The Nokia Lumia 710 is our favourite Finnish firm's second smart phone running the Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system.
Much less swanky-looking than its big brother, the Lumia 800, the 710 carries a more affordable price tag, pitting it against the ZTE Tania and the HTC Radar in the lower tier of Windows Phone handsets.
We got our hands on a 710 this week, so read on to find out how it fared.
Should I buy the Nokia Lumia 710?
The Lumia 710's main features are the Windows Phone OS, its snazzy, swappable backplates and free music streaming and sat-nav apps from Nokia -- free despite the handset's mid-range pricing.
Microsoft's OS is slick and easy to use and the Lumia boasts a 1.4GHz chip so performance is impressive. If you're a big Facebook user you'll love how the phone comes alive with your mates' updates.
But the OS doesn't offer as many apps as Android or iOS, so if you're always wondering if there's an app for that, you might find Windows Phone a bit limiting. We'd suggest considering an iPhone 3GS or a mid-range Android mobile instead.
Windows Phone 7.5 OS
The Lumia 710 is powered by the latest version of Windows Phone -- 7.5, aka Mango -- rather than the age-old Symbian platform Nokia used to rely on. Nokia has added some apps to the Lumia 710, along with its very own 'Nokia blue' colour theme, but it's more Microsoft than Finland's finest running the show.
We found Microsoft's operating system responsive, slick and easy to use, with bold, colourful icons and no-nonsense symbols clearly signposting all the functions. Thankfully, it's nothing like Microsoft's previous mobile OS, Windows Mobile, not least because it's been designed from the ground up for touchscreen phones. It also looks and feels strikingly different to Android and iOS, so don't expect an iClone.
If you're new to smart phones, we reckon you'll find Windows Phone a really welcoming place, because it's so simple and straightforward to use. But on the flip side, the software lacks the geeky, tinker-friendly nature of Android and can feel somewhat rigid, because Microsoft doesn't allow any big changes to its interface.
You can tweak the theme and background colours and create, delete and rearrange tiles on the home screen. But if you like to really customise the experience with widgets, as you can on Android, you might find Windows Phone a touch sterile.
The Lumia 710 runs the Mango version of Windows Phone. Among Mango's additions is multi-tasking, meaning you can listen to music in the background while browsing or composing an email. To switch between apps you hold down the back button, which brings up a deck of screenshots of your recent activity, then you swipe through and tap on the app or function you want to return to.
Throughout the OS are options to share stuff or interact with social networks. So if you're a big Facebooker, you'll love how it's baked into the phone.
After hooking up our Facebook account we did notice the Lumia's What's New feed wasn't always as up-to-date as the full-fat Facebook news feed, as viewed via Facebook.com. Don't expect to always be eyeballing the freshest data or even viewing all there is to see going on in your social circles through Windows Phone's lens.
For a better Facebook experience, there is also a Windows Phone Facebook app, which can be downloaded from the Windows Marketplace. We found this app generally to be more up-to-date than the Lumia feeds. Prolific Facebookers are likely to prefer it over the People hub.
Microsoft organises content in Windows Phone around a series of hubs. We like the convenience of hubs, but can't help but feel a big part of their function is to act as ballast, bolstering the OS in an area where it lags behind other smart phone operating systems -- apps.
From the home screen, tap on a hub Live Tile and, if you've correctly hooked up your Windows Phone to all your social feeds, you'll find yourself in familiar surroundings, high-fiving your email contacts, and poking your Facebook buddies. Think of Windows Phone as a house you've just moved all your stuff into -- the more you settle in, the more it feels like home.
The People hub is a social repository that collates info from your Facebook friends, email contacts, Twitter account and so on, depending on what you choose to connect (Windows Phone also supports LinkedIn, Yahoo Mail, Outlook and more). Swiping left and right within the hub segues through different slices of your data -- such as only the latest updates or a comprehensive list of all your contacts in one gigantic alphabetical mash-up, regardless of the medium through which you talk to them.
We like how hubs make getting to swathes of content straightforward, packaging related info into handy buckets where you can quickly dive in. The Pictures hub, for example, lets you browse photos you've taken with the phone's camera and also view a feed of snaps you or your mates have posted to Facebook. There are some great touches -- we especially like the date view with the Pictures hub. It displays all the snaps you've taken with the phone for each month, like a photo diary.
There's a Music + Videos hub for multimedia content; an Office hub, where Microsoft's productivity apps live, including OneNote for note-taking and Word for word processing; and an Xbox Live games hub where your games and Xbox Live avatar hang out. Apps that don't obviously fit into any of these buckets land on a secondary screen, where every app and phone function is stacked alphabetically in a long vertical list, making it easy to flick down and quickly locate a specific app.
If you want to access the full range of services offered by the Lumia you'll need a Windows Live ID. This is in addition to signing in with your Facebook, Twitter and email, so prepare for a spot of registration fatigue during setup.
For example, a Windows Live ID is needed to link your phone with Microsoft's Xbox Live gaming system. This is in order for it to display and track your Xbox Live gaming achievements and avatar, and to use SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage system. You also need a Windows Live account for syncing with Twitter, because the OS asks you to link your Twitter account with your Windows Live account.
Microsoft has sweated buckets recruiting developers to Windows Phone and recently gave a shout out to the platform's 60,000th app. Lots of app basics are here -- from Spotify to YouTube and the ubiquitous Angry Birds. But there are still notable app gaps, including no iPlayer or Instagram.
There is also a fair amount of overlap with both Microsoft and Nokia bringing their 'assets' to the handset -- so you get Bing Maps and Nokia Maps, for instance. The Music + Videos hub taps up Microsoft's Zune music marketplace, but the Nokia Music app hooks into Nokia's MP3 store. Having two ways of getting the same stuff is confusing, but it does mean you can choose your favourite. Nokia Maps has the edge over Bing Maps, thanks to the helpful addition of public transport routes.
For sheer quantity, Windows Phone can't match up to the might of Apple's iOS -- which is rapidly heading for 600,000 apps -- or Android Market's 400,000-plus. One feature of Windows Marketplace we do like though is the ability to try before you buy. Shelling out £3 for an app that laughs in your face before crashing your phone gets old very quickly.
Nokia Music and Nokia Drive
Nokia makes its own small but significant software splash on the Lumia 710 via the Nokia Maps, Nokia Mix Radio and Nokia Drive apps. The Mix Radio app not only offers free music streaming with access to some 15 million tracks, without the need to subscribe or even register, it also supports offline listening of up to 14 hours of downloaded music. Be warned though, if you're steaming music you can only skip seven tracks within a 24-hour period.
There's no sign-up or even registration needed to use Mix Radio -- you simply fire up the app, select a music genre or radio station and start listening. An impressive spectrum of tastes are catered for -- from mainstream genres such as indie/alternative, R 'n' B and dance to more nuanced offerings like 'Leather jacket rock' and 'Dubstep roots', plus stations built around 'New releases' or 'Best of 2011'.
Another impressive freebie is Nokia's sat-nav app, which brings turn-by-turn navigation to Lumia 710 users. To get started you need to download and install country-specific maps over Wi-Fi. Downloading and installing the UK maps took us less than 10 minutes. There are more than 100 international maps within the app that can also be preloaded -- a great way to avoid data roaming charges when you need to drive abroad.
The Lumia gets access to Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service, with 25GB of free space for each user to deposit photos and documents. This is five times more than Apple's iCloud storage system, but Apple says it doesn't include purchased music, apps, books, TV shows or photo stream data against this limit.
Content saved on SkyDrive can be synced and accessed via other devices. If you want to use your phone to get a spot of work done, this feature should come in handy. There's also an option to automatically upload the phone's camera roll to SkyDrive, so your photos are backed up on the fly. You can also sync the notes you make in the OneNote app.
Bear in mind there's no expandable memory on the Lumia 710, and only 8GB of space on-board, so cloud storage could be more of a 'must have' than a 'nice to have' if you cram lots of media on to your phone.
Performance, processor and battery life
The Lumia 710 has 512MB of memory and a 1.4GHz Qualcomm processor, which is a decent amount of welly for a mid-range phone. We found the Windows Phone OS fast and responsive in our tests, fancy 3D menu transitions and all. Web browsing was smooth, with pages loading quickly and rendering promptly. Internet Explorer 9 includes HTML5 support, but Windows Phone does not support Adobe Flash, so you'll find lots of embedded videos won't play.
Apps load with a minimum of fuss so we didn't have to spend too much time watching Windows Phone's loading screen -- five beads that swoop in and accelerate away like the dust kicked up by a speeding car.
Nokia reckons the Lumia 710's battery can cope with up to 7.6 hours of 3G talk time, 6 hours of video playback or 38 hours of music. The battery life here is the same story as standard smart phone fare -- heavy use drains the battery quickly, so an average user should expect to charge the Lumia every night.
Look and feel
When Nokia bestowed the looks upon the Lumia family, the 710 was clearly last in line -- behind the curvaceous, unibody Lumia 800 and its supersized American cousin, the 900. But high-end looks aren't cheap, so the 710 has a price-tag to match its more workaday design. The overall look isn't exactly showstopping -- but nor is it a terrible eyesore (assuming you regularly wipe away the inevitable fingermarks). Indeed, it's grown on us in a short time.
The front of the device is dominated by a 3.7-inch LCD touchscreen display that's neither too small nor too big for our tastes -- slapped atop a chunky hunk of plastic with the obligatory rounded corners. A curved and rubberised backplate means the device nestles comfortably in the hand. Size-wise it's like a beefier version of the iPhone 4S or the Lumia 800.
There's a choice of two basic handset colours -- black or white -- but one big design splash is the changeable backplate, a throwback to Nokia days of yore, when pimping your phone with a luminous plasticky back or faceplate was all the rage.
There are five backplates on offer from Nokia: yellow, cyan, magenta, black or white. We don't have any info on price per plate as yet but we'll update this review once we know. Nokia suggests you should colour co-ordinate the handset with your mood -- so presumably that's yellow = sunny! Magenta = so hot right now! Black = GRUMPY! And so on.
Our black Lumia 710 sample device came with two backplates in the box -- a matching black backplate plus a cyan spare. The two-tone black/blue phone looks great. As you'd expect, the blackplates themselves feel a tad flimsy when removed, so don't leave your spares lying around where your kid brother is going to step on them, unless you fancy that cracked-phone look.
Being a rather chunky 12.5mm thick, the handset feels reassuringly solid without being heavy (it's lighter than the iPhone 3GS and the Lumia 800) -- or it does so long as the backplate is properly snapped in place. If it's not fully tamped down you'll hear clicking noises when you squeeze the phone. So make sure you push firmly on all its corners after selecting your mood tone for the day.
As with all Windows Phones, there are three buttons on the front -- the back button, Windows home key and Bing search. The Lumia 710 has one long plasticky key to cover off all three functions, which looks ugly and feels cheap but works fine. We'd have preferred the sleek look of touch-keys -- as found on the Lumia 800 -- but we're assuming this is one of the areas where Nokia was shaving a few euros off the build cost.
There's also a dedicated camera button on the right-hand side of the handset, plus a volume up and down rocker. These keys are made of the same rubberised plastic as the backplate and we found them a touch spongy and unresponsive. We'd have preferred Nokia to have used a different material for the keys to help them stand out.
On the top of the 710 is a power key, which is also used to wake the phone up from sleep, along with a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro-USB port. The power key is small, laid flush with the top of the phone and also made of the same shiny plastic, so it can be quite fiddly to press.
We found ourselves pressing it twice thinking it hadn't registered our first press -- instead of waking the phone, it would revive and instantly turn off again.
Like its big brother, the Lumia 800, the Lumia 710 takes a micro-SIM -- the slot for which is tucked away inside the device next to the removeable battery.
Screen and keyboard
The capacitive LCD touchscreen has a middling resolution of 480x800 pixels -- which is true of all Windows Phones to date. It may not have a gorgeous AMOLED screen like the Lumia 800, but the 710's screen is still bright and colours are vivid, although they aren't as vibrant as on the 800. The blues, greens and pinks look paler and washed out.
We also noticed that whites on the 710 have a distinct nicotine hue -- a characteristic we also spotted on the 800. This means web pages viewed on either Lumia can appear yellowy compared to some other smartphones.
The 710 includes Nokia's ClearBlack Display technology, which the company reckons makes blacks look really black -- thus helping other colours to pop out. We can confirm this is true. Nokia also reckons this makes the screen easier to read in bright sunlight. During a brief sunny spell in January we took it outdoors and were pleased to find we could still make out most of the stuff on the screen.
We found the Windows Phone's touchscreen keyboard very easy to use in portrait orientation. It has an excellent auto-correct feature that's as good as the one on iOS. If you like typing with your thumbs, the keyboard can also be used in landscape orientation.
There's a copy and paste feature, which saves highlighted text to a clipboard that can then be pasted elsewhere by tapping on the clipboard icon. Getting the text highlighted in the first place, however, was rather fiddly.
Camera and video
The Lumia 710 has a 5-megapixel camera on the back, a considerable step down from the 800's 8 megapixels. It's also unbranded -- no fancy Lumia 800 Carl Zeiss lens here -- but again this is to be expected for what we hope will be a mid-tier smart phone. There's also no front-facing camera so video calling is off-limits.
While we like the fact Nokia has included a dedicated camera button, it's a tad spongy and can be tricky to tell when the camera will fire. In order to properly focus your snaps you need to squeeze lightly on the button until the desired portion of the picture is in focus and then push down further to take the photo. Unless you have a touch as light as Lionel Messi's, all your photos will be blurry.
If this button is too fiddly you can always tap the screen, which focuses the photo where you tap and then takes it. We found there was little lag between tapping and the hardware snapping, although using the dedicated camera button was fractionally quicker. When using the screen to take a photo, it takes under two seconds from tapping to snapping.
As you'd expect with middle-of-the-road megapixels, shots are unlikely to win you any major photography awards. The camera especially struggles in low-light indoor conditions -- producing grainy, unspectacular shots and lacking clarity. Even with reasonable indoor lighting our test images contained a lot of noise and colours generally appeared dull and washed out.
The 710 also has a tendency to produce lens flare. Outdoor shots in strong daylight produced better results but this camera is never going to offer more than throwaway point-and-shoot snaps.
On the video front, our test footage was reasonable in well-lit environments -- the 710 shoots 720p-resolution video at 30 frames per second -- but quickly becomes grainy in lower light. We also found the camera can be slow to focus and is especially slow to adjust to lighting changes -- so seconds of footage can end up blown out or over-dark, while you wait for the camera to catch up. Like most mobile video cameras, the more motion you have in the frame, the more the detail falls off.
All the usual connectivity options are on board, with high-speed HSPA mobile tech, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0, plus GPS for mapping. In our tests, call quality was clear and we didn't experience any dropped calls or serious connectivity issues.
Windows Phone OS updates can be downloaded by plugging the phone into a computer and using Microsoft's Zune Music + Video software. The Zune interface is also used to manage media on the phone. We found it relatively straightforward to transfer photos and videos from the phone to a PC using Zune.
From £15 per month on a two-year contract, the Nokia Lumia 710 is a very respectable mid-range smart phone, with a beefy 1.4GHz chip and a slick OS. We welcome high-end features such as Nokia's free streaming music and sat-nav apps, and Microsoft's suite of Office and cloud storage services.
But on the apps side, Windows Phone offers slim pickings. However good the Nokia and Microsoft apps are, they don't compensate for all the apps you're not getting compared with Android or iOS. Alternative mid-range phones to consider include the iPhone 3GS, the HTC Desire S, the Samsung Galaxy Ace and the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S.
If you're a huge fan of Facebook and are particularly partial to Windows Phone, the 710 is a decent mid-range choice. For everyone else, your money will go further if you buy into iOS' or Android's much more mature app markets.