MWC 2013: Nokia Lumia 520 and 720 hands-on preview

Nokia played it safe at MWC this year, with two new midrange Lumia phones designed to offer a "high-end" experience.

"We are bringing elements of our high-end Lumia devices to more price points, and therefore more people," Nokia's CEO, Stephen Elop, said at the company's press conference. These may not be the most dazzling new phones on display at MWC, but it was certainly worth spending some hands-on time with them when we got the opportunity.

Let's start with the Lumia 520, which is Nokia's most affordable Windows Phone 8 device yet. Available in all of the company's signature colours, this certainly doesn't look or feel like a budget phone, which is nice. There's a decent amount of power under the hood as well, in the form of a 1GHz dual-core processor. Considering the Windows Phone OS feels buttery smooth in general, I didn't experience any hint of lag while swiping my way around the phone and opening up apps.

You can tell this isn't a high-end device, however, when it comes to the 4in, 800 x 480 resolution display. It looks perfectly serviceable, and even pretty nice if you're a new smartphone user. But there's just no comparison with higher-end phones, especially Nokia's gorgeous Lumia 920, which features a 4.5in, 1,280 x 768 display.

Still, you get plenty here for the money, including a 5-megapixel autofocus camera that has many of the same software features of the Lumia 920, such as cinemagraph, panorama, and smart shoot. There's also 8GB of internal storage, along with a microSD card slot expandable up to an additional 64GB. And you get Nokia's Here suite of software, which offers maps, voice-guided turn-by-turn driving navigation, as well as transit directions.

The European release date is slated as the second quarter, and the Lumia 520 is being pitched at the low price of 139 Euros (£120).

Nokia Lumia 720

Nokia's other new Lumia, the 720, is sort of like a step between the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 620. Once again, its high quality build and bright colours are very Nokia. There's no mistaking this phone for something from Motorola or Samsung.

It has a 4.3in curved glass Clear Black display, but again, the resolution is on the low side, at just 800 x 480 pixels. And since this display is larger than the 520's, it's actually less sharp. This is Nokia's first unibody phone with microSD support, which is hopefully something that will be adopted in future designs – the option for additional storage is always a big plus in my book.

The Lumia 720 features a 6.7-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss lens and f/1.9 aperture. Nokia made a bigger deal of the front camera, which features an f/2.4 aperture and a wide enough viewing angle to capture up to four people in one shot. In the demo I saw, everyone fit in comfortably.

Nokia is pushing its apps hard, touting Place Tag, which is a beta application that can tag any of your pictures with where and when it was taken, and make the snap look like a postcard. Also, Here is being upgraded, with an augmented reality-style overlay that can place locations (or directions) on-screen over where you are in real time. Additionally, Nokia plans to make the Here apps available to non-Nokia phones, in order to acquire more user-generated data for a better overall experience, though it claims the apps themselves will work best on Lumia devices.

The 720 has NFC support, as well as the same battery as the Lumia 920. And like the 920, it is capable of wireless charging with a special snap-on cover. It's also powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor, like the lower-end 520. All in all, the handset seems like a nice middle ground in Nokia's steadily increasing stable of Windows Phone 8 devices. It’s expected to retail at 249 Euros (£215), and again should arrive in Q2.