MWC 2012 isn't quite Nokia World, but the Finnish company has kept interest going with a number of important announcements. Chief among them, in terms of Nokia's long-term strategy, is the Lumia 610. This device drops the entry-level price for the Lumia range down to 189 euros before taxes and subsidies, which is precisely 70 percent of the launch price of the Lumia 710, Nokia's previous cheapest Windows Phone.
An upcoming update to the Windows Phone OS is what will make the 610 possible: a lighter version of the software will be capable of running on only 256MB of RAM and support slower processors than the 1GHz Snapdragon that has so far been standard issue on WP hardware. The Lumia 610 limits itself to that quarter of a gigabyte of memory and also makes do with an 800MHz processing chip. In practice, that seems to be showing no negative impact on interface responsiveness, though we did only have a quick browse around the live tile menu and apps list. A deeper investigation could reveal where corners have had to be cut, but for now Microsoft seems to have successfully reengineered its OS for more humble devices. Nokia describes this change as the first time its influence has been felt in the development of Windows Phone.
Physically, the Lumia 610 is a glossy affair, with a two-tone finish, which isn't striking me as particularly attractive, but Nokia believes the masses of "aspirational" Windows Phone buyers will appreciate an extra bit of sheen. There'll be four colors to choose from when the 610 launches in Q2 2012. Unfortunately, the back cover is sealed and there's no user access for replacing the battery or just taking a curious look inside the device. Still, the Lumia 610 feels comfortable in the hand and easy to operate — when you consider its price and aim, perhaps some of these issues can be forgiven.