Windows Phone may not have unseated Google's Android or bloodied the nose of Apple's iOS since it burst onto the mobile scene in 2010, but Nokia's latest release could mark a significant change in its. The Lumia 610 is the first Windows Phone for the cheaper end of the market -- a sector which has been ably exploited by legions of low-cost Android devices.
With weaker technical credentials but also a more reasonable price tag, the Lumia 610 aims to expand Windows Phone's reach to younger mobile buyers. Monthly contract prices start from around £15, while SIM-free handsets can be picked up for roughly £180.
Should I buy the Nokia Lumia 610?
If you've watched the development of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform with interest but haven't been brave -- or perhaps rich -- enough to take the plunge, then the Lumia 610 is going to be right up your street.
The cheapest Windows Phone device yet seen, the Lumia 610 doesn't offer the latest quad-core tech or a pin-sharp display, but instead provides a smooth and satisfying experience for a fraction of what its larger rivals cost. It also compares very favourably with the vast majority of similarly priced Android devices, boasting a superior user experience and better build quality.
Design and display
In keeping with its cheap and cheerful aspirations, the Lumia 610 showcases a modest handset design. The screen is surrounded by a plastic bezel, which is clad in a faux metallic coating. On the back, you'll find a soft-touch plastic battery panel that wraps around the lower section of the phone, forming a rather fetching chin.
Removing the cover reveals the battery, a micro-SIM slot and nothing else -- there's no microSD support on this device.
In terms of physical inputs, you'll find the volume, screen lock and camera keys on the right-hand side of the Lumia 610. The three standard Windows Phone commands -- Back, Home and Search -- are capacitive buttons below the 3.7-inch screen.
The rest of the phone is entirely bare, apart from the 3.5mm headphone socket and micro-USB port on the top edge. You certainly can't describe the Lumia 610 as fussy, and that's to its credit. I really like the minimalist yet surprisingly robust design. Despite its restrained and understated nature, this feels like a handset that's worth more than its retail price.
The phone's 3.7-inch LCD screen has a resolution of 480x800 pixels -- standard fare for Windows Phone devices. It utilises a capacitive touch panel, which means you don't need to apply pressure to register an input. This results in better accuracy and responsiveness, but it also means you can't use a traditional stylus, like the one supplied with the Samsung Galaxy Note.
The LCD screen itself is pretty average. Viewing angles are decent, but colours look a tad washed out, and blacks aren't as deep as they appear on phones with AMOLED screens. It's not the best display I've ever clapped eyes on, but to get the phone to market at such a low price, sacrifices are inevitable.
Processing power and internal storage
The Lumia 610 is part of Nokia and Microsoft's new approach to Windows Phone. While previous efforts were subject to rules and restrictions on minimum specifications, these have now been relaxed slightly in order to bring in more affordable handsets.
The Lumia therefore has an 800MHz single-core processor and just 256MB of RAM -- about half the memory seen in most currently available Windows Phone devices. This move has created some headaches for Nokia -- with downloads such as Angry Birds and Skype refusing to operate with the reduced RAM -- but updates are expected to rectify such issues.
-- an ever-diversifying range of devices with varied capabilities -- has been an issue for the Android platform. If Microsoft and Nokia want to compete in the same sectors as Google and its hardware partners, they're going to have deal with the kinds of problems this throws up too.