Nokia Lumia 710 hands-on (software)
You’ll know by now that we think the Nokia Lumia 710 is a fine smartphone, with a well built chassis and internal components that hold their own against the mighty Nokia Lumia 800. However, during our time with the Lumia 710 it’s the software experience that has really shone through. Here’s why.
While the Nokia Lumia 710 is a fine and attractive smartphone, it couldn’t possibly hope to match the Nokia Lumia 800 for sheer style. Really, we don’t know a smartphone that could. But that’s not the case when it comes to the Nokia Lumia 710′s Windows Phone OS and bundled software – there is absolutely no compromise here whatsoever.
Windows Phone 7.5 has fast established itself as the slickest and most forward-thinking mobile operating systems around. It’s based around the gorgeous Metro UI, which uses boldly coloured window tiles, high res background images and large, heavily stylised (though always clear) fonts to really stand out from the crowd.
It’s built around a hub page filled with large square icons called live tiles. These represent the main functions of your phone – so there’s one for making phone calls, one for your contacts, one for text messaging and so on. The key feature is hinted at in the live tile name – they relay real-time information to you without the need to actually enter the app. If you’ve come from the static icons of Symbian, this will be a bit of a revelation.
For example, your contacts app (called People) will pull any images associated with your contacts to the fore, creating a mosaic of your friends, family and colleagues right on your Nokia Lumia 710 start page. Instant personalisation with no messing around. A rather more useful example would be the text and email live tiles that tell you how many unread messages you have. The calendar tile, meanwhile, tells you what your next appointment is at a glance. App developers can add their own live tiles, which you can choose to pin to the start menu.
No other mobile OS boasts such a unified approach, and that’s most evident when you stray into the apps themselves. Each of the default applications – and most of the third party ones found on the Windows Phone Marketplace for that matter – adopt the Metro UI aesthetic. This involves a simple system of scrolling left and right to flick between important elements, each represented by a large header that gradually scrolls into view. The email app, for example, lets you flick between all, unread, flagged and urgent messages with a left or right swipe.
Speaking of email – setting up an account is extremely easy here. Select the set-up option from the start page, or the Add an account option from the settings menu, and you’ll be able to add an account from all the usual sources – Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and more. In the case of something like Gmail, you can even choose to sync your contacts and calendar info with Windows Phone’s equivalent systems. It’s seamless.
Scrolling right from the start page brings up a list of all the apps you have on your Nokia Lumia 710, which in turn brings us to one of the few perceived weaknesses of the Windows Phone OS. While the Windows Phone Marketplace is very nicely presented (again in the Metro UI style), it doesn’t have as many apps as its major rivals. When you consider that the Windows Phone OS has been around for well under two years, though, the fact that it has more than 40,000 apps to choose from already is truly impressive. The important points to note are: the Marketplace is growing fast, most of the major players (Spotify, Flickr, eBay etc) are represented, and many of these are the best of their kind on any platform.
Gamers, too, will find an ecosystem that preaches quality over quantity – and which is quickly catching up in numbers too. Your Nokia Lumia 710 has access to a number of games that hook up to your Xbox Live account, awarding you achievements that will go towards your Xbox 360 Gamerscore. This facility alone makes the Windows Phone versions of cross-platform giants such as Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies the best on any smartphone platform. There’s also a growing catalogue of smaller and cheaper indie games.
What sets the Nokia Lumia 710 (along with the Lumia 800) apart from other Windows Phone devices, even, is the exclusive Nokia software. Nokia Drive is the undoubted star of the show, offering a full turn-by-turn navigation system for free. With the ability to preload maps, the Nokia Lumia 710′s powerful GPS capabilities and Nokia Drive’s clear 3D view, you can genuinely consider putting your expensive sat nav system on ebay. It’s that good.
Nokia Maps, too, is a far superior alternative to the default Bing Maps, while Nokia Music adds free themed radio playlists that can be streamed or downloaded. All excellent additions, and you can bet that Nokia will have more up its sleeves.
We said in our hardware review that the Nokia Lumia 710 offers the full functionality of the Nokia Lumia 800 for less money, but in truth that’s largely defined by its software. This is the full Windows Phone OS experience, and it makes the Nokia Lumia 710 one of the most appealing and capable smartphones on the market.