Nokia Lumia 800, Lumia 710 Hands-On: The Most Beautiful Smartphone Created (Video)

After Nokia had announced the Nokia Lumia 800 and 710 smartphone running Microsoft’s Windows Phone Mango operating system in London at Nokia World, we spoke with company executives in Sunnyvale, California to take a tour of the new smartphones. Quite simply, the Nokia 800, like the MeeGo-powered N9 that it borrows its aesthetics from, is a cornucopia for the senses.

The Nokia Lumia 800 will feature a single-core 1.4 GHz Snapdragon CPU, a 3.7-inch AMOLED display with Nokia’s Clear Black Display technology, 16 GB local storage with 25 GB cloud-based SkyDrive storage, an 8-megapixel autofocus camera with Carl Zeiss optics and dual LED flash, and a unibody plastic design. Just as important as what’s on the phone from a hardware perspective is also what Nokia has left off from a design perspective. It seems that what needs to be there is there, and Nokia didn’t force the phone to be anorexically thin nor waste the design to accommodate useless specs. The curved glass, which bevels upwards, is like a dome and helps make swipping easy as there is no obstruction on the sides of the phone.

Though the Nokia Lumia 800 and Nokia N9 employ similar designs, the Lumia 800 has a more compact display at 3.7 inches versus the 3.9 on the N9. Additionally, the Lumia 800 also has a multi-stage dedicated hardware shutter button, making it easy to access the camera for photo capture.

While aesthetically pleasing in photos, the Nokia Lumia 800 will marvel the senses when held–you have to hold one to really experience Nokia’s industrial design. In person, the phone is equally visually stunning as it is magnificent to hold. A balance of form and function, the slim and sleek Lumia 800 is airy–but not too light to hold–and leaves the design of other smartphones in the dust, and even the iconic iPhone 4 design looks like a sculpture of brutalist art next to the Lumia 800.

It’s interesting to see that in the Lumia 800, Nokia didn’t sacrifice function and purpose when it comes to design. Every curve is meant to contour to fit perfectly in my hand when holding the phone, as if it was specifically designed, molded, and built for my own hands and for no other. The seamless design is both organic and soft, while the sleek lines make the phone modern and minimalist in appearance. As company CEO Stephen Elop says in his keynote, the Nokia Lumia 800 is functionally beautiful.

According to Nokia, the same camera sensor that’s on my beloved Nokia N8 is on the Nokia Lumia 800, just with an 8-megapixel sensor rather than 12-megapixel. Company representatives say that the Lumia 800 and 710 are just the beginning of a series of devices, and we should expect to see more Nokia DNA in future devices.

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The Nokia Lumia 800 will be available in cyan blue, magenta, and black–all colors are in a matte finish that’s easy to hold and pleasing to behold.

But there’s already plenty of Nokia DNA as it stands. The Nokia Drive and Nokia Maps app that are pre-bundled with Nokia-branded phones deliver extra value to consumers with 2D and 3D driving, voice-guided tun by turn directions. The closest competitor for Windows Phone 7 right now is Navigon, an app which normally costs approximately $50.

Nokia Maps, with vector graphics, on right; Microsoft's Bing Maps on left.

Right now, Nokia says that Nokia Maps, which pulls up POIs and allows users to search city guides, will be in addition to the Bing Maps app on NNokia devices. In the future, we can expect to see more collaborative work from Nokia and Microsoft in the mapping department.

Nokia Music, which wasn’t available in the U.S. just yet at the time of Nokia World due to music rights reasons, will be coming soon and will be another nice benefit allowing users to discover, play, and browse music without requiring an expensive Zune Pass subscription.

And lastly, there’s Nokia ESPN Sports Hub, which will help sports fan follow and track their favorite teams, sports, and leagues on the go while maintaining the beautiful panoramic screen experience of Windows Phone.

The Nokia Lumia 710 is more of an entry-level and affordable handset. A bit lighter than the Nokia 800 to hold, the 710 features the same sized display, but with an LCD rather than an AMOLED screen, alongside Nokia’s Clear Black Display technology. Equally as pleasing the hold, the 710 is more of a lifestyle phone allowing for easy customization. The phone will be available in either black or white, and the rear battery cover can be customized with a number of colors to match the color scheme of Windows Phone 7′s Live Tiles.

Rather than a unibody construction, the design of the Nokia Lumia 710 allows for a swappable battery as the rear battery cover can be easily removed for customization. Additionally, rather than the capacitive touch Windows Phone 7 navigation buttons (for back, home, and search), the Nokia Lumia 710 employs hardware buttons that require a physical press. While that does require a bit more effort to activate the button, it also ensures that accidental button presses do not happen when holding the phone. The Lumia 710 will feature 8 GB of on-board storage and the same 25 GB SkyDrive cloud storage.

Interestingly, Nokia’s debut crop of Windows Phone 7 will not sport a front-facing camera despite being released with Mango. Nokia says that though Mango does support front-facing camera, integration with a front-facing camera isn’t seamless out of the box just yet. Perhaps, with Windows Phone 8–codenamed Apollo–Microsoft can deliver a seamless Skype integration out of the box and we’ll begin seeing front-facing cameras on Nokia’s hardware.

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Right now, an appealing mix of beautifully crafted hardware and thoughtfully added software helps to make Nokia stand out ahead of the crowd. Facing stiff competition from other Windows Phone 7 licensees, such as those from HTC, LG, and Samsung, the Nokia DNA really shines through and Nokia’s premier Windows Phone 7 Lumia smartphones exemplifies what makes a Nokia phone a Nokia experience. The Lumia 800 and 710 hardware should be attractive to users of devices from other manufacturers and the intelligent software experiences–Nokia Drive, Nokia Maps, Nokia Music with Mix Radio, Nokia ESPN Sports Hub–will help to make Symbian users equally at home on Windows Phone as they are on Anna or Belle. Innovative, fresh, and smart, these two Lumia devices are only the beginning and I am really excited to see what Nokia has in its labs for the future. Disappointingly, though, U.S. users will have to eye these devices longingly until 2012.

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