Microsoft updates its low-end Lumia Windows Phone sales champ

Microsoft(s msft) may have killed off its Android(s goog)-running Nokia X line, but that just means it has redoubled its Windows Phone efforts in the low-end smartphone market. Microsoft announced a new Windows Phone on Wednesday, the Lumia 530, its sequel to the best-selling Lumia 520. Its primary selling point is its price, which is 85 Euros ($114.45 US) unlocked — still a small amount for a fully-fledged smartphone.
The 530 has a slightly different design than the 520, due to its curved back shell, but it’s certainly made in the same spirit: A Windows Phone with the bare minimum specifications. Behind its 4-inch 854 x 480 screen, you’ll find the Lumia 530 is running a 1.2GHz Qualcomm(s qcom) Snapdragon 200, and includes 512MB of RAM and 4GB of onboard storage with a microSD card slot. There’s a 5MP camera on the back.
But this phone isn’t about its specs; it’s never going to compare favorably to a high-end device like the Lumia Icon. This device is about attracting first-time smartphone owners to the Windows Phone world. It runs Windows Phone 8.1 which includes the voice-activated assistant Cortana. It’s got Microsoft Office apps pre-installed. And because of Microsoft’s emphasis on Windows Phone running well on limited hardware, it should run smoothly and snappily even on its inexpensive Qualcomm processor.
As the low-end of the smartphone market heats up, Microsoft is going to need to hold what progress Windows Phone has made in markets such as India. Consumers in developing countries are starting to have a plethora of choices at low price points: In addition to the Lumia 530 and inexpensive Android devices (soon to be bolstered by Google’s Android One line), there are also third-party Windows Phone makers who don’t have to pay licensing fees.