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May 9, 2013

Lumia 521 hits Walmart on Saturday, T-Mobile stores May 22. Plus: What else can you buy for under $150? (Answer: Not much)

After quickly selling out during its retail debut on Home Shopping Network last month, Nokia’s no contract, sub-$150 Lumia 521 is about to make an even bigger splash.

Walmart officially starts selling the phone on Saturday at the insanely low price of $129, although you’ll already find it listed in the retail giant’s online store. (As I wrote this morning, it won’t be the only Windows Phone on Walmart’s shelves, either.) The Microsoft Store, meanwhile, is also planning to start carrying the wallet-friendly phone this weekend for $149. 

And T-Mobile announced today that it would start selling the Lumia 521 on May 22. The phone, as you might recall, was designed specifically for T-Mobile and is based on the popular Lumia 520, the most affordable model in Nokia’s Windows Phone 8 lineup. It will be available via the carrier’s retail and online stores for $29.99 down and 24 equal monthly payments of $5 for qualifying customers with T-Mobile’s new Simple Choice Plan. Lumia 521 smartphones sold through T-Mobile also feature its nifty Wi-Fi Calling feature. (If you buy the phone from one of the other outlets listed above, T-Mobile said an over-the-air update will start rolling out May 20 to enable Wi-Fi Calling.)

The Nokia Lumia 521, a T-Mobile exclusive

One big reason for all the pre-release buzz and early sales rush: You get a ton of phone for less than $150. The Lumia 521 features a 4-inch touch screen, 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video recording, and 8 GB of internal storage—expandable to 64 GB via microSD card. Designed for T-Mobile’s 4G HPSA+ network, it comes pre-loaded with great Nokia apps like Music, Cinemagraph, Creative Studio, Panorama, Smart Shoot, and the HERE navigation suite—Drive, Maps, and Transit. Check out Ben Rudolph’s recent hands-on video review for an up-close peek.

Finally, I said the Lumia 521 gives you a lot of phone for the money. But that begs the question: What else does $150 buy you these days?

To find the answer, Ben, Lucas, and David from the Windows Phone team recently went on a shopping spree for comparably-priced prepaid smartphones. After scouring local stores, they returned to base camp with the Samsung Illusion, Samsung Galaxy Appeal, T-Mobile Prism, and the LG Optimus Elite. Check out their first impressions of how the Nokia Lumia 521 stacks up against these other devices. (In his post-spree bliss, my buddy David gets so excited he even forgets that the Prism also comes with a 2GB memory card—although it doesn’t change his analysis one iota.) Anyway, it’s definitely a fun and instructive watch.