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Hands on with Windows Phone Mango on the Nokia Lumia 710

I met a girl yesterday who had a Blackberry.  I picked it and quipped “wow, is this really yours?” she replied “yup, I had an iPhone but gave it away.  I just wanted a phone to be a phone.”  It was then I realised that the Nokia Lumia 710, made a whole lot of sense.

It’s been about 7 years since my first smartphone, a Mitac MIO running Windows Mobile 5.0.  It had poor battery life, a lousy display, was big, cumbersome, heavy with graphics plucked straight from Windows 3.11.  It was also mandatory to have at least 3 styluses on stand-by.

But it revolutionised my work life and I loved it.  Its seamless integration with my contacts, email and calendar clearly overshadowed its foibles and it was truly a “mobile business tool”.

Fast forward to 2012 and with the Nokia Lumia 710 in my hand, I’m struggling to find the same depth with Windows Phone 7.5 aka Mango.

The Nokia Lumia 710 isn’t a particularly pretty phone with its odd curves, fragile Windows button, and low-res screen dominated with large user tiles.  Compared to an iPhone 4, it’s slightly bigger in almost every aspect and actually feels heavier when it’s technically not, but here’s the kicker, it’s actually a pleasure to hold.  

With a rubbery coating on its back that also curves at the long edges (ala iPhone 3), it fits far more comfortably in the palm than both my iPhone 4 and Galaxy S2.  One, you consistently hold in fear of dropping and shattering glass, the other is almost too wide that one handed operation becomes a chore.  Ergonomics 1 – Aesthetics 0.

Now this Nokia is my first tinker with Windows Phone and on first impressions, it’s fast, and also extremely smooth.  Compared to both the iPhone and the S2, the movement feels more analogue than digital which makes the touchscreen more enjoyable to use.  Sure this is the case for most phones out of the box, but after 2 weeks of abuse and punishment, the same feeling was there.

The interface itself, I’m not too crash hot on and although the design is slick and minimalist, it didn’t float my boat.  While it was extremely easy to use and navigate, I just found the active tiles a bit annoying with the amount of configurable options “basic” at best.  Furthermore, the lack of orientation lock and tiny keypad letters, made living with it a bit more difficult. 

From a business tool standpoint it doesn’t get much better.  The email interface is confusing and calendaring was disappointing unless you were in landscape mode.  The app marketplace was mainly tumbleweeds and some of the more popular tools weren’t present on the Windows Phone platform. 

A redeeming feature is its excellent battery life (compared to the iPhone and S2) and the call quality was also quite good.  Though use the bundled headset at your own peril.       

Compared to my first Windows smartphone, the Nokia is worlds apart, and as a business tool, it doesn’t come recommended.  I boxed it back up, a little disappointed at the overall experience, and not quite sure how I should write this piece, that is, until I met that girl.

If, like that girl, all you’re after is a phone that’s just a phone, then the Nokia Lumia 710 might just be for you.  It’s easy to use, comfortable to hold, has great battery life and it's very well-priced.

It mightn’t do a lot of things, but the things it does, it does them well.

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