The Nokia Lumia 710 is the second offering into the Windows Phone arena from Nokia, following the release of the Nokia Lumia 800 late last year.
The first thing you notice when comparing the Nokia Lumia 710 with its older mobile phone sibling is that the Nokia Lumia 710 looks and feels cheaper. And it is. Where the Nokia Lumia 800 SIM-free price is around £430, the Nokia Lumia 710 is expected to cost a somewhat more economical £300.
The reason the Nokia Lumia 710 feels like a cheaper handset is partly down to the weight, coming in at a sprightly 125.5g against the Nokia Lumia 800's 142g. On paper this seems like a good thing, but the smartphone is too light somehow, making it feel unsubstantial compared to its bigger brother.
In addition to this, the Nokia Lumia 710 screen is recessed slightly, and the transition from the front face of the phone to the sides feels quite angular. The result of this styling is that the phone design doesn't look or feel as coherent as the Nokia Lumia 800.
Also we found the separate physical buttons for Back, Home and Search on the Nokia Lumia 710 look and feel cheaper than the integral styling on the Nokia Lumia 800, and we caught the bottom left of the screen when going to press the Back button a number of times.
One major advantage over the Nokia Lumia 800 is that the rear cover is removable, since the Nokia Lumia 710 comes with a replaceable battery. Based on the battery life of the Nokia Lumia 800, the ability to carry a spare battery and swap out may well prove extremely useful.
With the Nokia Lumia 710, Nokia has returned to the days of the changeable covers - rear at least - to further personalise your mobile phone. Although we're all for changeable covers and phone personalisation, removing the cover feels like something we should be doing as little as possible when we saw the exposed pads onto which the side buttons press.
Although phones with changeable covers are more commonly marketed at younger users, the only available payment method for Vodafone and T-Mobile customers is by credit card, which many won't have. This seems odd since Microsoft enabled PayPal as a payment method on the Xbox 360 late last year, and those transitioning from Symbian handsets are used to having the option to pay via their phone bill.
It seems that at present, if you are interested in buying a Windows Phone, then you're best off with Orange, which is supporting pay via phone bill with Microsoft.
When we compared the size of the Nokia Lumia 710 (119 x 62.4 x 12.48mm) with the Nokia Lumia 800 (116.5 x 61.2 x 12.1mm), we were surprised to find it was the larger of the two. The only reason we could find for this was the extra mechanics required for a removable cover and replaceable battery in the Nokia Lumia 710.
The Nokia Lumia 710 and Nokia Lumia 800 share the same screen size (3.7 inches) and resolution (480 x 800p), although the Nokia Lumia 710 is limited to a ClearBlack TFT compared to the ClearBlack AMOLED on the Nokia Lumia 800.
They also both use Gorilla Glass, making them somewhat bomb-proof. The similarities continue to the processor, with both phones using the 1.4GHz single-core Qualcomm MSM8255T Scorpion/Snapdragon chip.
Outside of the Nokia stable of handsets, the Lumia 710 is similar to the HTC Radar, which is 11.5g heavier, at 137g, although similarly sized, measuring 120.5 x 61.5 x 10.9mm.
Both phones have a 5MP camera and 8GB of internal memory. But the HTC Radar has a slightly larger 3.8-inch screen and a substantially lower powered processor - a 1GHz single-core Qualcomm MSM8255 Scorpion/Snapdragon.
There are some slight differences when compared with the HTC Radar, in that Nokia adds an additional tile colour option (Nokia Blue), 20 additional ringtones and three additional alarm sounds (Nokia calendar, Nokia email and Nokia message). This all means that your new Nokia Windows Phone can still sound like your old Nokia Symbian phone, if you want.
The Windows Phone interface is, at first glance, very different to other smartphone operating systems. As Symbian^3 devices have developed through Symbian Anna to Belle, the home screen has become more Android in appearance, with the menu structure using an app grid with the ability to have folders or sub-menus within menus.
Although there are some similarities to Android, iOS and Symbian in Windows Phone 7.5, the emphasis has changed from having many apps accessible on the home screen to having a few easily accessible apps on the start screen, in a scrollable 2x4 grid, with useful information displayed on their tiles.
This interface with four to eight live tiles on the screen at any time is more intuitive and faster to navigate.
The main negative of the Nokia Lumia 710's interface is the lack of folders, which will hopefully be partially rectified by the release of Windows Phone Tango.
An alphabetically listed app menu is searchable, jumping to first letter functionality when you have 45 or more apps (games don't count) installed. This dearly needs the sub-folder functionality too.
Contacts and calling
Setting up your contacts - or People, as Windows Phone calls them - is a breeze. When we powered on the Nokia Lumia 710 for the first time, we were asked to log in to or register for a Windows Live account, which, although non-compulsory, forms an integral part of how Windows Phone works.
This account was then synced to the People, Calendar and Email (Hotmail) apps and enabled IM via Windows Live Messenger, while becoming the default cloud backup solution for all contact information.
Next we were asked to log in or register for a Nokia account, which gives an idea of how Nokia plans to expand on its initially limited Windows Phone apps offering.
As well as the ability to sync people's contact information from Windows Live Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Nokia/OVI Mail and Yahoo, Nokia has created a Contacts Transfer app, which enables direct Bluetooth transfer of all contact information from one phone to another, in case you're not currently a social or cloud surfer.
As the People app populates from the different cloud and physical locations it automatically merges contacts where the name is the same across the sources, reducing the number of contact names to search through.
Even so, we found we needed to run through the contacts in the People app to do the last few contact merges manually where they had different names/nicknames in the different sources.
One major issue with the multiple sourced contact information is that it's somewhat an all or nothing functionality, displaying either all contacts from a source or none of them. Hopefully Nokia/Microsoft will provide a happy middle ground for customisation in a future update.
Once this is all complete, calling with the Nokia Lumia 710 is as easy as tapping the phone icon, which opens a call history screen with touchscreen buttons at the bottom for voicemail, a simple dial pad, access to your phone book and a call history search.
The People app defaults to the top-right live tile on new and reset Windows Phones, and can be found in the apps list if removed from the start screen.
The dial pad enables you to make a call and nothing much else, which feels a little limited when compared with the smart dialling provided on competing smartphones. However, contacts can be searched though separately in the People app, so the functionality is still accessible.
While making and receiving calls on the Nokia Lumia 710 with our Orange SIM, we found that the signal was maintained well, with the 3G signal switching quickly between Orange and T-Mobile.
Messaging and social networking is where Windows Phone and the Nokia Lumia 710 really come into their own. Once we had set up accounts for Windows Live, Twitter and Facebook, we were able to choose which contacts to display in the People app.
Setting up Windows Live, Twitter and Facebook accounts meant that we could select contacts from the People app to IM or email via Windows Live Hotmail, write on their wall or chat with them on Facebook or send them a message on Twitter, along with the standard option to send them an SMS or MMS.
While on a contact's profile screen, we were able to swipe to the left to see what's new, which displays their recent posts on Facebook and Twitter. Swipe again to see their Facebook photo albums and swipe a third time to see a history of messages from them.
From the People app, a quick tap on a profile picture opened up the Me app, which can also be opened by selecting it from the app list - or start screen, if pinned. From here we were able to post a status update or check in on Windows Live, Twitter LinkedIn or Facebook.
Based on the ability to check in, seemed a pity that this feature wasn't linked to Foursquare as well, but we suppose we can't have everything, and this is a great start.
If we fancied a live chat, we could choose to 'Set chat status'. Although this didn't result in a visual change in the Me app, opening the Messaging app now showed an Online screen, which displayed contacts who were available on Windows Live Messenger and/or Facebook Chat.
From the Messaging app, we were able to select a contact and choose from messaging them via SMS or IM, creating a virtual conversation with them. All of these methods of communication made us feel well connected from the Nokia Lumia 710's general interface, without having to install third party apps.
However, Microsoft has released a Facebook app and Twitter and Foursquare have released their own, with Skype rumoured to be integrated into a future update to Windows Phone handsets.
Internet -via Wi-Fi or 3G - is fast and responsive on the Nokia Lumia 710, sharing the pre-installed Internet Explorer browser with the rest of the Windows Phone stable.
Connection times are substantially faster than Symbian devices, taking around four seconds to open the full (non-mobile) TechRadar site. These speeds are more akin to the top-end Android and iOS smartphones, as we found in our Nokia Lumia 800 review. Both Nokia phones share the same hardware and software that affect this performance.
As with the WiFi internet speed the Nokia Lumia 710 and Lumia 800 are on a par when using 3G for internet surfing taking around three seconds to initial load the Techradar website with text and fixed images and a further five seconds to load the rest.
This two part method means that you can be reading the articles whilst the animated areas of the site are still loading. With Internet Explorer directed to the mobile internet version of the site the load time was cut to nearly two seconds for all info.
Although Internet Explorer is pinned to the start screen out of the box, the space can be saved since most people, once used to Windows Phone, prefer to use the bottom left search button to open Bing and navigate from there.
This holds the same for the Local Scout app, since once Bing has been opened, four touchscreen buttons appear at the bottom of the screen, providing access to Local Scout, Music Scrobbler, Text/Barcode Scanner and Voice Recognition Internet Search.
Local Scout provides location-based information on shops, bars, restaurants and attractions.
The Music Scrobbler app listens to background music and searches for it in the Marketplace.
Text/Barcode Scanner scans barcodes, QR Codes, Microsoft Tags, books, CDs and DVDs, plus can translate scanned text - with mixed results, so we're undecided on this function despite it being a really cool feature.
Voice Recognition Internet Search starts a web search based on spoken words.
One major limitation that remains from the Nokia Lumia 800 is that Flash Player still hasn't arrived. According to the Flash Runtime Team at Adobe, although they are working with Microsoft to provide a Windows Phone Flash Player solution, "Windows Phone 7.5 Mango will not support Flash Player". Hopefully it will appear in Windows Phone 8 later this year.
As with the Nokia Lumia 800, the Nokia Lumia 710 doesn't feature a front-facing camera. The first Nokia Windows Phone expected to provide this functionality is the Nokia Lumia 900 or one of the Nokia Lumia 9xx variants.
This remains a frustration, especially following Microsoft's takeover of Skype. This is a feature that featured on Nokia Symbian phones as well as numerous Android handsets and iPhones.
The 5MP Nokia Lumia 710 camera is the first major cost saving compared with the 8MP Nokia Lumia 800 camera, although this is on par with the HTC Radar, just as the Nokia Lumia 800 is with the HTC Titan.
The camera software interface is the same across all of the Windows Phones, but the difference in resolution between hardware specs will see a difference in the file output.
This being said, although the Nokia Lumia 710 has a lower resolution camera than the Nokia Lumia 800, it does have a greater zoom capability, with a 4x digital zoom instead of a 3x one.
With Windows Phone 7.5 comes touchscreen-based tap to focus and shoot, which is very nice to have.
With this default Windows Phone functionality comes the beautiful integration between the Camera and Pictures apps. Take a photograph, tap on the arrow in the top-left corner of the camera screen and you enter the Pictures app in the Camera Roll, where you can auto-fix, face tag and upload the image to your selected quick share account (Facebook, Twitter or SkyDrive) or share it via email or any other social apps you may have installed.
Although all images were taken in auto mode as this is where most owners will reside, the Nokia Lumia 710 provides a wide range of scene options with the standard Backlight, Macro, Landscape, Night, Portrait and Sports being bolster with Beach, Candlelight, Snow, and Sunset.
In addition to this we were able to change White Balance, Exposure, ISO, Metering Mode, Contrast, Saturation, Focus Mode, Resolution and Flickr Reduction. Sadly however, with all these options there is no option to use red-eye reduction flash.
After a lot of searching around, we found a number of third-party red-eye removal apps, but none have overly impressed, using very low-tech cover up methods.
When it comes to video recording on the Nokia Lumia 710, we found the response to changes in light levels was good and there was minimal lag when panning around.
The major disappointment we had was that, as with the Nokia Lumia 800, the Nokia Lumia 710 doesn't permit changing the zoom level during recording, meaning that to zoom in or out we had to stop recording, change zoom level between the six preset levels and start recording a new section of video.
Although the Nokia Lumia 710 struggled in low light conditions without the single LED light, turning it on provided a reasonable colour depth and panning lag, as long as the subject was less than a couple of metres away.
One of the most important things when it comes to media is storage, and this is another area where money has been saved on the Nokia Lumia 710, providing 8GB of capacity compared with the Nokia Lumia 800's more generous 16GB. Yet again this mimics the HTC Radar specification, just as the Nokia Lumia 800 mimics the HTC Titan.
As long as this doesn't limit you too much, the Pictures app is a breeze to use, with a customisable in-app background based on the images on your phone.
We did, however, find that it's not possible to delete images in bulk from the Nokia Lumia 710 without using the Zune PC software. This isn't a limitation of the Nokia Lumia 710 specifically, but one of the Windows Phone 7.5 operating system.
When it comes to listening to music on the Nokia Lumia 710, you're presented with two options out of the box, with the default Zune Player from Microsoft and the Nokia Music app.
The main advantages of Nokia Music over the Zune Music+Video app is that it includes Mix Radio, providing a selection of different genre-based Music Mixes to listen to over the air, or download to listen to later, which are updated weekly. Plus if you permit the app to use your location, it provides live local gig information.
That being said, the My Music section of Nokia Music is heavily reliant on the Zune Music+Video back end.
The only way to tell if you're using Nokia Music when scrolling through your music is that Nokia Music has 'My Music' rather than 'Music' written at the top of the screen, and provides selection via Genre, which isn't offered by Zune Music+Video.
Nokia Music, as its name implies, is limited to music media, whereas the Zune Music+Video app provides access to Music, Video, Podcasts stored on device, a standard FM Radio (with headphones) and direct access to the Music Marketplace.
If you're prepared to fork out £8.99 per month or £89.90 per year you can get your hands on a Zune Pass, which enables you to download and listen to as much music as you like from the Marketplace on your Phone, PC and Xbox 360. Although this is a nice idea, it seems a little expensive in the current market.
A frustration with the Zune service is that although there is a method of playing audiobooks on Microsoft Zune Media Players, this hasn't transitioned into the Windows Phone operating system. This means that a number of clever people have had to devise a work-around where you can upload audiobooks to the Zune software as local podcasts, enabling bookmarked audio, so you can pick up your audiobook where you put it down.
Doing a speaker comparison between the Nokia Lumia 710 and Nokia Lumia 800 - using Shelter by The XX - we found that although the sound from the Nokia Lumia 710 is fractionally more open, the Nokia Lumia 800 sounded slightly better.
We put the difference down to the construction of the phones, since through headphones they sounded the same. Nokia has already accepted that the sound quality could be improved in the Nokia Lumia 800 and promised an update later in the year. Hopefully this will be applied to the Nokia Lumia 710 too.
Gaming is another area where the Nokia Lumia 710 excels, since it works as an extension of the Xbox 360 gaming experience. Many Xbox 360 Arcade games have been expanded to have variants playable on Windows Phone handsets.
Some over the counter games such as Kinectimals enable the user to take a snapshot of the television when playing the game on the games console, and transfer progress to the phone. They also use the Xbox 360 Kinect to take a photo of the Nokia Lumia 710 screen to transfer progress back to the console.
Not only are you able to download games to play, but you can also download an app to modify your Xbox 360 avatar if that takes your fancy. Or download an app to control your console, an app to act as a ruler, a spirit level, a torch and more.
The gaming experience on the Nokia Lumia 710 is very impressive, with the only disappointment being that games are somewhat more expensive than in other mobile app stores, including the Nokia Store.
Battery and connectivity
The battery life on the Nokia Lumia 710 suffers in the same way as the Nokia Lumia 800, providing a day's usage between changes. Long gone are the days of the endless battery life.
This isn't surprising, since the Nokia Lumia 710 has a measly - albeit removable - 1300mAh BP-3L battery, compared with the Nokia Lumia 800's (non-removable) 1450mAh BV-5JW.
Nokia states the Lumia 710 as being capable of up to 7.6 hours 3G talk time and up to 400 hours GSM or 3G standby time, compared with up to 9.5 hours 3G talk time and up to 265 hours GSM standby and 335 hours 3G standby on the Lumia 800.
When we now compare this with the specs for the HTC Radar, with its 1520mAh battery and up to 600/485 hours GSM/3G talk time and up to 480/535 hours GSM/3G standby, we note the improvements needed from Nokia.
The only advantage for the Nokia Lumia 710 is that, as the battery is removable, maybe someone like Mugen will develop a higher-capacity battery replacement.
Charging up the Nokia Lumia 710 is no different to the rest of the latest breed of phones out of the Nokia stable, using a micro USB connection on the top of the phone. One difference to the Nokia Lumia 800 is that there's no connector cover this time, with the micro USB socket exposed at all times.
As with other Windows Phone handsets, there is an option within phone settings to enable automatic switching to battery saver mode when the battery level drops below a preset figure. Once enabled, certain services such as automatic synchronisation of emails and app background tasks are switched off.
Connectivity on the Nokia Lumia 710 is no different to that on the Nokia Lumia 800, with a USB to micro USB cable included in the box for physical PC connectivity for synchronisation, data transfer and USB charging.
As with the Nokia Lumia 800, the Nokia Lumia 710 also supports Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n with the usual WEP, WPA, WPA2 (Enterprise & Personal) enabling both wireless accessory usage and Wi-Fi synchronisation with the Zune PC software, if you're prepared to take the battery hit.
The first time we connected the Nokia Lumia 710 to the PC driver, installation went smoothly and we were asked to install Zune software onto the PC, even though it was already installed. A bit of polish is needed by the software developer here, maybe.
Once the PC Zune software was opened with the phone connected, it checked for updates and found one, which it installed. Then the phone was ready for use.
The PC Zune software operates similarly to iTunes with iOS devices, requiring that you set up your music and videos in a folder structure and set the software to monitor it. There's an option for it to automatically re-structure and rename the files and folders based on changes to track details within the Zune software.
Once set up, transferring music, podcasts, videos and pictures on and off the Nokia Lumia 710 is as simple as you like, with the option to automatically sync all, by playlists or manually. To make things even easier, the Nokia Lumia 710 can be set to automatically synchronise with the Zune software via WiFi when non charge and in range of your home WiFi network.
As with the Nokia Lumia 800, the Nokia Lumia 710 isn't automatically recognised as a USB storage device, but this can be rectified by running a little third-party app that makes a small change to the registry on your PC to enable this.
In addition to the media transfer that uses the Zune software, contacts, email and calendar events can be synchronised with your PC's Outlook data via Windows Live and the Windows Live Outlook Connector add-on.
Finally, an additional advantage of the Windows Live service is that the Nokia Lumia 710 can access, modify, and save OneNote, Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on a 25GB provisioned space on SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud service.
Maps and apps
Although Windows Phone 7.5 comes with Bing Maps fully integrated, the Nokia Lumia 710 comes with Nokia Maps, albeit a Marketplace link and Nokia Drive (full app), pre-installed.
This may cause confusion or seem a waste of time for some, but Nokia has a long history of excellent mobile maps and sat nav. The frustration in this case comes in the fact that the current offering from Nokia for Windows Phone feels disjointed at best.
The Nokia Maps app relies on Over-The-Air (OTA) map data when the Nokia Drive app downloads the map data onto the phone. This makes us wonder whether the two apps are being developed by completely separate teams in different parts of the world.
Tapping on an address in the People app or other areas of the operating system brings up the Bing Maps app, whereas to use Nokia Maps you have to open the app, which has text-based search and display places options, sourcing all information OTA even though Nokia Drive has map data stored on the smartphone.
Once you've selected a location, you have the choice to walk or drive. This is where things get even more disconnected, because choosing to drive doesn't open the Nokia Drive app, but provides less capable OTA navigation functionality with Nokia Maps.
To use the sat nav functionality provided in Nokia Drive, you need to open this app instead and use the text entry search to find your location, since Nokia Drive doesn't support map-based location selection or local places display.
Nokia Drive then provides sat nav using the on-device maps, although the search functionality is still performed OTA.
Along with Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive, Nokia has a number of other apps for Windows Phone including Contacts Transfer, Apps Highlight and Nokia Music, which all come pre-installed on the Nokia Lumia 710.
In addition to these is TuneIn Radio and a useful Network Setup app to help automate setting up internet and MMS services when switching SIM cards.
An interesting Nokia app, which is a little harder to find, since it's still in public beta, is Nokia Pulse, which is a group-based social app with push notifications of updates.
Microsoft has also been busy developing apps and games to populate the Windows Phone Marketplace. The good news is that many of these are free and include, Facebook, YouTube, Last.fm and a number of utility apps like Weather and Unit Converter.
One little app that appeared a few weeks ago is the Suggestion Box which is for users to suggest, and vote on other peoples, improvements or changes to the current Windows Phone OS.
Now we get to the pre-installed apps, of which there are 27 in all, many of which we have already covered, such as AppHighlights, Calendar, Camera, Contacts Transfer, Internet Explorer, Maps, Marketplace, Messaging, Music+Video (Zune), Nokia Maps, Drive and Music, Office, People, Phone and Pictures.
Of the remaining apps, Alarm, Calculator and Settings are quite self-explanatory.
This leaves eBay, ESPN, Groupon, Help+How-To, Sky News, Trip Advisor and We Care. The eBay app is nicely done, with the ability to perform guided searches as well as general searches, and the option to enable notifications to keep an eye on that must-have item you've bid on.
ESPN and Sky News are simple but nicely presented news apps, and Trip Advisor provides the ability to read and write reviews of hotels, restaurants, attractions and flights.
Groupon is a mobile extension of the Groupon website, providing localised discount vouchers for shops, restaurants and so on. Finally, Help+How-To is an online user guide for Windows Phone, and We Care is a little app from Nokia to let you know that the company cares about your privacy, which is nice.
All of these apps are easy to use, and can be uninstalled from the Nokia Lumia 710 if needed, by long-pressing on the app name in the app list and selecting Uninstall.
We accept that the Windows Phone Marketplace isn't as big as the App Store or Android Market, but there are some excellent gems in there, and more are appearing every day.
The Nokia Lumia 710 is by no means an ugly phone, but when compared with the beautiful curves of the Nokia Lumia 800 it starts to feel cheaper than maybe it should. The smartphone is directly aimed at younger users with its changeable rear cover, but we're not sure its hardware needed to be downgraded as much as it has been.
The removable battery is what we have always loved about Nokia handsets, enabling us to carry a spare just in case.
The user interface continues to impress in many ways with its speed of response and the intuitiveness of its icon.
Nokia apps such as Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive, Nokia Music (with Mix radio and gig info) and Nokia Pulse are great. We can only hope that the Nokia Drive and Maps integration will be sorted out.
The integration with Xbox Live is a dream for those of us that have grown up with console and handheld gaming.
The use of cloud based services to back up information and the ability to merge contact information from more than one cloud based service making communication and sharing with friends across the world so much faster and easier.
The small capacity of the battery leads us to be disappointed again with the juice-retention of Nokia's Windows Phone offerings.
The cheaper look and feel of the Nokia Lumia 710 when compared with the Nokia Lumia 800 is disappointing, as is the downgrading of the screen (TFT instead of AMOLED), camera (5MP instead of 8MP) and internal storage (8GB instead of 16GB).
The repeated lack of a front-facing camera, with Skype around the corner and the Tango Video app already existing, is frustrating.
The visually fragile volume and camera buttons that are exposed when the rear cover is removed look like they are going to get damaged by battery switchers or cover changers, and that it's just a question of how long it will take.
Although we would buy the Nokia Lumia 710 over the HTC Radar, it's overshadowed by the Nokia Lumia 800, which impressed us a lot more and makes the Nokia Lumia 710 feel more like its cheaper relative than we would have liked. We know that the phone costs less, but the cost savings feel too apparent.
For the small drop in price and the expectation that both phones are to drop in price, we're left feeling that, unless you really want the changeable cover and removable battery, you're better off saving up a little more money and buying the Nokia Lumia 800 instead. The older phone gives a lot more bang for your buck.
Based on the recent announcements from Nokia and rumours flying around the internet, it's likely this will remain the budget option for the foreseeable future - a little bit more of a price drop and we'll be a lot more impressed with this otherwise decent handset.