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Lumia 710, Nokia's first U.S. Windows Phone -- review

The Nokia Lumia 710 is a small, low-cost smartphone with some big, high-cost bets riding on its success.

The Lumia 710 is Nokia's first phone to hit the U.S. running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system -- more specifically, Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. It's also the first tangible product to hit store shelves, in this case T-Mobile stores, as a result of a deal between Nokia and Microsoft announced in February and signed in April that's reportedly worth billions of dollars.

So is the Lumia 710 a good smartphone or not? Simply put, it is. It's a simple, low-end phone, but it's a solid little phone worth your consideration if you're new to smartphones or looking for an affordable Windows Phone handset. The Lumia 710 runs $49.99 on a 2-year contract with T-Mobile starting Jan. 11.

The specifications match-up with most entry-level Windows Phone handsets -- namely the Samsung Focus Flash and the HTC Radar 4G.

Nokia Lumia 710The Lumia 710 isn't thin by today's smartphone standards, coming in at 0.49-inch thick, but it doesn't feel bloated by any means, weighing 4.4 ounces.

A 3.7-inch touch screen is featured on the new Nokia, which looks good but results, disappointingly, in a bit of color distortion at extreme angles. The resolution of the screen, which is responsive and very fingerprint prone in the black colorway I tested, is 800 x 480 pixels. Video playback, apps, photos and websites all looked great on the Lumia 710.

The phone is powered by a single-core 1.4-gigahertz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, and 512 megabytes of RAM and 8 gigabytes of built-in storage are included. There is no microSD card slot for storage expansion and there is no front-facing camera for video chatting -- which falls in line with the lower-end expectations the Lumia 710's price reflects. Though it should be noted that the HTC Radar 4G, which sells for the same price from T-Mobile, does include a front-facing camera.

On the back is a 5-megapixel camera with a single LED flash, which takes clear, detailed photos and can also shoot 720p video. The camera can't match the 8-megapixel shooters found on higher end smartphones, but again, the Lumia 710 isn't a high-end $200 or $300 smartphone.

The Lumia 710 was fast and performed well. I won't go too deep into Windows Phone Mango (for more on that, check out my October review of Mango), but while it isn't the most complicated or power-demanding operating system out there, the Lumia 710 handled everything I threw at it. In about two weeks of testing, I never had an app freeze or crash on me. Call quality was good with voices sounding clear and no dropped calls experienced. T-Mobile's 4G network offered up fast downloads and uploads on the Lumia 710. Battery life was also great: I consistently got a day's worth of charge, no problem.

Stylistically, the Lumia 710 is a bit plain, though not at all unattractive. The curved back plate on the phone is coated in a rubberized plastic that is grippy and comfortable to hold in the hand no matter what you're doing on the phone. The back plate is removable and Nokia is selling different colors -- cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white -- which thankfully can help add a bit of style.

Below the phone's display is a single piece of plastic which rises out of the face of the Lumia 710 to house three buttons: back, home and search. Many Windows Phone handsets have opted for touch-capacitive buttons and not a large physical button, but that's the way Nokia went this time around and it's unique. You may or may not like the large button, but it is an original look and one I didn't mind at all. The right side of the Lumia 710 is a volume rocker above a dedicated camera button, which responded fast when clicked. Up top is the phone's power button, headphone jack and, in another departure, USB port.

The top of the phone is a bit of a strange place for a USB port, but I actually liked this decision simply because I hadn't really seen it before. Nokia's phones will need to stand out and feel genuinely different from Samsung, HTC and others that make Windows Phone handsets.

Nokia Lumia 710This phone, while overall a standard and not at all groundbreaking phone, still feels different than others I've seen at this price range and I think that's a good thing. It's small choices, like the removable colored back plates, the large button on the front, and the USB port up top that give the Lumia 710 some personality.

Build quality is solid and the Lumia 710 feels like it could take some abuse and survive over the life of a two-year contract with no problems.

The Lumia 710 also has a couple of unique features on the software side, with a different color option for Windows Phone's app tiles called Nokia Blue, which looks a bit more royal than the standard blue  like the Tar Heel blue worn by the University of North Carolina. Nokia apps are also another differentiator for the Lumia 710 and future Nokia Windows Phones.

The best of the included Noika apps was Nokia Drive, a turn-by-turn voice navigation app that delivered GPS directions in a clear, understandable manner. Nokia Drive also re-calibrated quickly when I went against its suggested routes.

There's also an app, if you can really call it that, called Nokia Cares, which is simply a slide that states that yes, Nokia cares and "respects your privacy. We collect information about your phone and your use of services to improve Nokia products and to provide you more relevant content." But, the app says, Nokia doesn't share your data with third-party companies without your consent. There's also an included link to Nokia's service terms and privacy policy.

All in all, the Nokia Lumia 710 was a phone I enjoyed using. It didn't make me want to give up my Apple iPhone 4S or the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. But unlike the Nokia Lumia 800 on sale in Europe and Asia, the Lumia 710 wasn't designed to do that. Nokia will need to release such a phone in the U.S. to justify its multibillion-dollar partnership with Microsoft.

But while there aren't a ton of bells and whistles here, this straightforward, well-built, speedy little smartphone looks like a good starting point for Nokia and Microsoft.

  • The Nokia Lumia 710. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 710 (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 710 (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 710, in its box. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 710 with its back plate removed. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 710 with its back plate and battery removed. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The back of the Nokia Lumia 710. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The HTC Radar 4G, left, next to the Nokia Lumia 710, center, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)

  • The HTC Radar 4G, left, next to the Nokia Lumia 710, center, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The HTC Radar 4G, left, next to the Nokia Lumia 710, center, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The HTC Radar 4G, left, next to the Nokia Lumia 710, center, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photos: The Nokia Lumia 710. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times

 
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