Unlocked Lumia 535 Costs Just $150 at the Microsoft Store: Should You Buy It?

Posted on June 4, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Windows Phones with 0 Comments

Unlocked Lumia 535 Costs Just $150 at the Microsoft Store: Should You Buy It?

A number of readers have pointed out that an unlocked version of the Microsoft Lumia 535 is now available for just $150 in the US. That’s a great price for that device. But with the even better Lumia 640 starting to arrive here in the US, you have some options to consider.

Here’s what I’m thinking.

First, the Lumia 535 is a decent smart phone in the confines of the low-end market it serves. And as I pointed out in my Lumia 535 review, this device is a nice improvement over the Lumia 635, which was previously the king of the low-end Lumia market. It hits all the important notes from a specs perspective: a 1.2 GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor (admittedly entry-level), 1 GB of RAM (vs. 512 MB in the original version of the 635), and 8 GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD). The 5-inch IPS screen is decent, too, but an oddball qHD (960 x 540) resolution, not that you’d ever notice. Viewing angles kind of stink, but this is a low-end device.

On the bad news front, however, the 535 suffers on a few fronts. It is the first—and still only—Lumia that has terrible build quality; the think just creaks and bends, and seems to threaten to snap in half should you exert too much pressure. And the main camera stinks: it’s a 5 MP unit that can charitably be called “pedestrian.” (The front-facing 5.0 megapixel wide angle “selfie” camera isn’t too shabby, however.) There’s no LTE support, just HSPA+.

So.

Let’s say you want to buy this thing. Your choices are an unlocked version from the Microsoft Store for $150 or you could snag an international unlocked version for $105 at Expansys and have your choice of colors. If you’re set on getting this device, I’d recommend Expansys for the $45 savings and color choices, though of course you may need to wait a little longer to get it.

But you may want to consider the Lumia 640.

As I wrote in Microsoft Lumia 640 First Impressions, this more recent mid-level phone is the superior choice. It’s available now from Cricket for just $130—though, be warned, though it’s contract-free, the phone is locked to that carrier—and is coming soon from T-Mobile, AT&T I believe.

The 640 is superior to the 535 in just about every way. It has a faster processor (a quad-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400), a vastly superior screen (a 5-inch 1280 x 720 ClearBlack IPS LCD unit, and, as important, vastly improved build quality. The other specs—RAM, storage, cameras—are the same or just as bad as with the Lumia 535, though the camera is a slightly improved 8 MP version. Don’t expect much.

Obviously, at this point in time, choosing the Lumia 640 in the US would require choosing Cricket too. And that may not be an option. An unlocked version of the 640—HSPA only—can be had for $210 on Expansys. Or you can just wait for your own carrier.

If you’re choosing this device for a non-phone, however—a secondary media device, for GPS, or whatever—the Lumia 640 is superior enough for me to suggest you should really consider it over the 535.

But whatever you choose, at least you have these options.

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