Which brings us to Lumia number four: the 610. As a budget phone currently going for free on a £15-per-month contract in the UK, it's been built on Nokia's belief that Windows Phone will run on almost anything: the merest of Snapdragon S1 processors (clocked at just 800MHz) coupled with a few crumbs of RAM (256MB). Overall, those specs make previous Lumias -- with their S2 chips, 512MB and 1.4GHz clock speeds -- look almost futuristic. The question is, can WP really come this cheap and survive intact? Read on and you'll find out.
Leaving the colors aside, this is actually quite a derivative design that has nothing in common with the chic appearance of the 800 or 900. The shape and size is much like that of the 710: the thin rear cover is Samsung-like (without calling out any model in particular), the plasti-chrome edging is BlackBerry Curve-flavored and the front panel looks kinda like an HTC Trophy from 2010. All these sources of inspiration have one thing in common: what they lack in beauty, they make up for with build quality, and the Lumia 610 follows that pattern to the letter.
Slide off the rear cover and you'll see the familiar 1,300mAh battery and a micro SIM slot, but -- as expected -- no expandable storage. This leaves you with 6.21GB of usable space. That's the same as the Lumia 710 and double what you get with the ZTE Tania, but if you can't imagine life without at least 16GB, then budget Androids with microSD slots are two a penny.
Turning to the all-important front face of the device, we see that we get capacitive navigation buttons for the primary Windows Phone functions: Back, Home and Search. This is a departure from the 710, which uses hardware navigation buttons, and whether that's a good thing will depend on personal preference. For this author, a fluid UI is paramount and capacitive buttons win because they feel more like navigating the touch panel itself -- there are no jarring shifts from a light touch on the panel to a hard press for navigation. So, notch up one more small, but significant, win for the 610.
It's no different from a budget panel circa 2010.It's no different from a budget panel circa 2010. There are dark ripples of uneven backlighting along the bottom. The LCD itself looks like it's been covered in extra-thick glass borrowed from the Popemobile and the result is too reflective and washed-out. That said, the 480 x 800 resolution is fine for the 3.7-inch screen size, and overall we can at least say this display gets the job done without any major issues.
Performance, battery life and reception
Surprisingly, the 800MHz processor delivers a mostly smooth Windows Phone experience -- even though it is noticeably slower than the 710 during basic navigation. You'll occasionally find yourself staring at a blank screen for half a second, but that's a small sacrifice to make when you consider the price of the handset and how just useful that next screen will be when it finally arrives. This experience is borne out in benchmarking, with WP Bench awarding the Lumia 610 a score of just 54 -- far, far below the 710.
The low specs don't really matter until you reach the Marketplace and discover that your phone doesn't have enough memory to run every app you might want. This shouldn't come as a surprise, however, because we've been reporting on this little controversy for a while and indeed the 610's limitations are readily admitted within the OS and Marketplace screens.The 800MHz processor delivers a mostly smooth Windows Phone experience.
You also have to bear in mind that it's better than the alternative: downloading apps only to discover that they crash or don't work properly. Nevertheless, with the 710 selling for perhaps only a smidgen more than the 610, and coming as it does with a full complement of 512MB RAM, this poses a serious dilemma. You may not need Skype -- especially since the 610 has no front-facing camera -- but what else could you be excluded from in the future? Angry Birds and PES 2012 currently won't run either.
|Lumia 610||Lumia 710||Lumia 800||Titan|
As you can tell from the table above, battery life was remarkable. We'll re-test the WP Bench rundown score in case there was a fluke or error, but we doubt it'll make much difference. With moderate to heavy usage, there'd rarely be less than 50 percent of battery juice remaining at the end of the day -- a major benefit from the weak processor.
Office and SkyDrive are a combined force for productivity. When you open Office, you can create, view and edit not only locally-stored documents, but also documents that are synced with your cloud storage -- either SkyDrive, Office365 or OneNote. Each of these has its own strengths: SkyDrive is a good repository for all file types; 365 is mainly an enterprise solution; OneNote is perfect for simple but sophisticated note sharing across platforms, not least because there are OneNote apps for Android and iOS.
There are lots of other extras that you only discover over time. For example, the Lumia 610 comes with a recent version of Windows Phone Mango that can handle wireless tethering, allowing you to share a cellular data connection with other devices via WiFi. Also, as with previous versions, if you hook the phone up to your dash or audio system over Bluetooth, it will -- if you so choose -- interrupt your music if you receive an SMS and even read the SMS out to you. It requires no set up and works well, although responding using WP's cloud-based speech recognition is more hit and miss.
We've been banging on about this for a while, but it deserves to be reiterated: Nokia's apps are not bloatware, but are valuable additions. Just look at Drive, for example: a fully-fledged voice-guided navigation system with free offline maps for a large number of countries. Mix Radio is another boon: free, well-presented and sensibly categorized music streaming whenever you have a WiFi connection.
The only factor that precludes a wholehearted recommendation is actually the Nokia Lumia 710. Due to a quirk of history, that better-specced phone can be had in the UK for a just a couple of pounds more per month (£17 versus £15, or just £99 Pay-as-you-go), and yet it delivers a superior LCD panel, a much quicker processor and 720p video recording. The only major sacrifices with the 710 might be its hardware buttons and slightly less bold design, but these are purely subjective. So, it all comes down to price: if you know that Windows Phone is what you want (hello, like-minded person); if none of the aforementioned issues put you off; and if you can find the 610 much cheaper than the 710 -- perhaps as a SIM-free bargain -- then you can feel safe in taking the plunge.