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This Budget Phone is Microsoft's Biggest Hope

By William Peacock, Esq. on July 23, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Microsoft sold about 5.8 million Lumia smartphones in a mere two months, a pretty impressive number considering nobody you know actually owns a Windows Phone. Out of all of the Windows-based phones in the wild, one model is far more popular than any other: the Lumia 520, which makes up 31.6 percent of all active Windows phones, according to AdDuplex. Add in the slight variant 521 and you have 36.4 percent of the phone's OS share covered by what is essentially one model.

The 520 is also ancient and doesn't even support 4G. But it is insanely cheap, often going on sale for less than $100 for a fully functioning smartphone.

It's successor, the $114 Nokia Lumia 530, has big shoes to fill. The new phone is not only important for helping Microsoft to capture low-end market share (against the flood of quality low-end Android devices from Motorola and others), but it also brings all of the latest Windows Phone 8.1 features to the masses, most notably Cortana.

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Meet the 530

It's neon. It runs Windows Phone 8.1, with Cortana. It costs barely more than $100 without a contract.

Those are the only notable facts about the Nokia Lumia 530. Spec-wise, it's a horizontal move from the aging 520 -- according to Ars Technica, it has a slightly slower processor but with more cores, less in-phone storage (but with support for larger MicroSD cards), and otherwise, it's largely unchanged. And despite early leaks indicating that the phone would have LTE, alas, it appears that it does not, per Tech Advisor.

It doesn't even have a front-facing camera for selfies or Skype.

Remember when we mentioned that Microsoft was dropping its odd budget Nokia X Android line? This is why -- a ridiculously cheap, albeit stripped down smartphone. It does, however, come with Cortana, Microsoft's answer to Siri and Google Now, and the code enhancements to Windows Phone 8.1 that make it easier for developers to write apps for both Windows desktop and phone OSes at the same time.

This is not a phone that you, a practicing lawyer, would probably want -- you can almost certainly afford something with 4G and a front-facing camera. But this phone is still Microsoft's most important phone, as it'll get first-time buyers hooked into Microsoft's ecosystem and will give them a presence in emerging markets.

Windows 8.1 Recapped

For existing Windows Phone users, the Nokia Cyan update is rolling out now, though it'll depend on your carrier whether it arrives sooner rather than later. (Microsoft gives the updates to AT&T, T-Mobile, and others; they pass it along to users.)

When it does arrive, however, it brings Cortana, Microsoft's long-awaited personal assistant. In theory, it's supposed to be the personality and snark of Siri mixed with the functionality of Google Now. Much like Apple's upcoming iOS 8 and Android since years ago, Microsoft is bringing swipe-to-type software keyboards and a beefed up notification center.

This is the OS update that puts Windows on par with Android and iOS -- at least on paper, and not counting the size of the three companies' app stores. Still, it's an important step and a welcome update.

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