Nokia Launches Comeback With Lumia Phones

Nokia rolled out two Windows Phone smartphones Wednesday as part of an effort to reinvent itself. Are the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 up to the challenge?
Nokia announced two new smartphones on Wednesday--the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710--in a bid to return from the near-dead and steal market share back from Apple and Google. The two devices are the first from Nokia to run Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Mango platform.

Nokia has a lot riding on these smartphones, and is going to spend some serous cash to make sure they are successful. The company is planning a massive ad campaign to raise awareness, is working with retailers to make sure front-line salespeople are properly educated, and is partnering with as many network operators as possible.

Let's take a look at what each phone has to offer.

Lumia 800

The Lumia 800 is clearly the star of the Nokia World event. It is a gorgeous piece of hardware that has been fine-tuned to run Mango.

[ Check out our slideshow on the 7 Hottest Features In Windows Phone 7 Mango. ]

It looks nearly identical to the equally-attractive N9. It is minimalist in its design and manages to look simple yet modern. It includes a number of must-have features, but still manages to miss a few steps here and there.

The Lumia 800 has a 3.7-inch AMOLED ClearBlack display with 800 x 480 pixels. It is powered by a single-core 1.4-GHz Qualcomm S2 SnapDragon processor, but is limited to 512 MB of RAM. It comes with 16 GB of internal storage, but no ability to expand via microSD cards. It has an 8-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture--but no user-facing camera and no video chatting.

The version announced today will run on the 3G networks in Europe and Asia, but not in the U.S. It includes the typical set of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS receivers. Nokia hasn't announced plans to bring this device to the U.S.

It runs Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. Since Mango is Mango, you could say the Lumia 800 is running a "stock version" of Windows Phone. In other words, the user interface has not been customized by Nokia in any way.

In terms of software innovations, Nokia spent time working on two applications and one surprise, a whole new "Hub" for Windows Phone. The first app is called Nokia Drive, which provides free, voice-guided navigation. Nokia Music offers track downloads as well as access to streamed playlists. The Sports Hub is being developed in conjunction with ESPN, and will provide users of the 800 (and 710) with access to just about every time of sporting content they might wish for.

The Lumia is definitely a competitive entry in the small field of Windows Phone 7 smartphones.

Lumia 710

The 710 dials "awesome" back a few levels. It has lesser specs than the 800, looks and feels different, and will cost less.

The 710 has the same processor and system memory as the 800, but the camera drops to 5 megapixels and the amount of storage drops to 8 GB. It has the same-size display as the 800, but uses LCD display technology instead of AMOLED. The body and housing are made of multiple parts, rather than come machined from a single piece of polycarbonate. It has all the same wireless powers as the 800, but has a smaller battery.

It runs the same version of Windows Phone, and comes with the same Nokia-developed Windows Phone apps.

Are They Any Good?

Both devices are utterly Nokian, and embody everything I've come to expect from the Finnish maker of smartphones in all the years I've been covering this industry. The Luma 800, in particular, will strike a chord with Nokia fans and could be the turn-around device that Nokia so desperately needs.

Appeal of the hardware aside, Nokia will have more work to do to convince former Symbian smartphone users that Windows Phone 7.5 Mango is worth returning to. Windows Phone doesn't look, act, or behave anything remotely like Nokia's old smartphone platform (Symbian). Many of those who've defected from Symbian likely landed on Android devices, which offer many of the same customization and control options. Windows Phone cannot be tweaked in the way that Android can, and that may put off some buyers.

The Lumia 800 and 710 are a good first step for Nokia, but it has a long and arduous road ahead. It needs to act quickly to further customize Windows Phone and better differentiate from the WP7--and Android and iPhone--competition.