Nokia's flagship Windows Phone is the £468 (inc. VAT; £390 ex. VAT) Lumia 900, while the entry-level spot is filled by the £180 (inc. VAT; £150 ex. VAT) Lumia 610. Does the 610's cut-price Windows Phone experience offer enough to make it viable?
Build quality and overall size have both taken a hit in the Nokia Lumia 610, and this is a much more hand- and pocket-friendly phone than the top-end Lumia 900. For some, this smaller form factor will be a plus point. The polycarbonate chassis material seen in the Lumia 900 and the very similar 800 model is gone, replaced by bog-standard plastic. Don't let that put you off, though: the handset still feels pretty solid.
The 610's design is slightly different from its stablemates in that the backplate wraps around the bottom of the handset, forming the lowest 7mm or so of the front edge. If you choose the cyan, magenta or white versions, that adds a splash of colour to the front.
The screen is relatively small for a modern smartphone at 3.7in. across the diagonal. Its resolution of 480 by 800 pixels meets Microsoft's Windows Phone specification, and because these pixels are packed more closely than they would be in a larger screen the image is sharp. That said, the 610's TFT panel doesn't deliver the vibrancy that an AMOLED screen can.
Other specifications include a 5-megapixel camera, 8GB of internal storage and, as is the norm for Windows Phone, no microSD-based expansion (SkyDrive cloud storage is available though). The handset accommodates a microSIM.
There's nothing wrong with most of this — But there is a major drawback.
Nokia has been able to sell the Lumia 610 at its low price largely because Microsoft has rejigged Windows Phone to allow it to run on lower specifications than previously. The new iteration, codenamed Windows Phone Tango, was revealed in February and the Lumia 610 meets its core hardware specifications of just 256MB of RAM and an 800MHz processor.
During testing with the Lumia 610 I didn't notice any major issues with things like screen transitions or app loading times. Not blisteringly fast, but liveable with. Nokia's add-on apps seemed to work well too, with the streaming Music app a particular favourite.
The real problem is with the app store. Wade through the most popular apps and you'll find that many won't install because they need more RAM than the Lumia 610's 256MB. None of the following would install for me: Angry Birds, Skype, Monopoly, Sid Meier’s Pirates, Assassin’s Creed.
Fixes may well be issued by some app developers in due course, but the lack of out-of-box compatibility is quite a blow. For many it will rule out the Nokia Lumia 610, however affordable it may be.