The Nokia Lumia 710 is our favourite Finnish firm's second smart phone running the Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system.
The Lumia 710 is due to land in the UK from free on £15.50 per month, two-year contracts.
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.