Nokia Lumia 610 review

Nokia's third Windows Phone 7-powered Lumia handset is the sensibly priced Nokia Lumia 610, but is four a crowd, or should those on a budget be seriously considering this new handset?

Design

The Lumia 610 is certainly a Nokia, and more akin to the Nokia of yesteryear. Gone is the polycarbonate all-in-one design, found on the Lumia 800 and 900. In is a more "basic design" that reminds us of the original E series of devices, if not the N95.

The corners are curvy, there is a metal-looking shiny plastic trim and the back plate, which feels soft to touch, slips off the back to reveal the battery and micro-SIM.

The appeal here will be the menagerie of colours and back plates you will be able to get, with Nokia planning on offering an array of colours to suit your every whim. It will work: the kids will go for the brightly coloured offerings, while you get to play boring and safe with black.

If the Lumia 800 and 900 are a breath of fresh air compared to your average Android handset, this is far from that, but that's not to say this isn't a tidy device. You won't be mocked for pulling it out of your pocket - which you might for owning some cheap Android handsets - but no one is likely to make any sort of positive comment either.

Looking at the phone, to the left is the volume, power, and dedicated camera button, while the top features a 3.5mm headphones socket, a micro USB charging plug (not covered), and a hole for a lanyard to be attached - we told you your kids would like it.

The back features a 5-megapixel camera, flush with the design, while the front sports the 3.7-inch capacitive touchscreen display with the usual three Windows Phone 7 buttons along the bottom.

Innards

Open the phone up and you reveal a replaceable battery, micro-SIM slot and nothing else, you can't expand on the phone's 8GB of storage with a microSD card.

If you are getting all "tech spec" for a moment, the Lumia 610 features 256MB of memory to run apps and a Qualcomm 800Mhz processor, but aside from the fact that means you'll be able to run most apps, just not most games you needn't worry about them.

Windows Phone 7 has been designed to run nippy on specs that Android would throw a hissy fit over trying to run on and that's one of Windows Phone 7's greatest strengths, you can't see it getting confused because there is nothing to get it confused.

Silence is golden

A first for the Lumia range, Nokia has introduced a flip to silence mode that isn't to be found in the settings menu, but almost by accident - we missed it at first. The idea is that when you get a call you can flip the phone over on its face and mute the noise. Handy if you are in a meeting and a feature we would love to see come to the other models in the range. It also means that it isn't just HTC that offers this feature.

Happy snapper

We weren't expecting much from the Lumia 610's camera, but were pleasantly surprised. It's not as great as the other Lumia models in the range, nor are the pictures standout amazing, but they are better than most at this price point and you aren't going to be upset with the results.

The lens itself is fairly wide, and copes well in low-light environments. There is always the very handy auto-fix feature that corrects your images after you've taken them.

Video is VGA resolution, so don't expect much, if anything, of any worth to come from that.

Battery

Batteries are always hard to test. Around the house on Wi-Fi and it will last through the day and in to the next. Take it to the city, start using location services, 3G in a built-up area and more and you'll just about have enough to call Mrs Pocket-lint to come and get you after you've missed your train station in a haze of free PR booze and tiny canapés.

In our tests we experienced both, and the 610's performance varies based on what you are doing. It will get you through the day no problem, but that's partly down to the fact that you won't be running any apps that are too demanding thanks to that 256MB memory limit and Microsoft's very handy battery saving mode that shuts off all the faff, so you've still got enough juice to call and text.

Nokia vs. BlackBerry

As with all our phone reviews we aren't going to whittle on about the virtues of Windows Phone 7 nor its negatives, especially as Microsoft enforces such strong control over the mobile operating system. That means, unlike Android, there is very little room for difference between all the Lumia handsets or even all the other Windows Phones on the market.

Basically it is incredibly simple, there is very little to mess around with in the settings panel, but you do get a phone that is easy to use, easy to understand, and in the case of the Lumia 610 a considerably better offering that what you would get spending the same amount of cash on an Curve.

For BlackBerry users looking to switch, you won't get the keyboard, nor will you get the tight messaging approach found on your Curve. However you will get a decent contacts solution, but still greater Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and email integration over the iPhone. Chances are you don't care about apps so the lack of them - it is getting better - won't be too much of an issue to you.

And vs. Android

Before you say it, we are going to: this isn't a phone to take on the powerful Android handsets that Android fans lust after - the Samsung Galaxy S 3, the HTC One X, the Sony Xperia S. But it will be able to challenge the low end of the market very well, the HTC Wildfires and Desire Cs of this world.

The trouble with most cheap Android handsets is that they're nasty to use. They are incredibly slow, and soon after you start to use them start struggling with any load you put on them. 

For the those that have picked up some OEM branded tat - or are about to, the Lumia will be a pleasant surprise. It also taps in nicely to the Nokia Symbian audience that is, presumably, about to leave the company and head off to Android.

Lumia vs. iPhone 3GS

For most it isn't really a question they are pondering. The Lumia 610 is best compared to the iPhone 3GS in terms of specs and capabilities. 

For those who have opted to go Apple, or have been gifted one because the previous owner has bought a 4S, then the app choice currently outshines anything Nokia and Microsoft are offering at the moment. The two companies are trying hard to correct that and there are big apps coming on board every day, but there is still a long way to go before the two are duelling it out for exclusives.

The phone functionality is nicer, but if you are set on an iPhone experience, the Lumia 610 isn't going to sway you.

Verdict

The Lumia 610 offers a very user friendly experience for the first-time smartphone user. 

It's enjoyable to use, as a phone "just works" and comes with enough extras and goodies - Nokia Drive, Nokia Music, Nokia Transport that it will go down well with those that try it.

However Nokia's biggest challenge will be to convince people to try it, to convince them that they don't want the plethora of apps the iPhone offers, or the friendly cuddle of BBM and a keyboard.

Against the low-end Android handsets this is a no-brainer, the experience is just miles better, but something tells us the salesman keen to sell you an Android handset when you walk into the store isn't going to take no for an answer, and that's a shame.

If you are looking for your first smartphone, be strong, you won't be disappointed.