When Nokia unveiled the first of its Windows Phone devices, it was the Lumia 800 that grabbed the headlines. The Lumia 710 is the lower-cost, more entry-level offering, but it has the potential to be a fairly strong contender in the smartphone arena.
While the Lumia 800 has been widely praised for its design (based on the N9), the Lumia 710 is its not-quite-as-attractive relative. It's not bad looking; it's just not groundbreaking or awe-inspiring. It looks a lot like a run-of-the-mill touch-screen phone.
The handset fits comfortably in the palm of one's hand, and has a generally solid feel. Unfortunately, taking off the back cover gives away its plastic finish. The handset is available in black or white, and users can purchase different, brightly coloured back covers – making it clear that this particular phone is aimed at the younger market.
The 710 takes only a micro-SIM card, and unfortunately has no slot for an additional memory card – it does, however, come with 8GB internal storage.
The front of the phone is sleek and glossy, and features back, home and search keys at the bottom of the screen on a single, long button. Like the 800, the 710 has a 3.7-inch display, which provides ample room for typing, browsing and watching videos.The handset also has a ClearBlack LCD screen with WVGA resolution. While it looks good enough, it's again not as good as the ClearBlack Amoled display of the Lumia 800. Moving away from aesthetics though, the 710 shares the same impressive 1.4GHz processor as the 800.
As for the interface itself, Windows 7.5 (also known as Windows Mango) offers a really fresh and dynamic platform. The colours are vibrant and the Metro-style live tiles make for a truly attractive mobile experience. Once linked to the user's social profiles, the 'People' tile, for example, remains constantly updated with the latest news from the social feeds.
Another dynamic feature is the deep social integration with other elements of the interface. For example, when opening the photo gallery, one can see not only their own images, but also the latest uploads from their contacts across the social networks.
It is also up to the user to decide on the appearance and order of the live tiles, so there is an element of customisability, but certainly not to the same extent as with an open platform such as Android.
One element that bugged me was the lack of true multitasking on the Lumia 710. While holding down the back button will bring up scrollable windows of recently opened apps and pages, in most cases, clicking on a window will relaunch the app rather than picking up from where one left off.
Of course, the Nokia/Microsoft partnership has its perks for smartphone customers – perks that go beyond just the marrying of the Nokia hardware with the Windows OS. A number of specially developed apps and services are found on the Lumia 710.
A feature that is sure to appeal to young users and music lovers alike is Mix Radio, which is essentially a free music streaming service and music store that comes standard with the device. I was impressed with the speed at which the songs buffered, and the sheer scope of music available in the store. Songs are available for R8 each.
Unfortunately, the external speaker on the handset is not very good – but then again, anyone wanting to use their phone as a beat box should not be allowed in public, so that may be for the best. For those of us who aren't exhibitionists, earphones will do the trick (and luckily, the out-of-the-box earphones come with multiple in-ear attachments, so you're bound to find something that works for you).
Nokia Drive is a great navigation app, and works quickly to provide real-time, turn-by-turn directions. Gamers will also appreciate the Xbox Live app that links to players' profiles and offers a nice range of games to choose from. The specially developed ESPN app also keeps sports lovers updated with live scores, news and videos. QuickOffice Pro can also be found already installed.
Beyond the built-in apps, the Windows Marketplace doesn't yet hold a torch to the likes of the Apple App Store or Google Play. Users will, however, be able to find the essentials – such as Whatsapp, Skype (hopefully deep integration is coming soon) and, of course, Angry Birds.
The camera on the 710 is pretty decent – at 5MP with LED flash. Sadly, the phone does not have a front-facing camera. What the camera does have though, is various extra features such as exposure adjustment, overlays and editing options.
As far as battery life is concerned – I found it to be very good. The Lumia 710 could last well over 48 hours in standby mode, and could manage a fairly full day of activities without needing to charge (Nokia says it's capable of 9.5 hours of 3G talk, 335 hours of 3G standby, 55 hours of music, and 6.5 hours of video).
Overall, the unassuming design of the Lumia 710 detracts from its truly impressive specs for its price point. The Windows 7.5 OS is intuitive and fresh and caters particularly well to those users who have very active social media lives.
While it doesn't have the 800's looks or camera, it has pretty much everything else, minus the hefty price tag. Hopefully, with time, the Windows Marketplace will continue to develop and get on par with its competitors. For now though, the Lumia 710 is definitely a great option for first-time smartphone users.
Watch the video review here.
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