The Nokia Lumia 710 may look like it’s all business from the front, dominated by a large 3.7-inch touchscreen, but around back it’s all play thanks to optional customizable rear back battery covers that adds fun, pizzazz, and a little bit of color to an otherwise sleek all-black or all-white phone. As Nokia’s more mid-range offering of the two Windows Phone 7 debuts at Nokia World a few months ago, the Lumia 710 offers plenty of bang for your buck thanks to subtle customizations, added software that delivers value to your user experience, and good build quality thanks to Nokia’s expertise and economy of scale in making smartphones. Can the egalitarian Lumia with its utilitarian design stand out in the crowded sea of smartphones, or is it just another device washed up in bright colors?
Introduced as a pair alongside the more high-end Nokia Lumia 800, which has specs that appear on paper to best that of the Lumia 710, the 710 is the more pedestrian handset of the two. The Lumia 710 is Nokia’s first Windows Phone in the U.S. market.
It lacks the polish of a beautifully crafted, subtly tapered industrial design of the modern, minimalist, and functional Lumia 800, but the Lumia 710 can definitely stand its own ground, and in many ways offer a better experience and more value for consumers than the 800 and even the HTC Radar 4G, which is competing in the same space. Despite its shortcomings on paper, there is a lot of reason to chose the Lumia 710 over the Lumia 800 still, even if you’re a power user.
Both phones, for example, come with 512 MB of RAM for multitasking and a 1.4 GHz Snapdragon applications processor, placing them on par from at least a functional and technical point. There are subtle differences between the two devices, but where the Lumia 710 stands out is that it offers a lof of features and cuts the right corners to keep an affordable and attractive $50 on-contract pricing through T-Mobile USA. Additionally, T-Mobile will only be offering the black or white versions of the phone; you can order additional color rear covers from Nokia.
From a design perspective, the Lumia 710 is practical and is not quite as elegant as the Lumia 800, but that’s fine as its utilitarian design lends to practicality. Choosing form over function, the Lumia 710 offers better handling, thanks to a more dramatically curved backside and soft-touch rubberized coating that makes the phone easier to handle and hold for long periods of time. It’s less sleek than its bigger brother, the Lumia 800, but that’s okay because it means the Lumia 710 is less slippery as well and won’t be prone to sliding out of your hands accidentally. Additionally, the combination of curves, straight lines, and angled surfaces make for an attractive design that’s comfortable to use.
Another difference that favors the Lumia 800 on paper is the screen. The Lumia 800 has an elegant curved glass touchscreen with a vibrant AMOLED display and Nokia’s Clear Black Display technology. However, that lead that the Lumia 800 bears is quickly washed away when you look at the Lumia 710. Because the Lumnia 800 has a PenTile-based display, its WVGA resolution display appears slightly more pixelated than the LCD-based screen on the Lumia 710, which renders things a bit more crisply at the same resolution. Additionally, as the LCD display on the Lumia 710 has the same Clear Black Display technology, you do get the similar color vibrancy and also rich, dark blacks. The screen is very functional even under direct sunlight thanks to the Nokia display tech.
And finally, the last on-paper advantage that the Lumnia 800 has is the camera. Both the Lumia 710 and Lumia 800 can record videos in 720p HD, but whereas the Lumia 800 has an 8-megapixel camera for stills, the Lumia 710 is capped with a 5-megapixel camera sensor. That said, for the casual smartphone-toting photographer, real world performance of the Luia 710’s camera may be better than the Lumia 800 if you don’t intend on blowing up your finished photos to poster size. The focus of the Lumia 710 is sharper than that of the 800, though the 800 does deliver slightly more image details. Additionally, users who shoot macro photos will appreciate that they can get closer to their subjects using the Lumia 710’s camera.
Both the Lumia 710 and the Lumia 800 utilize Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 Mango OS build, which delivers zippy response. Apps opened and closed quickly and navigation is a breeze. Thanks to Nokia’s customized software apps on the phone, users will find extra value to be had with the Lumia 710. Because of these software packages, the Lumia 710 edges ahead of the HTC Radar, which may have a slighly better build quality, but lacks the overall complete package that the Lumia 710 offers.
Nokia has loaded the phone with Nokia Drive, which offers users free online or off-line turn-by-turn GPS navigation voice-guided instructions. Users can either store maps on the 8 GB internal storage or download maps using T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 4G connection as they go along their route, much like Google Maps with Navigation on Android. The option to pre-download maps ahead of time is nice since you don’t always have to worry about staying under your monthly data plan caps or be concerned with always getting cellular Internet reception.
Another nice option is the ESPN app, which is a Nokia exclusive right now, allowing users to track and follow their favorite teams, keep up to date with the latest sports news, and get the latest scores online.
Nokia Music should be coming soon to the U.S.–Nokia is probably still working out the licensing rights, but the app will give users customizable and personalized Internet radio for online or offline listening with creative playlists and other options.
T-Mobile also pre-loaded a number of useful apps, and bloatware is actually kept at a minimum on the Lumia 710.
In terms of call quality and performance, the device delivered clear, loud calls on both the earpiece speaker and the loud speaker. As typical with Nokia phones, reception and call quality was top notch. In my week of using the Lumia 710, battery life lasted a bit longer than that on the Lumia 800 in normal use, and most average users can squeeze a day or two of battery life out of the phone before requiring a recharge.
My biggest complaint about this phone is that the dual-stage camera shutter button doesn’t offer too much tactile feedback. To use the hardware button to focus, you have to press really gently–any harder of a press than that and the phone will go to image capture mode and snap your picture. The plastic touchscreen is another concern, and it’s yet to be seen if the plastic will be prone to lots of scratching over prolonged use.
When comparing the Lumia 710 to older Symbian devices, most notably the Nokia Astound, which was released last year for T-Mobile’s network, you can see that Nokia has made a few design decisions to keep costs at bay. The older Symbian-powered Astound has a more solid build quality, though the Lumia 710 is no slouch.
Though Nokia has made some sacrifices with the Lumia 710, the company has made many right decisions to balance cost and specs/build quality in order to still maintain an excellent overall user experience. Even power users may be drawn to the Lumia 710 as there are lots of features and lots to like with the device. While the Lumia 800 was heralded by Nokia as the world’s ‘first true Windows phone,’ the Lumia 710 may be the first consumer-centric Windows Phone with all that it has to offer. With customizable color back plates, a fun and engaging UI, and solid Nokia build quality, you’ll find a lot to love in this $50 package.