the corresponding section in the Store.

Here you can also see your friends and their profiles, achievements and avatars. There are a few shortcuts to other Xbox Live-related apps - such as remote Xbox control (like the Store) or the avatar changing app. If you don't have them installed, you'll be redirected to the Marketplace, otherwise you'll get directly to the app in question.

Nokia HERE Maps and HERE Drive, other location-based apps

Nokia is bringing their own mapping solutions to the table and they are more powerful than the default Bing Maps that other Windows Phones come with. Nokia recently rebranded its mapping and Sat-Nav solutions as HERE.

Nokia HERE Drive is the premium app - it offers free, life-time voice-guided navigation. All you have to do is download a voice in your language of choice and you're good to go. Of course, to make use of the key selling point of Drive - offline navigation - you have to download a map for your country.

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Nokia HERE Drive does voice-guided navigation

When Nokia rebranded Maps it also split the app into two. While HERE Drive gives you a navigation license for only one country (depending on the SIM card you put in the phone). Drive+ gives you the global coverage.

Unfortunately, the Lumia 520 just like the 720, comes with Drive, which can only be used for navigation in your home country, but not abroad. Even if you buy a new SIM when visiting abroad, it will not change the license.

With HERE Drive you can easily plan routes (no data connection needed) and you can tweak various settings for each route - fastest/shortest/economical route can be selected and you can choose whether the app will use or avoid motorways, toll roads, ferries, tunnels, unpaved roads and motor trains. There are icons to remind you of the selected settings.

Drive uses big, clear instructions on its screen in addition to the voice prompts, which is ideal for in-car use. You can switch between 2D and 3D mode and switch the color scheme (day, night, auto). There are speed alerts and real-time traffic information.

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Tweaking the route-planning algorithm • day and night color schemes

We do miss a few options - like setting a starting location other than your current location and downloading maps for an entire continent. Still, Nokia offer quality maps and offline voice-guided navigation out of the box, which puts them ahead of other Windows Phone makers and even other platforms (both Android and iOS require a data connection to plan the route).

Nokia HERE Maps takes on other duties - it's more of a replacement for paper maps that you can take as you explore a city. It will help you discover new places, read a quick description, see photos, read reviews and check what trusted guides like TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, ViaMichelin, Expedia and HRS and more have to say about it.

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Nokia HERE Maps has a ton of info

The Maps app also offers walking, driving and public transport navigation but it only shows a list of instructions. It shares data with Drive so you don't have to download the same maps twice.

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Maps can be used for basic navigation too

The Local Scout app will locate nearby points of interest and it will even show you indoor maps of malls. The app has a tabbed interface to sort the various points of interest - eat+drink, see+do, shop and highlights. You can pick items from an "I care about" list to get the relevant options only.

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Local scout can take you to interesting places

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