Nokia Lumia 521 Hands-On: User Interface And Performance (Opinion)

I've had the pleasure of using the T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 521 for a few days now and posted some first impressions and wanted to share my opinion on the Nokia Lumia 521's user-interface as well as how it performs. So let's take a look at how the Nokia Lumia 521 fares in these areas.

The T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 521 features a 4-inch 245 ppi (pixels per inch) 800 x 480 display, 1GHz dual-core processor, 8GB of internal storage, 512MB of RAM, 5-megapixel rear camera with 720p HD video recording, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, runs on T-Mobile's 4G HSPA+ network with download speeds of up to 21Mbps, a removable 1,430 mAh battery with a very impressive 9 hours of continuous talk time and 330 hours of standby.

User Interface

Windows Phone 8 is the best mobile operating system Microsoft has ever created, and rightfully so. Once iPhone and Android smartphones came onto the scene Windows Mobile, the previous mobile operating system, could not compete. Just like BlackBerry, Microsoft had to rebuild a mobile operating system from the ground up in order to compete with Apple and Google. It built an impressive alternative to iOS, Android, and BlackBerry 10.

Live Tiles is the first thing you'll notice when using the Nokia Lumia 521. It is the best feature of Windows Phone 8. I haven't noticed any slowdowns when pinning, opening, or updating the Live Tiles I've pinned to the home screen. Some Live Tiles automatically update themselves with no interaction from the user, it's great to glance at your smartphone and see useful information without having to open up an application.

You can also swipe to the right of your Live Tile home screen to access all of your applications. Microsoft gives you two options of getting to an app. You can either scroll through an alphabetical list, or tap a letter icon that is above the corresponding apps, which then opens up a launcher with letter icons to tap on, making it very easy to get to your apps very quickly.

I also love the swipe-based user interface of Windows Phone 8 as well as the way Microsoft has given developers the API in order to create apps that just flow, literally. Many popular apps like Facebook, Twitter, CNN, Linked In, and more are all very easy to navigate with a swipe. It makes getting around the OS and apps fast and easy. For example, in the Calendar app I can see my schedule for today, swipe to the right to see my agenda, and swipe to the right to see my to-do list.  Very slick UI!

There are some annoyances in Windows Phone 8 that don't make any sense and this happens across all Windows Phone 8 smartphones. In all of Microsoft's built-in apps you can see the time in the status bar. Many people depend on having access to seeing what time it is on a smartphone at all times. Most of the biggest apps like Facebook, CNN, The Weather Channel, YouTube and more are all missing this feature. While other third party apps like Twitter, Evernote, Pandora, and more keep the clock in the status bar. It's a small annoyance that grows over time, hopefully Microsoft addresses this with an update.


I have been happy with the performance of the Lumia 521; I find that even with Windows Phone 8's animated UI, it still feels snappy. There are some issues, like opening certain apps when you realize why the Lumia 521 costs $129 contract-free. It is especially noticeable with games taking longer to load. This is due to the 1GHz dual-core processor and 512 MB of RAM Nokia is using inside the Lumia 521. It hasn't been a major issue for me, but will be if you plan on playing some intense games on the smartphone.

Considering what the Nokia Lumia 521 offers in terms of usability and overall performance, I think it's a great smartphone for someone who isn't looking to spend a lot on a smartphone that has the added benefit of being contract-free, but still wants the quality of the Nokia Lumia applications and services along with Windows Phone 8. It might not be the fastest Windows Phone 8 smartphone, but it's no slouch.

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