Review by Dan Seifert on Thursday January 05, 2012.
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While Nokia has decided to leave the interface untouched from the standard Windows Phone experience at this point in time, the one area where it has taken an interest in making Windows Phone 7.5 its own is in the handful of custom apps that it offers on the Lumia 710. The company is proud to tout the Nokia Drive app that comes with every Nokia Lumia device offers turn-by-turn, voice-guided navigation for free. The app is solid, if incomplete, and offers accurate directions with the ability to download maps for offline use (better watch that internal storage though - all of North America amounts to 1.8GB of maps). The Drive app could benefit from the addition of a list view of the planned route, so drivers could get an idea of where they will be headed before hitting the road.
The other apps included with the Lumia 710 are more forgettable, though sports aficionados might enjoy the ESPN app built specifically for Nokia devices. T-Mobile made a point to pre-install a number of its own apps, including an account management app, T-Mobile TV, and the TeleNav GPS navigation app. The TeleNav app requires a monthly subscription, so owners are probably better off with the free Nokia Drive app.
The Lumia 710 suffers from the same plague as any other Windows Phone 7.5 device; namely that a number of desirable apps are just not available for the platform at this point in time. The Windows Phone Marketplace is growing, and it just eclipsed 50,000 apps, but it still is far behind the Android Market or iTunes App Store in terms of apps available. On a more subjective note, the apps that are available on Windows Phone don't seem to be as full-featured or high quality as on the other platforms, but your opinion on that might differ from mine.
The Nokia Lumia 710 features the same impressive Internet Explorer 9 for Mobile browser as found on other Windows Phone 7.5 devices. It is quite fast, even with a lousy network connection, and supports multiple windows. Some may take issue with the lack of support for Adobe Flash Player, and many mobile web pages have not yet been coded to work well with the browser, but it does have potential to be something good in the future.
The Nokia Lumia 710 sports a 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and a flash centered in the upper quarter of the phone's back. As per Microsoft's hardware requirements for Windows Phone devices, it also has a camera key that lets you launch the camera from within any app - including when the phone is locked. As I mentioned in the hardware section of the review, the camera key is nothing short of terrible, with a mushy feel and little to no feedback to the user when it is pressed. Thankfully, Windows Phone 7.5 now lets users tap the screen to focus and snap a picture.
Image quality from the camera isn't terrible, but it certainly is not as good as seen with other smartphones on the market. Images taken in good light retain a fair amount of detail, but the camera struggles in low light. I also had issues with white balance not only in the typical indoor situations, but also outdoors, where most cameras have no trouble. Focus speed isn't the fastest, but it's not so slow as to be a major point of concern.
The Lumia 710 is capable of recording 720p (1280 x 720 pixel) HD video, and, for the most part, the video isn't terrible. Control is limited, however, as the camera cannot zoom or refocus while recording. It does manage to adjust exposure while recording, though.
The Lumia 710 benefits from the excellent Zune services that come with Windows Phone 7.5 for its music playback. Even if you don't subscribe to the monthly streaming service, the music player offers an attractive interface with lockscreen controls and artist information culled from the internet. T-Mobile does not include headphones with the 710, but the external speaker is rather loud and does a remarkable job of resisting distortion. The only thing that really holds the Lumia 710 back from being a great music phone is its paltry 6GB of available internal storage that cannot be expanded.
The Nokia Lumia 710 comes with a 1,300mAh removable battery that Nokia says is good for 7 hours of talk time or 16 days of standby between charges. During my tests, which include multiple email and social networking accounts updating at short intervals and regular use of the web browser and messaging, I was able to get the battery to last an average of 15 to 16 hours before it was fully exhausted. Users who are less demanding on their devices may be able to get the vaunted 24 hours of battery life out of the Lumia 710, so it's not a bad performer here at all.
As it represents Nokia's first effort in the U.S. with a Windows Phone 7.5 smartphone, it's hard not to feel disappointed with the Lumia 710. It doesn't turn any heads or break any new ground in design or performance, and there are some issues with the quality of the components in its construction. Still, it is a solid smartphone that offers a simple interface, quick performance, great call quality, and decent battery life - and at T-Mobile's $49.99 asking price, there really isn't much room for complaint here. For a first-time smartphone, a buyer could do much worse than the Lumia 710, that is for sure. Nokia has promised that it will bring a "portfolio" of devices to the U.S. this year, so those who pine for a high-end smartphone will just have to stay tuned. The Nokia Lumia 710 will be available from T-Mobile on January 11, 2012.
You will find sample images captured with the Lumia 710's camera on the following page.
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.