When I learned that Nokia would be teaming up with Microsoft for the next generation of Windows Phones, I was very excited. Nokia phones have a long-standing reputation for high quality, durability, and solid specs, but they've been held back by a stale operating system, Symbian. Enter the Nokia Lumia 710 for T-Mobile ($50 with a new two-year contract; price as of January 5, 2012), the Finnish handset maker's first Windows Phone in the United States.
The Lumia 710 isn't to be confused with the Nokia's flagship phone, the Lumia 800 which hasn't reached U.S. shores yet. The Lumia 710 is the younger sibling of the 800.
The Lumia 710 doesn't feel like a premium phone, but it doesn't feel cheap either. Though the phone's shiny plastic is a fingerprint magnet, its soft rubberized back allows you to get a good grip on it. It won't win any beauty pageants, but that's to be expected from what Nokia refers to as a "no nonsense" phone. If you're all about looks for your Windows Phone, you may find the slick HTC Radar (at double the price) more enticing.
The power button is a bit difficult to press as it is flush with the bezel. I'm also not a big fan of the navigation keys, which sit below the display on a single plastic strip (see the photo above). This arrangement doesn't look very refined, and it feels awkward and uncomfortable.
The 3.7-inch WVGA display uses Nokia's ClearBlack technology, which supposedly increases the display's visibility in bright sunlight. Unfortunately, the sun was hiding in the San Francisco fog today, so I was couldn't put this feature to the test.
Windows Phone 7 "Mango"
We've discussed the Windows Phone operating system in a lot of detail elsewhere, including this overview of Windows Phone and this guide to the Windows Phone Mango update. With its bold colors, big clear font, and simple menu system, Windows Phone is ideal for first-time smartphone owners and is especially appropriate on a phone like the Lumia 710. Windows Phone looks simple, but it packs a lot of features. You can sync your phone with your XBox Live account, use the oh-so-pretty Zune music and video player, and get access to a full version of Microsoft Office.
With Mango, you can perform true multitasking with third-party apps and with Internet Explorer 9. You can switch quickly among recently used applications by pressing and holding the Back button. The screen elegantly displays all of your open apps in chronological order based on when you last used them.
The Hubs (People, Pictures, Music + Video, and Games) have been enhanced with sweet new features. For example, the People Hub connects Facebook, Twitter, Outlook, LinkedIn, and Windows Live Messenger all in one place, so you don't have to jump from app to app to communicate with your friends and colleagues. You can also group and categorize your contacts based on how you think of them--friends, coworkers, enemies, or whatever.
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