Chances are, if you’re still attached to your flip-top phone from 2007, you’ll have traded it in for a smartphone before the end of the year. The trend kickstarted by Apple five years ago hit the mainstream market last year, and shelves are now brimming with handsets from virtually every manufacturer. Companies that had been written off in the hype are making impressive comebacks, offering up phones that offer most, if not all, of the functionality and sleekness of the iPhone without the notoriously heavy price.
Nokia, for example, has partnered up with Microsoft for a series of Windows-powered phones that pose some serious competition, at least to the Android market (currently the biggest threat to Apples iOS operating system). The Lumia series offers a range of entry-level to business-friendly phones offering such features as 4G capability and seamless, high-speed operation. In terms of appearance and power, a Lumia is no iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. But Nokia seems to be targeting the market of first-time smartphone owners, those who want to upgrade from simple voice and text messaging but aren’t quite sure where to start.
The series’ flagship unit is the Lumia 800, which Nokia dubs a “no-nonsense phone.” This is obvious in its simple yet efficient design, sporting only a volume control, power button and camera shutter on one side and keeping the other bare. And the construction is surprisingly solid for a Nokia phone: the 12-mm body sports a one-piece shell made with scratch-resistant polycarbonate. Other features include an 8-megapixel camera, AMOLED screen (the same as in the Galaxy series), and some well-received proprietary apps such as Nokia Music, which conveniently connects to a music store, and Nokia Drive, a surprisingly efficient navigation app.
The Lumia 710 is a less feature-packed but equally impressive model. Like its big brother, it runs on Windows 7 and is 4G-capable. It also has the same 3.7-inch screen with an 800×480 resolution, although it’s not as bright. This can be a good thing if you’re concerned about battery life; tests showed that a fully-charged phone can last two days of average use. Uniquely among smartphones, its home screen is a raised button at the bottom front rather than a touch button–most likely a cost-cutting decision on the design end. But all things considered, it’s a very good phone for its price: you can get it for $50 in the U.S. with a two-year plan.