Nokia’s first Windows Phone launches in US

The Nokia Lumia 710, powered by T-Mobile, launches today in the US.

The phone has huge expectations as it not only tries to bring Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system to the masses, but also hopes to bring the Nokia name back to dominance in the US.

The Lumia 710 is what you might consider an entry-level smartphone, and it is the perfect example of Microsoft’s new Windows Phone strategy – appeal to the consumer who is too tepid to buy a $200-$300 phone.

In fact, the 710 is available for just $100 for new contract customers, and also comes with a $50 mail-in rebate making the final effective price a very appealing $50.

It is not, however, a “cheap” phone. There’s a 1.4 GHz processor, 5-megapixel camera, 512 MB of RAM, and 8 GB of internal storage. Sure it isn’t the Droid Razr or iPhone 4S, but that’s enough power to be a serious smartphone.

Nokia is known worldwide for its mastery of ergonomics and manufacturing design, but it is also bringing serious enhancements to the software side of Windows Phone. Nokia Drive is an offline GPS navigation system and the ESPN Hub brings exclusive content only to Nokia phone users. In addition, Nokia has its own app storefront which looks to be curated in a much more appealing way than Windows Phone’s previous app presence.

The Lumia 710 will launch January 11 in the US and will be perhaps the most important Windows Phone launch to date. It is also a make-or-break endeavor for Nokia, which has been wiped off the face of the US since Android and the iPhone stepped into the market.

It’s unlikely to shake up the market too wildly, but at $50 it’s sure to be a hot seller. We’ll see what happens.