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Thursday December 15, 2011 11:20 am

T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 710 hands-on

Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: Smartphones, Handhelds, Microsoft

And the Lumia 710 shall lead them. T-Mobile and Nokia today announced the first Nokia Windows Phone in the U.S.: not the flashy Lumia 800, but its lower-cost sibling, the Lumia 710. I got some time with it and spoke to Nokia and T-Mobile execs about the companies' strategy.

First, the phone: the Lumia 710 is a medium-sized, slab-style cell phone with cropped corners and a curved back. It isn't really a rectangle, but it also isn't as radically shaped as the Lumia 800. Below the 3.7-inch, 800-by-480 LCD screen there's a large physical button, and there's a 5-megapixel camera that records 720p video on the soft-touch back. The phone comes in black and white.

Nokia used pretty classy materials for a $49-with-contract phone, although the 710 doesn't measure up to the Lumia 800's polycarbonate body. The bright, sharp screen is Corning Gorilla Glass, and the phone feels solidly built. Turned off, the black model has the usual problem where it will blend in with a line of other black slab phones, though.

The Lumia 710 runs Microsoft's Windows Phone Mango OS with a few exclusive additions. Nokia's Drive GPS software offers free driving directions, both on and offline, in 2D and 3D. App Highlights helps point out useful apps among the 40,000-plus in Microsoft's store, and T-Mobile TV offers several dozen streaming TV channels.

Nokia has promised more exclusive software to come, including EA games such as FIFA and NBA Jam; an ESPN app, kids' apps from Sesame Workshop, and Nokia Mix Radio, a streaming radio app. Some of those apps will be permanent Nokia exclusives; others will come to other Windows phones after a few months.

Nokia will also staff a customer hotline so Lumia owners can chat about their phones with experts, getting instructions on how to set up their phones, app suggestions and tech support—like Apple's "genius bars," but virtual.

The Lumia 710 uses a 1.4-Ghz processor, and it felt snappy. Microsoft's Windows Phone OS is, as always, extremely easy to use. At $49, the phone competes with the very similarly specced Samsung Focus Flash on AT&T. The Lumia is definitely more attractive, and the free navigation is a plus. But this isn't a head-turner like the Lumia 800, and it doesn't run at T-Mobile's top network speeds—while T-Mobile's network is capable of HSPA+ 42 speeds, the Lumia 710 runs at HSPA 14.4.

Is That All There Is?
So why not launch the 800, or both phones? Nokia's U.S. president, Chris Weber, and T-Mobile's senior vice president of marketing, Andrew Sherrard, talked up the 710 as great for first-time smartphone buyers because of its low price.

"The biggest green field market out there is the feature phone user base," Weber said.

The 710 will be treated as a hero product at T-Mobile, Sherrard said, with pride of place in stores, specialized training for salespeople and devices seeded to retail staff. That may change retail staff attitudes; earlier this year, we found phone salespeople to be hostile to selling Windows Phones.

Weber and Sherrard both insisted that the 710 won't be T-Mobile's only Nokia Windows phone, or the country's only one.

"We will have a portfolio of devices at different price points, with different experiences," Weber said.

The Lumia 710 will go on sale on Jan. 11. That's during the CES trade show, two days after AT&T is anticipated to be announcing another Nokia phone. Hopefully T-Mobile's would-be suitor won't steal the smaller carrier's thunder.

This article, written by Sascha Segan, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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