Under the broad strategic partnership with Microsoft, Nokia is expected to drive the future of the Windows Phone platform through its expertise in hardware design, language support, and help bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies. From what we've seen so far, Nokia is delivering on its commitments quite steadily.
Nokia has pretty much covered every aspect of the phone market with its Lumia series - the 900, 800 and 710. Earlier this year, we reviewed the Nokia Lumia 710 and found it to be a decent offering but is at risk of being outgunned by the HTC Radar and Samsung Omnia W in terms of design, hardware, performance, and more importantly, price.
The release of Windows Phone 7.5 Tango (officially known as Windows Phone 7.5 Refresh) at Mobile World Congress 2012 presented an opportunity for Nokia to take a shot at the entry-level market as hardware requirements for Windows Phone are lowered. This means that phone makers are able to churn out lower cost devices running on the Windows Phone platform. Will the emphasis on a lower price point have any adverse impacts on the performance of the Nokia Lumia 610? We'll find out in this review of the device, right after the specifications jump:-
Key highlights of the Nokia Lumia 610
As a entry-level device, it is apparent that premium materials (e.g. polycarbonate or glass) and top notch finishes are a no-show on the Lumia 610. Instead, what you get is a predominantly plastic chassis with metallic strip running along the sides of the phone (which we presume helps form part of the phone's antennae functionality).
Having said that, Nokia's expertise in hardware design proved valuable in this case as the Lumia 610 doesn't feel like a budget smartphone. In fact, the smooth contours of the phone gives it a very comfortable and assuring grip. The light weight (131.5g) and hand-friendly size (with a 11.95mm thin profile) make the Lumia 610 reasonably portable to use and carry around.
Below the 3.7-inch display is the three standard Windows Phone navigation controls - Back, Home and Search. Similar to the Lumia 900 and 800, the Lumia 610 uses capacitive touch screen buttons which will light up upon contact.
The Nokia Lumia 610 is one of the first devices to take advantage of the expanded hardware support of Windows Phone, which Microsoft made significant engineering optimization work on to enable its partners to offer devices with more affordable price points. This is achieved through reducing the minimum memory and processor requirements to accommodate Qualcomm 7x27s series of processors and 256MB RAM. As a result of the lowering of hardware requirements for Windows Phone, there are several restrictions that you should take note of. For the purpose of this review, we will explore in detail two of these limitations below:
Windows Phone Marketplace App Restrictions
Microsoft has identified about 5% of the more than 90,000 apps available that will not run properly on the lower cost devices. These apps that require more processing power or memory will be flagged in the Windows Phone Marketplace to inform you that they are not optimized for use on the Lumia 610. Probably, the worst bit is that these apps aren't even allowed to be downloaded and it's a pity considering even famous applications are affected:-
Fast App / Task Switching
Right from the beginning, Microsoft has made its stand clear that it is more focused on the quality of apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace. This emphasis is even more apparent for Tango devices which have only 256MB RAM to run and manage apps. To maintain the fluidity of its mobile OS, Microsoft wants developers to code very efficient apps or tune their existing apps according to its guidelines published in two articles titled, "Optimizing Apps for Lower Cost Devices" and "Reduce Memory Usage" on the Windows Phone Developer Blog.
In essence, developers have to keep in mind that their apps should not exceed 90MB of memory usage on Tango equipped devices. Apps that approach the 90MB limit are likely to suffer from slower performance or glitches. On its part, Microsoft also improved the memory paging support in Windows Phone to better manage and distribute memory between background processes and the foreground app. Working hand-in-hand, apps that have smaller memory footprints will not be affected by paging.
The amount of memory an app uses also has an impact on multitasking (also known as Fast Application Switching). Apps are typically placed in a dormant state where they are preserved in memory so that when switched back, they can resume almost immediately. This however is dependent on the device's available memory, and in the case of the Lumia 610, you only have a very limited amount of 256MB RAM. Therefore, an app that consumes more memory is more likely to be terminated than one that doesn't.