Windows Phone devices have primarily been high-end devices due to the high hardware requirements set by Microsoft. There have hardly been any device below the Rs. 15,000 mark, which for many is still the most they would spend on a smartphone. As such, that market is now completely dominated by Android devices due a complete lack of credible competition.
With the launch of the Tango update, Microsoft reduced some of the hardware requirements, allowing devices such as the Nokia Lumia 610 to exist. The best thing about this device is that while the hardware requirements are definitely lower, it does not compromise on the smoothness of the UI that Windows Phone is known for.
We decided to take a look and see if it is a worthy buy for smartphone buyers on a budget.
The design of the Lumia 610 is very simple yet attractive. Despite its affordable pricing, the Lumia 610 does not come across as a cheap-looking device. In fact, it looks even better than its more expensive sibling, the Lumia 710.
The front of the device is dominated by the 3.7-inch touchscreen, with an attractive chrome ring running around the bezel. Above the display lies the earpiece, the proximity sensor and the ambient light sensor. The Lumia 610 does not have a front facing camera. Below the display are the three Windows Phone keys, including the back button, Home button and Bing search button.
On the right side of the device lie the volume control buttons, the lock key and the camera shutter button. Being used to finding the lock switch usually on the top, the location of the button on the Lumia devices always causes confusion and takes getting used to.
On top of the phone are the headphone jack and the microUSB port.
On the back of the device is the camera lens near the top with an LED flash and the loudspeaker near the bottom. Take off the battery cover and inside you will find just the SIM slot under the battery.
Just like the design the Lumia 610 has a nice upmarket feel thanks to the soft touch back cover and the solid build quality. The weight and size also feel just right. Those who are not fans of gigantic smartphones would love the size of this phone.
The Lumia 610 has a 3.7-inch, 800 x 480 resolution display. The display is one of the problematic areas of the phone. The quality is very mediocre, with pale and washed out colors that just make everything look drab and boring. The viewing angles, black levels and contrast are also not up to the mark.
The only saving grace here is the resolution, which is quite high, especially for this price range. The resolution prevents the display from being a total failure. It also ends up looking better than most of the other smartphones in its price range, despite the quality of the LCD panel.
Hardware and Software
The Lumia 610 runs on the Qualcomm MSM7227A SoC with a single-core 800MHz CPU and an Adreno 200 GPU. This is a downgrade from the 1GHz MSM8255 on all the previous Windows Phone devices. The RAM has also been reduced from 512MB to 256MB. Lastly, the internal memory is 8GB with no expandable option, as usual.
On the software side, it comes with Windows Phone 7.5 built-in. Nokia has added some of its own software on top of the OS but the most important ones are the Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive applications. The former is a simple mapping application whereas the latter offers free turn by turn voice navigation.
In our usage, both the applications were quite good, particularly the Nokia Drive application, which provided reliable navigation in India. You just have to download the maps for the region along with the voice data beforehand, which can be anything from 50-150MB. The Nokia Maps application is not as good as Google Maps on Android and at times provided inaccurate results for searches but is still a significant improvement over the built-in Bing Maps application, which doesn't even let you search.
The Lumia 610 also comes with Nokia Music application that lets you download as much music as you want for free for a year. While this sounds great, the actual music doesn't, mostly because it is encoded in pathetic 32kbps MP3. Yes, you read that right. 32kbps. Even ringtones use higher quality these days.
As for Windows Phone itself, it is pretty much the same as it was on other devices. The UI still looks fresh and attractive even though it has been around for two years now and is very easy to use, especially for those who are new to smartphones. The built-in social networking features are also amazing and unmatched by any other platform. You almost don't need to have dedicated Facebook and Twitter apps installed.
It still has its fair share of issues. The multitasking is rather poor and third party apps tend to pause once you put them in background and take a while to resume. The notification system is poorly thought out, the built-in Internet Explorer browser makes pages look weird thanks to the inconsistent font sizes, the search button opens Bing every time instead of searching within the application, you can't take screenshots or transfer any data to and from the device without a desktop client, there's a single volume level for loudspeaker, headphones and ringtones, and many such annoyances.
The biggest problem for most people, though, is the poor choice of third party applications available for download on the Windows Marketplace. Nokia and Microsoft like to boast of big numbers at every event but in reality the actual quality of apps and games is way behind iOS or Android.
What makes the situation worse on the Lumia 610 is that a lot of the applications aren't compatible with the device due to the lower RAM. You can't, for example, install Angry Birds on this phone. This makes the already small library of apps and games even smaller and eventually you are not left with much to download.
In the end, if apps are what you want, you would be fairly disappointed with the Lumia 610 or with Windows Phone in general. Just think of it as a glorified feature phone and you should be fine.
Regarding the software update situation, the Lumia 610 is in the same boat as all current Windows Phone 7.5 devices, where none of them will be getting updated to Windows Phone 8. However, Nokia has announced that it will be bringing some of the newer features such as the new Start screen to current Lumia devices through software updates.
The Lumia 610 has a slower processor and lower RAM than other Windows Phone, but you'd never figure this out by using the phone alone. The user interface remains ridiculously smooth and fluid within the built-in applications. Third party application performance is not as impressive and the most common issue is that the screen blanks-out when you start scrolling. However, this can be observed on other Windows Phone devices as well, so it's not just an issue with the Lumia 610.
The web browser is where you'd see the effects of the reduced hardware the most. The browser has trouble keeping more than one full size web page in the memory and if you open multiple tabs the phone starts struggling. Switch from one to another and the phone has to load it all over again because the memory is just not enough to keep them all. Stick to just a single page and the phone remains impressively smooth and fast.
The multimedia performance is a mixed bag. The music playback is fine with the only annoyance being the need to use the Zune PC client to transfer music. Even for transferring the photos to your PC you need the Zune application. If you have a Mac you will need the Windows Phone 7 Connector client installed. Same for videos. You can only transfer those videos to the phone that Zune supports and even then it converts them to either a lower resolution or quality while transferring.
The loudspeaker on the phone is pretty loud but sounds tinny. It loses some of its edge and volume when you keep the phone on a flat surface. Nokia does provide a respectable pair of in-ear headset with the phone so you won't have to rush out and buy a new pair.
The call quality and network reception were up to Nokia's usually high standards, as was the Wi-Fi and GPS reception.
The Lumia 610 has a 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus and flash. The camera is a bit of a mixed bag. At times the images look surprisingly good, with decent color, contrast and sharpness. At times the colors go for a toss, and end up being either too bland or just incorrect. The leaves of plants, for example, often have a noticeable yellow tint even if the actual leaves are bright green. Still, for quickly taking a picture and sharing them on social networking websites, the camera on the Lumia 610 is more than adequate.
The video recording, however, is plain bad. The phone only records VGA resolution videos, unlike the 720p videos on all the other Windows Phone devices out there. The quality of the video is also quite mediocre. If you want to record good quality videos, then you should definitely avoid this phone.
The Lumia 610 surprised me with amazingly good battery life. With regular usage, consisting of a few calls, taking pictures and using the built-in social networking features over 3G, the phone ended up lasting for almost two days on a single charge. Granted, I was not using many (or any) third party apps on the phone as people usually do, but that's because there are not enough quality titles for this phone to spend time in.
For someone looking for a device mostly for social networking, the battery life on the Lumia 610 is excellent.
It's amazing how you can enjoy something when you set your expectations low and that's exactly what happened to me while using the Lumia 610. I knew from the beginning the application selection wasn't going to be great, that there won't be a lot of games to play, the display won't be phenomenal and that the camera won't be outstanding. And I pretty much got what I was expecting. For someone who isn’t expecting a full blown smartphone experience will be as satisfied with the device as I was.
Where the Lumia 610 truly impressed me was with its fluid user interface, which was way smoother than what I expected. Its smoothness puts many expensive smartphones costing several times its price to shame and this is something that Microsoft (and Nokia) needs to be commended on, for managing to retain the smoothness of Windows Phone despite the weaker hardware.
It also helps that the OS looks absolutely stunning and that it has an amazing integration with Facebook and Twitter. For someone looking for a simple phone that can be used to communicate with their friends online or as a second device to someone who already has an accomplished smartphone or a tablet, this can be a very good option.
Unfortunately, Nokia has dropped the ball with the pricing. The Lumia 610 costs around Rs. 12,000 right now. Spend a couple of grand more and you can get the Nokia Lumia 710, which has faster hardware that not only performs better but also gives you access to more applications than is possible on the Lumia 610.
A price of around under Rs. 10,000 would have made the perfect sense. Unfortunately, that is not the case and as much as I liked the Lumia 610 I cannot recommend it at that price.