Nokia launches low-cost, but limited, Lumia 610 in UK

Nokia expanded its Lumia smartphone line in the UK on Wednesday, launching the Lumia 610 at a low price point. Engadget notes that customers can pick up the Windows Phone device for £15 per month (US $ 23.34) with service from O2, Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Carphone Warehouse and Phones 4u. While the smartphone market is less reliant on specifications, one bit key component in the Lumia 610 could raise some concerns: The device only has 256 MB of memory.

At this price, the Lumia 610 isn’t meant to be a high performing smartphone, although Microsoft’s mobile platform is optimized to run well on relatively meager hardware. Nokia opted for an 800 MHz single core Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 — the chip maker’s least expensive silicon — to power the phone, which uses a 3.7-inch touchscreen. Internal storage is limited to 8 GB and there’s no memory card slot. Storage can be supplemented with Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud service. A 5-megapixel camera on the back of the device is used for image capture and there’s no front facing camera.

All in all, the Lumia sounds like a capable phone for those who don’t need the latest and greatest hardware, but want the smartphone experience of apps, social networking, photo sharing, web browsing and connectivity; the phone can be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot. But the one bit of hardware that concerns me for the Lumia 610 — and future Windows Phone devices that follow in the 610′s footsteps — is the 256 MB of RAM. That’s half of what Microsoft originally stated was the minimum for its operating system. As a result, some applications won’t run on the Lumia 610, raising the concern of app fragmentation for consumers.

Perhaps that concern is much ado about nothing; the market will eventually decide. But when looking at some of the apps that can’t yet run on 256 MB of memory — the All About Windows Phone blog has a PDF file of the 1,397 apps that are incompatible — you’ll see some top tier apps: Skype, Tango, and Angry Birds, for example. The first two may have little impact as there’s no front camera on the Lumia 61o, although some use Skype as their IM service. I also noticed Nokia TV on the list as well as just more than one quarter of Microsoft’s Xbox Live titles. These are the differentiators for Windows Phone, so to not have them supported seems counter-productive to me.

Indeed, one of the first reviews of the new Lumia 610, from V3, lists the memory constraint as a major con, saying,

While many of its features and functions are more than adequate, the inability to run several key applications due to its meagre 256MB RAM is hard to overlook and drags the rest of the device down. That is a shame, as for the price it’s a nifty piece of kit.

Regardless, folks in the UK on a budget now have a Microsoft-powered Lumia of their own to choose. It will be interesting to hear how well the 610 is, or isn’t, doing over the next six months as Nokia continues to battle through its transition from Symbian to Windows Phone.

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.

  • A global mobile handset forecast: 2011-2015
  • A look back at mobile in Q1
  • CES 2012: a recap and analysis