Your Price: $142
Nokia Lumia 521
T-Mobile's Nokia Lumia 521 is a great budget-friendly and user-friendly option for those just trying out a smartphone. At a contract price of $0.00, it's got decent specs and a good camera, and it is easy for new users to figure out.
The Lumia 521's design is attractive and compact, at 4.9" x 2.5" x 0.4" and weighing 4.4 ounces. It has a 4" display, which is large enough to easily watch movies and browse pictures but not so large that the device begins to feel like a tablet. The display itself is a fairly low resolution, but mobile-formatted websites are still crisp and easy to read. Beneath the phone cover, you will find the microSD card slot and a removable battery. The battery especially is a nice touch for first time users, who may prefer replacing a dead or broken battery themselves. The small speaker on the back of the Lumia 521 may look unimpressive, but it plays loud and clear, making this device excellent as a portable music player.
One of the greatest pulls of the Windows Phone 8 user interface is how easy it is to get used to it. The opening window is uncluttered but allows you to easily customize what you want with Live Tiles, a collection of app shortcuts. With the Kid's Corner feature, you can even customize your phone for when your kid wants to play with it. Choose specific child-friendly apps to appear in that mode. In-app purchases are disabled as well, so you don't need to worry about suddenly finding a huge mobile purchase charge on your next bill.
Windows Phone 8 has been criticized for its lack of apps, but this past year has seen tremendous improvement. This T-Mobile phone now has apps for Pandora and YouTube along with crowd favorites like Skype, Hulu Plus, The Weather Channel and Netflix. Nokia offers a few apps of its own to help supplement the phone, such as the free GPS navigation app Nokia Drive and the combination online radio/music library app Nokia Music. While the Lumia 521 does not have support for LTE, the download times are still good. If you're streaming music, you'll be able to hear it without constant buffering.
The 521's camera has been one of its major selling points, and for a good reason. While it's not quite as impressive as the higher-end phones, the quality is good, with crisp colors and good lighting. It's one of the best low-budget cameras we've seen on phones in recent years. The variety of camera apps is also great fun, including photo-editing apps like Smart Shoot and sillier ones like Cinemagraph, which animates a portion of a photo. The 720p camcorder has a little bit of trouble adjusting to sudden light changes, but the detail is clear and the image does not stutter.
As an entry level phone, the Lumia 521 is a smart and affordable option. It gives you a lot of the conveniences of a smartphone without the exorbitant prices. Sure, there are some features that make higher-end phones more impressive, like a front-facing camera and LTE capability, but for this price, you're getting an excellent deal.
- 5-megapixel camera captures printworthy photos that are easy to share between family members
- Powered by T-Mobile's 4G network for fast connection and browsing speeds
- 1 GHz processor makes everything run smoothly, even when you're playing a game or watching a movie
- 4" touchscreen display is attractive yet compact
- Edit business documents on the go with Excel and Word editing capabilities
- Internal storage not enough? Add a microSD card to store as much as you need
- Use People Hub to skim the latest social networking news without ever having to leave your current app
Your Price: $142