Remember Nokia? A popular feature phone maker in the United States for quite some time, Nokia hasn't had any presence in the American smartphone market, though it did find some success overseas. But now, the company has partnered with Microsoft, restoring the presence of Nokia in the United States in the form of smartphones running the Windows Phone 7 operating system.
The Nokia Lumia 710, available on T-Mobile, is both the company's first American smartphone running Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) and the first 4G device running Microsoft's mobile operating system.
It's a no-frills device, to be sure; perhaps that's part of the reason it has already received a price cut, knocking it down to a mere $40 with a mail-in rebate and new two-year contract with T-Mobile. But just because it doesn't break the bank doesn't mean it's of poor quality or an incapable device. For $40, you can do a lot worse.
Build & Design
The Lumia 710 is a bit on the chunky side, measuring 0.49 inches in thickness and weighing 4.4 ounces, so it's definitely not the sleekest phone you'll ever handle. But it still feels comfortable to hold in the hand thanks to its rounded edges, and it isn't one of those smartphones that's so gigantic that it's bordering on being a mini-tablet; at 2.46 inches wide and 4.69 inches high, it's relatively compact.
It also has a rubberized back, which I love. It makes the phone easier to grip and is a huge part of why the Lumia 710 is so comfortable to hold, even if it does tend to pick up a fair amount of dust and grime (or, in the even that I set it down on my desk, crumbs). The back panel can be easily pried off thanks to a small divot on the right side, which reveals the battery and SIM card slot. Also located on the back is the respectably powerful speaker towards the bottom, and the 5-megapixel camera up top.
On paper, the screen on this Nokia smartphone isn't anything out of the ordinary: 3.7 inches with a 480 x 800 (WVGA) resolution. But regardless, I found myself impressed by the quality of the display, as images looked sharp and colors in particular looked quite vibrant.
Part of the clarity and glossiness comes from the fact that the display is behind Corning Gorilla Glass, which is an excellent touch and an upgrade from what I'm used to seeing (since my WP7 device unfortunately does not have it). Obviously, it's not like the display holds a candle to something like a Super AMOLED screen, but it still has a nice, polished look to it and provides enough clarity to be easy on the eyes.
Other Buttons and Controls
In one of the few deviations from the norm for a WP7 device -- these are few and far between, given Microsoft's hardware restrictions -- the Lumia 710 has physical buttons below the screen for back, home, and search. I absolutely love this design choice, as the three buttons are typically capacitive on WP7 phones, and are therefore usually easy to press by accident. I couldn't tell you how many times I've been typing a message or playing games on my Windows Phone and have accidentally grazed the search "button", which instantaneously boots me out of the game and takes me to the Bing search engine page. It can be very frustrating, and using physical buttons instead of capacitive ones is an excellent way to ameliorate the problem.
Other buttons include the power/standby switch on the top edge of the device and a volume rocker and dedicated camera button on the right side. As much as I complain about Microsoft's stringent WP7 requirements, I'm grateful that it mandates that all handsets have a dedicated camera button. Aside from the convenience factor (I especially enjoy the fact that even in standby, you can hold it down for two seconds and it will automatically start up the camera app), it feels a lot more natural when snapping photos than having to press an on-screen shutter button.
The only ports on the Lumia 710 are a micro-USB port on the top edge (used for charging) and a 3.5mm headphone jack located right next to it.
The Nokia Lumia 710 comes preloaded with the most recent version of Microsoft's mobile OS, Windows Phone 7.5, aka Mango. A vast improvement over the first iteration of the operating system, Mango introduces a number of tweaks and additions, like the ability to organize your contacts into Groups, as well as an improved messaging system. But the basics still remain, like the live tiles of the Metro UI, so fans will be happy to hear that (and haters will likely be disappointed). For those of you who aren't familiar with some of the new features, have a look at our full review of review of Windows Phone 7.5.
The specs of the Lumia 710 are very much middle of the road: it has a 1.4 GHz processor, which is certainly respectable, but it's single core and therefore has a little bit more trouble with multitasking. It only has 512 MB of RAM and while its 8 GB of onboard storage is nice, Microsoft has an inane restriction that prevents any WP7 device from having expandable storage. So you better use that 8 GB wisely, because you're not getting any more than that.
Truth be told, I've never seen what the big deal is with 4G (see my Samsung Droid Charge review). I've never been impressed by the speeds, which are only marginally faster than 3G, but maybe that's because we have yet to hit the point where 4G is actually 4G by the original definition (downlink speeds of up to 1 Gbit/sec). With that in mind, I was even less impressed with the 4G speeds on the Lumia 710 than normal, largely due to the fact that it runs on the T-Mobile network.
Even on the fastest 4G network (Verizon's 4G LTE), the difference in loading times between 3G and 4G for webpages is only a matter of one or two seconds. So when I compared the loading times for a webpage on my Verizon Windows Phone's 3G connection and the Lumia 710's 4G connection, the difference was literally less than a second. The difference in speeds was a little more noticeable when streaming video, but even that wasn't all that impressive; the video feed on the Nokia device had to stop occasionally to buffer (especially when first loading up the video) and the quality was pretty rough. I can't imagine it takes very high data connection speeds to stream a video that just looks like a bunch of different-colored blobs.
Thanks to the improvements in Windows Phone 7.5, messaging and email are a pretty smooth affair on the Lumia 710. When in a text message thread with a given contact, you can switch seamlessly between different modes of communication with the single press of a button. So if you're texting them on one mobile number, you can hit the "switch" button and continue the thread in a text to a different number that you have stored for them, or you can switch the conversation over to GChat, or you can switch to messaging them via Facebook, etc.
It is worth noting, though, that as much as I love the addition of threads in the email app, they do need to be tweaked a bit; as it stands now, the app gets confused easily and tends to organize threads by sender and recipient rather than by subject line. As such, you'll often end up with threads with one person being filled with emails from yourself to a completely unrelated recipient. It sounds stupid, and it is, but basically the email app sees that you are a common sender in both this thread and another email that you sent to some other person, so it groups them together.
One other neat communication feature that the Lumia 710 has is visual voicemail, which is basically a solution to the usual headache-inducing setup of voicemail boxes. Rather than having to navigate the slow touch-tone based menus, visual voicemail just displays a list of your currently stored voicemails on the screen, and from there you can play, pause, or delete them right away rather than having to navigate any sort of menus.
In general, Windows Phones are well-equipped for enterprise types, assuming you use Microsoft Office. The mobile Office suite on the Lumia 710 include Explore Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, which allow for both viewing and editing of their respective file types. Also included is a version of Microsoft OneNote, an app for quick note-taking, and, of course, the ability to easily sync your phone with your Outlook account.
Once you're finished editing your documents, you can not only save them on your phone, but you can also upload them to Microsoft's cloud-based SkyDrive, Office 365, or SharePoint. Taking the office with you is easy with the Lumia 710, and being able to send your finished documents to so many different locations ensures ease on the other end of things well; you'll be able to access them anywhere.
There are a couple of other preloaded apps from both the device manufacturer and the carrier, which are really the only variables that can be introduced to the WP7 formula given Microsoft's hardware and system requirements. T-Mobile includes a My Account app, for instance, which tracks your billing history, your data usage throughout your billing cycle, offers support, and displays your currently active services/plans.
Also pre-loaded is Nokia Drive app, which is essentially a GPS-based maps application that is specifically designed to help with driving directions. It can display maps in 2D and 3D, and it reads directions out loud so you can keep your eyes on the road. Another option is the TeleNav GPS Navigator, but it only comes with a 30-day free trial. After that, you have to pay $9.99 per month for the service, which is simply not worth it given that it offers basically all of the same features as the Nokia Drive and WP7 Maps applications.
It's not all business with the Lumia 710, though, as it does come with a few preloaded gems. Nokia included its App Highlights app, which is basically an app recommendation service. It has suggested apps organized into different categories to offer a little bit of guidance to new users, including, but not limited to: "Starter Kit" (essentials), "Addictive", "Workin'", "Foodies," and "Staff picks." You can even do a Google-style "Surprise Me" search, where it comes up with a random app for you to try out.
Like all Windows Phones, the Lumia also comes preloaded with Slacker Radio and YouTube apps to provide you with a healthy dose of streaming media. T-Mobile also includes its T-Mobile TV service, a streaming TV service that comes with a 30-day free trial (but after that, you have to pay a monthly fee).
Another included streaming video service that may be a little more familiar to some of you is Netflix. The app itself is very well-organized and easy to navigate -- since it's in the style of the Metro UI -- and being able to watch streaming TV and movies on the Lumia 710 is a great feature. Sure, it's a great way to eat up your battery and, as mentioned, T-Mobile's 4G speeds make for mediocre-quality video and the occasional buffering issue, but it's better than nothing.
The camera on the Lumia 710 meets the Microsoft WP7 requirement of a 5-megapixel resolution exactly, so it's not the most impressive that you'll ever come across. Pictures that aren't even taken in low-light have visible artifacts and noise, and on the whole, pictures are not very sharp and have a slight haze to them.
I can, however, appreciate the fact that the lens of the Lumia 710 is slightly recessed. I have an HTC Trophy (another WP7 model) and the camera lens is flush with the back of the device. As such, it didn't take long for the lens to get horribly scratched up, making all of the camera's pictures look as if they were taken in a fog. With a little more protection for its lens, at least the quality of pictures taken with the Lumia 710 won't get progressively worse over time like mine did.
As is the case with most 4G phones, the battery life of the Nokia 710 is somewhere between mediocre and poor. With nothing enabled except 4G and email push, the battery lasts a day and a half with extremely infrequent usage... in other words, when I'm intentionally trying to make it last. If I actually use it how most people tend to use their phones, I can make it through about a day, but I usually find myself plugging it in around 6 or 7 o'clock, long before I'm actually going to bed.
I know some users would be inclined to believe that making it through a day, more or less, on a single charge is not that bad for a smartphone. But the fact is, it can only go down from there. Try to actually take advantage of the 4G connection by doing things like streaming Netflix, and you'll be lucky if your phone makes it past lunch time. Turn on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or GPS to find directions and you have other serious contributors to battery drain. And, of course, you have the long term to consider; once upon a time my smartphone could last a couple of days with push on, but now I do manual email sync and I get a day and change out of it. So in the grand scheme of things, the Lumia 710 does not have good battery life and that changes to 4G technology to lessen the drain on the battery couldn't come soon enough.
The Nokia Lumia 710 is a solid, if a bit basic, smartphone. The Windows Phone 7.5 OS and its Metro UI are definitely a matter of taste -- I can recognize that plenty do not love them like I do -- but if you're a fan of it, the this smartphones is a great way to get the full, most up-to-date experience with the platform.
And in terms of value, it's tough to beat: it's a 4G smartphone (granted, on T-Mobile's sub-par network) that you can now get for as cheap as $40 with a mail-in rebate and a new two-year contract with T-Mobile.
Its specs are a little weak, what with the single-core processor, its meager and non-expandable 8 GB of onboard memory, and 512 MB of RAM. However, for entry-level users who don't need a powerhouse phone but want to jump on the 4G bandwagon, the Nokia Lumia 710 is a good option for a reasonable price.