January 5, 2012 11:20 pm

Mango gives handsets a sweet new taste

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Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.5 or Mango operating system is its best effort to date to establish itself in a smartphone market dominated by Google Android and Apple’s iOS. Mango has support from manufacturers and operators, but is it sweet enough to tempt consumers?

Nokia Lumia 710

4 stars

On sale in the US on Thursday and due in the UK shortly, this is one of the first products of the partnership between Microsoft and Nokia. It also marks the Finnish phone maker’s re-entry into the US market.

The Lumia 710, which costs $50 with a T-Mobile USA contract (it will be available with Three in the UK) has been positioned as a low-cost, “entry level” smartphone and I have no hesitation in recommending it in this role. Microsoft has done a good job with its new operating system. Mango’s interface is immediately accessible and intuitive and provides quick access to core features such as social networking and music.

Similarly, Nokia also deserves credit for building a new handset which, while retaining the best features of the company’s older devices, has a much more modern look and feel.

The 3.7-inch touch screen features Nokia’s ClearBlack technology designed to make it easier to view in bright sunlight. In terms of performance, the Qualcomm 1.4Ghz snapdragon processor, quad-band 3G data capabilities and rear-facing five megapixel camera with high-definition video capabilities are adequate if not outstanding, and voice call quality and reception are both better than average for a smartphone.

In terms of add-on software, Microsoft still lags way behind Apple’s App store or the Android Market in terms of volume, but the 45,000 apps that are available in Microsoft’s WindowsPhone Marketplace should satisfy most users.

In the US, the Lumia also comes preloaded with Nokia Drive, an excellent free GPS navigation app, T-Mobile’s mobile TV app to stream Netflix movies, Slacker’s personalised internet music content and Microsoft’s Xbox Live for mobile video gaming. Altogether an impressive bundle on a handset that deserves to succeed.

HTC Titan

2 stars

HTC’s Titan premium-priced smartphone also exploits the best and most advanced features of Microsoft’s new mobile operating system and does so with HTC’s distinctive design flair and a huge 4.7-inch touch screen.

Ask the tech expert

The problem
What is the best replacement for a much-loved Palm Tungsten? I use it almost entirely for extensive contacts, and notes – it is compact, easy to use, has a great battery life and does not need a phone contract.
J Ingleby, UK

The solution
Yes, it’s sad to see the traditional PDA more or less superseded by the smartphone. The obvious answer is the iPod touch. It has great battery life, no contract, but still has WiFi and Bluetooth for connectivity and the full range of apps to replace those on your Tungsten. Note-taking can be made even easier with a voice-recognition app.

For an Android alternative, the new Samsung Galaxy Note reminded me very much of a traditional PDA, so a WiFi only unlocked version of this might do nicely.

Send your technology and gadget questions to chris.nuttall@ft.com

This handset, which costs $149 (£499 as a pay-as-you-go handset in the UK) is a great staging platform for features such as Mango’s built-in People Hub, which provides one-touch access to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

A 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor keeps the Titan zipping along, while its eight megapixel camera and LED flash array take great pictures. Unlike Nokia’s Lumia 710, the Titan also has a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera for video chat, but somewhat surprisingly lacks a slot for expandable memory.

As its name implies, the Titan really is a big handful, which can be both good and bad. I found the big screen great for watching video and displaying pictures, but its size and weight – the Titan weighs a hefty 5.6 ounces – make it awkward to hold in one hand.

Samsung Focus S

3 stars

Like the HTC Titan, Samsung’s Focus S which costs $200 and €145 in Europe, is a premium priced Windows smartphone designed to compete directly with the iPhone 4S and provide an alternative to high-end Android-based smartphones.

Measuring just 0.3 inches thick and weighing 3.9 ounces, the Focus S is one of the slimmest and lightest fully-sized smartphones around – despite featuring a brilliant 4.3-inch screen which delivers vibrant colour.

Its slim design does, however, come at a cost – battery life at 4.5 hours talktime is relatively paltry – but if you are looking for the most stylish Windows-based smartphone available today, this is it.

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