Nokia Lumia 710
The Finn blue line
Review Late last year, I reviewed the Nokia Lumia 800  – and I've just spent a week with the 710, its cheap and cheerful sibling, as my main phone. I actually preferred using this budget model to the much-hyped 800.
Road to recovery? Nokia's Lumia 710
The 710 has essentially the same internals, including the same excellent display, the same processor, and delivers the same impressive performance. It skimps on storage, with 8GB instead of 16GB, and camera optics over the 'flagship'. However, the 710 allows the battery to be removed easily – a big win for users. It is also is considerably cheaper (£300 v £400 list price), which in real terms, means it will be available on better-value contracts.
The 710 was simply much more comfortable to hold and use than the 800. I am not sure why Nokia opted to make a flat, thin design with very sharp corners as its flagship phone. People with very sensitive reproductive organs on the outside of their body – half the population, by my unscientific estimate – will not want to keep a Lumia 800 in their trouser pocket. I'm not sure anyone else would either.
The human touch
What this tells us about Nokia’s chief designer, one can only guess. Perhaps he’s from the future, where they’ve just evolved past us with perfectly smooth bodies.
Pretty much everything about the design of the 710 says 'generic modern touch screen smartphone'; this is not going to turn any heads. However, with the market trend veering towards supersized phones – featuring 4.3in displays or larger – or precious and delicate flat glass, it was actually a pleasure to use something designed to be held, rather than looked at.
If you think that very little can be done with design of the generic touchscreen, I suggest using more comfortable shapes and new materials. At 125g, the Lumia 710 is very light too. And to Nokia's credit, although it is mostly made of standard plastic, there's nothing creaky about the construction.
One area that ought to be better, though, is the front button panel – just some simple way of differentiating between the back and Windows keys by feel would have been helpful, particularly as these are not illuminated most of the time – only belatedly and haphazardly, I discovered.
As you might expect, since they share the same internals, the 710 has the same advantages and disadvantages as the Lumia 800. There's no microSD card expansion and no front-facing camera for video calls… and Windows Phone still doesn't support Skype. NFC is absent, too. Battery life was even poorer, given it has a 150 mAh less capacious battery than the Lumia 800. Rival Mango phones such as the HTC Titan  sport larger batteries and are less likely to induce panic towards the end of the day.
Nokia's music app allows free genre-based music downloads for off-line listening
This UK retail version came bundled with eBay, ESPN, Groupon, SkyNews and Trip Advisor. Home grown bundles includes Microsoft Office, Nokia Maps with turn-by-turn navigation (in addition to Microsoft’s Maps) and Xbox Games.
The Windows Phone Marketplace continues to expand rapidly. The ‘starter pack’ will get most people up and running: Angry Birds, eBay, Flixter, Kindle, Shazam, Spotify and basic Facebook and Twitter apps. There is the odd showstopper from iOS: Plane Finder, for example. But beyond that it’s still dispiriting. You’re quickly into the dregs.
WinPho 7 apps are increasing but many standard offerings lack the versatility experienced on other platforms
The utilities section made me wonder just which demographic had taken WinPho 7 to their hearts: I found such gems as Star Password Cracker, ip Cam Manager, Sleep Talk Recorder, and Invisible Phone – everything the paranoid stalker might need. Oh, and ‘How to Tie My Tie’ – for the junior paranoid stalker, I guess.
I found the 5Mp camera adequate, but no more. It isn’t immediately apparent that a tap on the viewfinder takes a picture. This is something you can turn off in settings. Still, displacing the iPhone for a week was an interesting experience. I regained comfort and responsiveness, with the the UI giving me the sort of instant and up-to-date check on messages that made the Blackberry a success. For my money Mango offers the easiest and speediest user experience on offer to a smartphone newcomer. But this comes at a cost.
The 5Mp snapper features an LED flash and captures 720p video
It was a crapshoot whether I’d get through a day without needing a recharge, and usually I didn’t. Rather annoyingly, too, there’s the odd lag in the battery indicator reflecting its state – the first thing I saw after recharging it all night was the battery indicator showing zero charge. It updated after a few seconds, but not after some cussing. And I had to be persistent.
One day at a time
Mango, in its current state, is the worst power-guzzler of the three competitive smartphone platforms and this affects not only how you use it through the day, but your overall confidence in the system. That said, I did find radio reception to be better than the iPhone 4, and was pleased to find it regain a signal rapidly. Call quality was also better. These are traditional Nokia strengths, and with the rest of the market distracted by speeds and specs, surely a place to differentiate once again.
The UI is attractive but needs an overhaul to make better use of space
WinPho 7’s multitasking implementation occasionally caused an annoyance, particularly the lengthy ‘restore’ from background. The latency made some apps, such as the Twitter app Birdsong, borderline unusable. This is something Microsoft must fix, and it doesn’t need full multitasking – just give the user a faster and more aesthetically pleasing restoration from the app’s saved background state.
iPhone and Android users have access to a much more mature Apps marketplace and everyone will have picked up their favourites, most of which aren’t on WinPho 7 yet – the most painful absentee being the Microsoft-owned Skype. I was glad to find Flixster and Sky Sports but missed the WFMU app for example. In many categories there’s more choice.
Incidentally, Contacts Transfer is extremely handy. It works with BlackBerry and iPhone handsets, transferring data over Bluetooth, alas minus contact photos. Given that the phone doesn't sync with PC or Mac address books, this is quite an important feature.
The web browser, Internet Explorer 9, renders pages extremely quickly. However, this briskness is offset by the need for an extra tap for many common operations – punching in a new URL, changing tabs, navigating to a backwards or forwards. For more general tasks, the on-screen word correction is very handy and intuitive.
A range of wetsuit coloured backs are available to make it easier to spot these Nokias in the wild
After a few days it became apparent that no matter how good the Metro UI looks, I was using the phone much less frequently for reading. The layout makes poor use of the space available (three Tweets per screen!) and the sans serif font, while fine for signage, is human-unfriendly. Overall, the body text should be tweaked.
I shall expand on these thoughts in a companion piece. But I did wonder how much reviewers and analysts actually evaluate the platforms on which they opine: not much it at all, I suspect, or this would have been noted much more.
File Windows Phone, in its current state, under: Great first impressions and shows great promise. Indeed, bargain hunters may be tempted to grab a Lumia 710 as a second phone, but there’s a long way to go. Some of the improvements, particularly for power consumption, need to be made urgently, and may deter the undecided. But if you're tempted, at least you can slot in another battery, which is its saving grace in this area. ®
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