Nokia Lumia 610 – Windows for newbies

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Offering an attractive mix of style, usability and features, the Finnish manufacturer’s new entry-level smartphone makes Windows Phone available to the lower end of the market – and with some aplomb

Android handsets are a regular feature in our reviews section and rarely does a day pass without a manufacturer somewhere in the world announcing a new device running on Google’s ever popular smartphone OS.

Unsurprisingly, it is the global leader in the still maturing operating system battle, with around one million new Android handsets activated daily, accounting for around 61 per cent of  market share.

It is also the preferred choice of some of the market’s biggest players, including HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG and Sony to name just a few.

Android’s popularity has been largely down to its wide availability, with handsets available now for under £100 – an area the likes of BlackBerry and Apple, to date, have opted not to compete in.

The same can be said for Windows Phone handsets, which so far have been positioned at the high end of the market. HTC and Samsung have both dipped their toes in Windows Phone, but their headline devices have remained Android-powered.

As a result, Windows Phone handsets remain rare and its 5.9 per cent global share in the OS market speaks volumes about its still limited popularity.

So, Nokia’s decision last year to align itself with Windows Phone, dismissing the tried-and-tested Android, was a notably bold and brave move.

After all, Nokia is a firm more associated with bad news these days, with plummeting profits, redundancies and its lowest market share for more than a decade putting the company at a crossroads.

It was a gamble and the early signs have not been overly positive, with Nokia CEO Stephen Elop even admitting that Nokia Windows Phone handsets have struggled in the UK since their launch last year.

Arguably Nokia’s biggest mistake was to focus on the high end of the market. And although its debut devices, the Lumia 800, 710 and 900, are great phones with the quality to compete, loosening iPhone and Samsung’s grip was always going to be a difficult task.

Hallelujah moment
Many felt Nokia’s best chance was in the lower end of the market, targeting customers on a tighter budget looking at buying their first smartphone – a market Android is already excelling in.

And now it has done just that, with the Nokia Lumia 610 bringing Windows Phone to consumers for around £130 on PAYG or free on most contracts.

The device does not look or feel exactly like previous Lumia handsets – instead it almost resembles a version of Nokia’s Symbian-based E-Series.

The front of the handset looks good, dominated by a 3.7-inch screen and a metallic frame. There are three touch-sensitive buttons – Back, Menu and Search – below the main screen, which allow you to smoothly navigate the device.

While the front displays an air of quality, the same cannot be said of the rear. Like so many manufacturers, Nokia has opted for a cheap looking, shiny plastic battery cover. Even though the 610 is a low-end phone, this is a shame.

Our preview model came with a white casing, but Nokia confirms that the chassis will also come in a choice of light blue, purple and black, offering an easy way to choose the right look for your taste.

While the left side of the phone is devoid of features, the right side is rather congested, with a large bar to control the volume and two smaller buttons for the camera and for locking the phone.

Along the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and a Micro USB charging point on the right for powering up the phone and connecting to your PC. The bottom of the handset is empty.

Beneath the rear cover is the decent 1,300mAh battery. Nokia promises a maximum talk time of 10.5 hours when using 2G and 9.5 hours on 3G. We found that when making texts and calls regularly and using data-centric services as well the
battery easily lasted for more than a day.

It’s worth noting that the phone can also be used without the battery, provided it’s plugged into a power source. This means you can use the device instantly as soon as it’s connected, even if the battery has long since run out of power.

Beneath the battery is the Micro SIM slot, and that’s it. Unfortunately the handset doesn’t have expandable memory, but it does include 8GB of internal storage. This will hold well over a thousand songs, which should keep music fans happy.

Windows Phone Mango
Switching on the device, the Lumia 610 immediately mirrors its more expensive family members, with the unmistakably vibrant and eye-catching Windows Phone software apparent right from the start.

The 480 x 800 pixel screen resolution is good. Glare is minimal, even in bright sunlight, which makes the device very comfortable and easy to use in all lighting conditions.

To enter the main menu, or Start Screen you just have to slide your finger up the 3.7-inch capacitive touchscreen, creating a curtain-raising effect similarly found on devices such as the LG Optimus L3.

Once into the main menu you are presented with an easy-access tiled array of shortcuts to the phone’s main apps, which can be customised to your liking, by tapping and dragging them around.

It’s incredibly easy to use, with each tile clearly displayed with related text and a picture, leaving no confusion as to what each tile is for. The tiles are not small either, with around eight tiles filling the Windows Phone Start Screen in rows and columns.

Tiles are easily selected by pressing the pleasingly responsive screen – great for those with big fingers and thumbs who may have struggled with the smaller screens found on some Android and BlackBerry handsets.

As you’d expect, the default options include Phone, Messaging and Email, which are all child’s play to use. Other default tiles include Nokia Maps, Nokia Music, Internet Explorer and Xbox LIVE.

Full article in Mobile News issue 518 (July 16, 2012).

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