And so begins Nokia's long journey back into the U.S. smartphone market. The Lumia 710 represents hope, not only for Windows Phone, but for Nokia as well. Nokia has a long history of dominating the cell phone market. For most of us, the first cell phone we remember seeing was probably a Nokia. However, the Finnish company hasn't done so well in the American market in recent years. Sure, things are still going fine overseas, but they would like to stake a claim in the U.S. market. For Nokia, the Lumia 710 is a good start at reasserting itself in the U.S. and regaining the trust of U.S. carriers.
Design & Features
The Lumia 710 may be known as the "cheap" version of the phone everyone really wants, the Lumia 800, but once you get the phone in your hands, you can tell that Nokia didn't cut many corners when it came to hardware and design. The phone feels solid and modern. The rounded sides and curved back give it an ergonomic feel that sets it apart from other phones in this price-range. I have to admit that I was surprised by how good the phone looked in person after ragging on it looking too cheap in photos.
Measuring 4.68-inches tall, 2.45-inches wide, and .5-inches thick, the Lumia 710 is a smallish device but it fits comfortably in the hand. The 3.7-inch display with ClearBlack technology looks spectacular. Not only are dark colors displayed closer to their true shade, but text and graphics overall are crisp and clear. A resolution of 480x800 doesn't sound very impressive in today's world of HD displays, but given the phone's 3.7-inch display, the pixel density of 252 pixels per inch (about the same as the DROID RAZR) is enough for a very clear picture.
Unlike most Windows Phone handsets, the Lumia 710's navigation buttons are physical buttons instead of capacitive touch buttons. These are, of course, placed below the display in the typical order of Back, Start, and Search. The volume rocker buttons are on the right spine of the phone while the microUSB port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and Power/Screen lock button are all on the top. I must admit that the top is an awkward place to have the microUSB port but it didn't cause too many problems once I got used to it. As per most Windows Phone handsets, there is no microSD card slot. The phone has 8GB of internal memory and 512 MB of RAM.
Usability & Performance
The Lumia 710 ships with Windows Phone 7.5, also known as Mango. Since Microsoft does not allow for any manufacturer overlays or "skins", you'll get the same experience with the 710 as you will with other Windows Phone handsets. There are live tiles (kind of like widgets); XBOX Live integration; the Zune Marketplace for music and more; direct integration of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn as well as any services or accounts through Google, Yahoo, and more; Bing Maps and Search; Microsoft Office; and the Marketplace with roughly 60,000 apps available. Nokia has been allowed to include a few custom apps like Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive. The choice between Nokia Maps and Bing Maps is yours but having Nokia Drive for turn-by-turn navigation is very handy as Windows Phone's navigation system isn't quite fully developed in this area.
Windows Phone is simple and minimalistic. Those who are used to Android and its unlimited customization options will need time to get used to Windows Phone and its virtually uncustomizable interface. For those who enjoy meticulous design, simplicity, and continuity, Windows Phone is perfect. Despite featuring XBOX Live integration, I wouldn't say it's for entertainment and gaming, though most popular titles can be found in the marketplace. Regardless of how simplistic it looks, the OS is very capable and a viable alternative to iOS or Android.
I've had very few problems with the performance of the Lumia 710. It is powered by a 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor and, while this processor may pale in comparison to the dual-core processor available in other phones, Windows Phone runs smoothly with a single-core processor. I do notice that some apps take longer to load than is comfortable. Overall, pinch-to-zoom is seamless and transitions are smooth and quick. Using the app WP Bench, the Lumia 710 scored a 90.18. As a reference, the highest score currently recorded using this benchmark is 101.27.
Pictures taken with the Lumia 710's 5-megapixel camera were average but I expected better given Nokia's history of terrific phone cameras. Granted, the 710 does not feature Nokia's Carl Zeiss lens so that probably had something to do with it. Pictures were clear but the lighting seemed to be off. Even images captured in daylight lacked the color brilliance that could be seen in real life. Instead, they looked faded, and some even had a greenish tint. The camera does have an autofocus along with a single LED flash. It captures video in 720p HD resolution. Video and audio quality were exceptional with excellent clarity and detail.
The Lumia 710 is a 4G device and uses T-Mobile's HSPA+ network. While testing it in the Dallas area, average download speeds have been about 2-3 Mbps with a high of 4 Mbps. Average upload speeds have been about 100 Kbps with a high of 600 Kbps. T-Mobile's advertised speeds for the Lumia 710 are 14.4 Mbps, but those are theoretical speeds and you'll probably never get anywhere near them. Keep in mind that data speeds will vary greatly depending on coverage in your area.
I've been pleased with the Lumia 710's battery life. I was worried that the 1300 mAh battery might be too small, but Windows Phone is a pretty battery-efficient OS so I had no problems getting through a full day with even heavy use. With normal or light use, I may have been able to get through two days, but I generally ended up charging it either at night or halfway through the second day. Nokia's advertised battery times are 7 hours of talk time and 16 days of standby time.
So, let's be honest. When it comes to Windows Phone handsets from Nokia, the device everyone really wants is the Lumia 800 or even the 900. It was kind of a letdown for T-Mobile customers when they heard that the Lumia 710 was their only option. However, after testing out the phone, I can say that there's really nothing to be disappointed about. The build quality is excellent, the display is crisp and rich, and Windows Phone is as smooth and elegant as ever. If you're on T-Mobile and in the market for a Windows Phone handset, the Lumia 710 is definitely a viable option.
The Good: ClearBack display is crisp and beautiful; Nokia Drive for turn-by-turn navigation; great build quality and hardware design; smooth performance with no lag; decent 4G speeds; excellent HD video capture quality.
The Bad: Disappointing camera quality; Windows Phone isn't for everyone.
The Verdict: It may be the "little brother" to the more popular Lumia 800 or 900, but the 710 is no slouch. It holds its own in this competitive smartphone market.