All Windows Phones now run Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango), and the Lumia 710 is no exception. Microsoft’s smartphone OS differs from the iPhone, Android phones, and BlackBerry quite substantially in that it has no notifications tray, manages resources quite well, and instead of having customizable homescreens of icons, Microsoft has created a new concept called a Live Tile, which is a square (or rectangle) which can act as a shortcut to an app, but can also display information. For example, your Gmail Live Tile may show how many unread messages you have, and the calendar will show your next upcoming activity. You can move tiles around the homescreen and even add Live Tiles to functions deeply embedded inside apps. For instance, we added a Live Tile of our favorite podcast, Radiolab, to our homescreen, giving us instant access to it.
If this sounds confusing, keep in mind that it’s easier to experience than to explain. Windows Phone is one of the best looking and most pleasant smartphone operating systems we’ve used. Like any OS, there are still a few issues, but we can safely recommend Windows Phone as a viable alternative to Android and iPhone.
Nokia’s devices may be the ones to have though, as it has started aggressively developing unique, exclusive apps for its phones. Nokia Drive, a full turn-by-turn navigation app, is available on the Lumia 710, as is an exclusive ESPN ScoreCenter app, and an app that highlights some of the best third-party applications available on the Windows Marketplace. Now, we definitely think that Google’s free turn-by-turn navigation is better than Nokia Drive, but Nokia Maps has improved a lot since we last used it on the Nokia N8. At CES, Nokia execs showed us some upcoming apps including one that uses augmented reality and your camera to guide you toward nearby places of interest. It’s clear that other manufacturers are going to have to step it up if they hope to compete with Nokia.
T-Mobile has also installed its usual Slacker Radio, T-Mobile TV, and My Account apps on the 710. They are removable if you don’t want them.
(As a side note, it is quite easy to change the crappy teal color Nokia and T-Mobile chose for the Lumia 710’s tiles. You can make them whatever color you want.)
While it sets no standards and breaks no records, the camera on the Lumia 710 gets the job done. We extensively compared it to the Lumia 800 and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and found that it sometimes outperformed the 800 and while it didn’t capture the amount of color or detail of the Nexus, its pictures weren’t anything terribly bad for a point-and-shoot camera. Like the Galaxy Nexus, we did have a problem with the 710 taking pictures before it was fully focused. This may become a bigger problem as phone makers continue to try and outdo one another, each claiming to have the fastest shutter speeds.
The Lumia 710 did fairly well out in the city at night. It balanced the bright lights of Times Square fairly well and other poorly lit indoor areas. We weren’t particularly impressed with the video quality, but it was better than the Lumia 800, which seemed unable to focus on anything at all while recording video.
The best camera in mobile is probably still the iPhone 4S, but this phone holds up well against other Windows Phones like the Samsung Focus Flash, HTC Radar, Samsung Focus, and Nokia Lumia 800. It also isn’t far off from some of the more high-end smartphone cameras like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and HTC Amaze.
Call quality and data speed
Call quality is as decent as any other smartphone. We didn’t find calls to be particularly clear, but had no problems distinguishing people on speaker phone or being heard by other callers. T-Mobile’s 3G HSPA+ data network is still quite erratic in Manhattan, New York, where we normally test it. Our download speeds varied from 0.7Mbps to 12Mbps, with no real logic behind the huge changes in speed. Overall, speeds were on the low end of the spectrum, hovering around 1Mbps (Megabit per second). These speeds don’t compare well to any other major US network and are especially slow compared to Verizon, but if you’re a T-Mobile user, you probably already know that. Luckily, T-Mobile has some of the most affordable phone plans on the market.
Though the Lumia 710 comes with a smaller 1,300mAh battery (big Android phones now come with 1,800 to 2,000mAh), it seems to be plenty adequate for the little tike. We had no problems getting through a day without a recharge and in very light use, you can stretch it to two days. Battery life, of course, varies a lot by where you are living. If you have a poor T-Mobile signal, it will drain the battery, as will enabling features like Wi-Fi and GPS.
The Lumia 710 isn’t the best Windows Phone we’ve used, but it is usable and at $40 (online), it’s a better deal than many of the cheaper Android phones on the market. If you have the money, we’d recommend spending a bit more to buy the HTC Radar, or if you are on one of T-Mobile’s month-by-month plans, the Lumia 800 is available on the Web as an unlocked device. If saving a bit of money now is important, the Lumia 710 is a good phone for the price.
- Extremely affordable with contract
- Windows Phone 7.5 is a great OS
- Nokia Drive turn-by-turn navigation is free
- Solid battery life
- Screen attracts fingerprints
- Screen size small at 3.7 inches
- Buttons hard to press
- No front-facing camera
- No SD card slot
- LCD screen not as brilliant as AMOLED