Nokia has been in freefall for years now, rapidly losing smartphone market share: sure, it’s still the world’s biggest mobile manufacturer, but that just means it’s had further to fall.
The company’s partnership with Microsoft to produce Windows Phone devices, aimed at stemming the flow and announced early last year, bore fruit in October, with the announcement of the scorching Lumia 800, and this, its smaller sibling, the Nokia Lumia 710.
It’s still packing many of the same innards however – the same Qualcomm 1.4GHz processor, for instance, as well as a similar sized 3.7-inch display – but this is much more affordable than the Lumia 800. The Lumia 800 was the perfect phone to re-launch Nokia, courtesy of its unique use of machined materials, including a unibody plastic case. While Nokia should be commended for showing that aluminium isn’t the only way to make a gorgeous phone, the Lumia 710 isn’t the best example of this.
Instead of the amazing curves of the 800, here, you get something much more typically ‘Nokian’ in design. It’s wide, thick (12.5mm) and cheap feeling by comparison, with a back panel that pulls off in the traditional manner to reveal the battery. The Lumia 710 comes with a separate replaceable back cover, cyan blue in the case of our review unit, to spice things up, and there’s no denying it does, but the three front facing Windows Phone buttons, back, home and search, spoil the experience. They’re an ever-present reminder that you’ve bought the cheap model, not the affordable one, as is the typically noisy, if snappy, five megapixel camera. The display has also taken a bit of a hit too. Nokia’s dropped the more expensive, mesmerising AMOLED panel in the 800 in favour of an LCD panel, albeit of the same size and sharp resolution.
Truth be told however, this isn’t much of a big deal. While we’re sorry to see the true blacks of the 800 go, this is as good as LCDs get. Nokia says it’s using the same ‘ClearBlack’ technology in both, and while we can’t say for sure that that’s what gives it such contrast and wide vertical viewing angles, it’s certainly better than anything on similarly priced rivals such as the HTC Radar.
The beauty of Microsoft’s smartphone software is that you’re almost guaranteed to get the same on whatever Windows Phone you buy. As a result, the experience, with an easy to use grid of live tiles that act as shortcut icons, as well as showing information, is much the same as ever. You can expect an easy UI and great keyboard. There is still the distinct lack of apps compared to iOS and Android, but if you’re not after the latest and greatest, we think you’ll be pretty pleased with the amount of services already available, from Kindle to Spotify.
Nokia also provides its own exclusive apps pre-loaded. Nokia Drive, its excellent free turn by turn naigation service, is a compelling reason to choose this over any other brand of Windows Phone; Nokia Music, less so but it’s still impressive. A free streaming radio service, it’s more necessary than convenient as the Lumia 710 boasts a rather measly 8GB of storage. On the plus side, Windows Phone Mango now supports multi-tasking, so you can have tracks play while browsing the web. Those two service are welcome, but we’re a little uneasy at seeing a few third party apps pre-installed on the 710’s homescreen as well, presumably at Nokia’s behest. Sure, you can uninstall eBay, Sky News and TripAdvisor, but in an ideal world, we’d prefer Nokia was mature enough to let customers make their own decisions.
So should you buy it? We can’t fault the fast processor inside the Lumia 710 for performance, and the day’s worth of charge is par for the course. In fact, if you’re considering a mid-range smartphone, you should absolutely put Windows Phone over Android. But there’s strong competition: HTC’s Radar is a similar price and comes with a superb movie rental service, while ZTE is prepping a big, bad beast of a Windows Phone for the same price shortly – though the design is lacking. The Lumia 710 remains a small, smart and value-packed phone and is an ideal entry point into Windows OS. Few rivals look this stylish or offer as much, out of the box
While the Lumia 800 remains the king of Windows Phones, its little brother is a good performer. There’s stiff competition ahead and cheaper Android phones but the Lumia 710 is ideal for first time Windows users.