The Lumia 710 is the cheaper, slightly fatter brother of the excellent Nokia Lumia 800. It's a capable enough smartphone, but can it entice budget buyers?
Why It Matters
Nokia made shockwaves when it announced it was shifting its smartphone strategy over from Symbian and Meego to Windows Phone 7. To date, though, we've only seen two Windows Phone 7 models in the Australian market; the very sexy and highly desireable Nokia Lumia 800 and the entry level Lumia 710.
Entry level smartphones often get a rough ride based on the very fact that they're entry level, and I think that ignores the fact that the feature phone is all but dead; nearly everyone buying a mobile these days will end up with a smartphone of some stripe. The flip side of that is that the market for entry level units is massively saturated, but not with Windows Phone models. The budget space remains the province of Android handsets; can a semi-budget Windows Phone really compete?
What I Liked
The Lumia 800 and 710 share software, which means you get access to Nokia's range of exclusive applications, including Nokia Drive, Maps and Music. It's not just software that the 710 shares with its more expensive sibling; the internal components are largely identical as well. The same Qualcomm 1.4Ghz processor runs both units, and the result is a smartphone with decent smarts. Windows Phone 7 generally does quite well with lower system specifications than competing platforms, and this means that despite being a technical step or two behind the competition, you'd be hard pressed to notice it in day to day use. Apps animate smoothly, close quickly and the general Windows Phone 7 experience remains a pleasant one.
The Lumia 710's 3.7 inch display isn't an AMOLED as you get on the 800; instead you'll have to make do with an LCD panel. Again, though, the 710 does somewhat punch above its weight , as the screen is clear and bright in both indoor and outdoor situations. Likewise, the 710's 5 megapixel camera isn't a stunning achievement, which initially feels a little weird for a Nokia handset. Once I got over that curiosity, I was able to take some passable shots with the 710. Nothing superb, but once again, this isn't positioned as a premium smartphone.
What I Didn't Like
The Lumia 800 was a real head turner of a phone — presuming, that is, you weren't one of the very few buyers of the Nokia N9. The Lumia 710, simply put, isn't, and the black model supplied to Giz exemplifies the problem. It's rather as though somebody in Nokia's design team, having knocked it out of the park with the Lumia 800, turned to the work experience boy and said "Very well. Now we shall churn out the cheaper one.". The Lumia 710's design is generally ordinary, and in a smartphone world where showing off is sometimes the point, that may not be enough. The other colours of the Lumia 710 are a little more attractive than the black model, but it's still a fairly chunky phone that doesn't really play to Nokia's usual design strengths.
In the 710's case, you're still left with a phone that looks much like the existing Windows Phone 7 pantheon, and many of those phones are getting on for eighteen months old right now. Outside the Nokia exclusive apps, you'd genuinely have a hard time picking those early handsets apart from the 710, and that's not a good thing.
The comparison with early Windows Phone 7 handsets doesn't stop there, either. To keep costs low, the 710 only has 8GB of storage on board, and in line with Microsoft's general rules on such things, there's no expandable storage capability. 8GB in today's media-obsessed world isn't a whole lot to play with at all, and it'll never get any better. If you're a music lover, like carrying around a lot of your photos or are simply app-addicted, you'll fill the 710 all too quickly.
While it's a criticism that can also be levelled at the Lumia 800, now that Skype's available for Windows Phone 7, the lack of a front facing camera is a real pain. Something tells me that the close collaboration between Nokia and Microsoft, and given who the current owners of Skype are that this may well be fixed in Nokia's second generation of Windows Phone 7 handsets — but that does nothing to help the Lumia 710.
Should You Buy One?
Ah, now, here's the crux of the problem. The Nokia Lumia 710, is, without doubt, a good budget smartphone, and a good way to show off what Windows Phone 7 can do. The $369 outright price point doesn't seem too onerous for what you get, but it's a tough one to justify with just a little bit of research.
First and foremost; if you just want a cheap smartphone, there's no end of really inexpensive Android handsets out there for outright purchase and then prepaid access or contract buying across all carriers. I'll take the view from now on that you know about those, but you're interested in Windows Phone 7 exclusively.
The issue here is that outside of the smallest contract tiers, the difference between the Lumia 710 and the Lumia 800 over the life of a contract really isn't that great, but the physical and especially storage differences are massive. A tip of the hat to Sheeds over at WPDownUnder here, as he did the analysis of the 710 on Optus some time back, and I largely agree with his conclusions; on a $59 cap or more, there's no point getting the 710 at all, as the price difference vanishes. Even on a $49 cap the difference over the life of the contract is only $98; it'd be well worth paying that for the double storage on the Lumia 800 alone. The lower tier caps weigh better in the Lumia 710's favour, but again there's a lot of competition in those lower tiers from other handset operating systems. Ask me if I'd rather a Galaxy S II than a Lumia 710, and the answer would be rather sharp.
That leaves outright purchase, and here again I've got to shift back out to the larger market. $369 isn't a bad price for a phone with the Lumia 710's capabilities, but it's certainly shifting towards the middle tier rather than entry level pricing, and at that kind of price there seems to be more of an acceptance of long term contracts than plunking money down outright. That doesn't always make financial sense — even some high-end smartphones can be better value on a prepaid cap if your usage is moderate — but appeals to people's hip pocket nerves.
So the Lumia 710 is a capable enough smartphone, but one that is indeed outclassed by the Lumia 800. You'd expect that, but when the pricing gap is so small, it makes the 710 a hard phone to generally recommend, even to the budget tiers that Nokia's clearly pitching it towards.
OS: Windows Phone 7.5 Screen: 3.7 Inch (480x800) LCD Processor / RAM: 1.4GHz Qualcomm / 512MB Storage: 8GB internal Camera: 5MP rear Weight: 125.5g Battery: 1300mAh Price: $369 outright or on contract