SUNNYVALE, Calif.--Nokia's first, highly anticipated foray into Windows Phone gives both the phone builder and the software maker a second chance. Two of them, actually.
A few hours after Nokia's big unveiling of the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 at Nokia World, Senior Associate Editor Nicole Lee and I went to Nokia's Sunnyvale office to spend some quality time with both phones. (Stay tuned for Nicole's hands-on impressions of the Lumia 800!)
The Nokia Lumia 710 is the more midrange of the two, but I must say, it was attraction at first sight. The phone itself is pretty typical in dimensions and layout--Nokia left all the design risks to the Nokia Lumia 800, with its polycarbon unibody design, lack of a battery cover, and single visible screw.
Yet the Lumia 710 fits together well, feels good in the hand, and has some fun, funky colors and quirks that set it apart from the legion of sleek 'n' glossy, black and gray phones that seem to dominate.
The Lumia 710 comes in black and white, but there are five choices for removable back covers: black, white, cyan, fuchsia, and yellow. When you buy the black phone, you'll get the black color and one other cover. The same formula extends to the white phone.
I saw white, fuchsia, and cyan colors, which looked especially jazzy when paired with Windows Phone's various customizable OS tile colors.
Now on to the specs! The Lumia 710 has a 3.7-inch LCD screen with a WVGA 800x480-pixel resolution. It employs Nokia's ClearBlack display technology, which helps filter out the light to improve contrast, and also improve readability in direct sunlight. While not nearly as stunning as the Lumia 800's AMOLED display of the same size, it still looks nice and bright and colorful.
One benefit of the Windows Phone OS is that the live tiles and icons are large and the design is clear-cut, so a smaller screen isn't as much of a hindrance as it could be, at least in terms of navigation. While on the compact side, the 3.7-inch screen didn't feel claustrophobic in the hour or so I had the phone in hand.
Beneath the display is an oblong bubble of plastic that serves as the button for the three Windows Phone keys: the Back button, the Windows button, and the Search button. It looks pretty cool, but isn't as responsive as I'd like. The buttons on either end have more snapback, but I wasn't always sure I was hitting the Windows button in the center. Nokia could have done a bit better there.
There are the volume rocker and photo shutter button on the right spine, a 3.5mm headset jack and power button up top, and a Micro-USB charging port.
On the back is the 5-megapixel camera lens with LED flash. You'll be happy to know that it supports 720p HD video capture at 30 frames per second. Nokia is known for its strong camera phones, so I wasted little time working those angles. Most of the photos I took were indoors and saturated with plenty of natural light supplied by large windows, and the photo quality looked pretty good overall, though I'll need some more time and lighting situations to really determine quality.
Features and apps
Inside, the Lumia 710 runs Windows Phone 7.5 Mango (full review), so it will contain all those software features. It will also have three new apps found only on Nokia-made Windows Phones. The first is Nokia Drive, which will offer turn-by-turn voice navigation (as Android does). Instead of using Bing maps, Nokia Drive uses maps provided by Navteq, which Nokia also owns. While I did quickly peruse the app, voices weren't installed on the test phones I saw, but Nokia promises that you'll be able to download a variety of voices and languages. The service is free.
There will also be the Nokia Music app, which isn't yet available. It will offer Mix Radio and free streaming music. The ESPN Hub is the third unique software addition; it will have a host of scores and details for sports lovers, integrated right into the phone.
Like the Lumia 800, the Lumia 710 is powered by a 1.4GHz single-core processor, and its performance felt nice and zippy during my brief testing period. Of course, I wasn't e-mailing or using the phone for any strenuous tasks.
Pricing and availability
The Lumia is a quad-band GSM world phone that's expected to cost $370 (270 Euros) unlocked.
There aren't any immediate announcements concerning a U.S. carrier on either the GSM or CDMA network, but Nokia says it's working on a CDMA version, and also on making the phones LTE-capable. That means there's a very good chance we'll see the Lumia 710 or something like it announced for Verizon.
We also know that the Lumia 710 won't arrive on the menu until closer to the end of 2011, with Hong Kong, India, Russia, and Taiwan being the first to get a bite.
The Nokia Lumia 710 isn't a cutting-edge phone in terms of specs, but so far it's a solid device with a nice design. Although my hands-on time is cursory compared with the kind of deep testing we employ for a full-on review, I'd say I got a good snapshot of the phone's look and feel. I didn't have a chance to test call quality and data speeds, especially since as the phone isn't optimized for a U.S. network, performance here is not representational. However, I did enjoy holding and interacting with the phone, which is always a positive sign when it comes to a manufacturer and carrier actually selling the things.
I look forward to seeing the Lumia 710 and its cousins optimized for a U.S. market, and seeing how well it holds up to the competition when it does.