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Windows Phone-Based Nokia Smartphones Coming to the U.S.

Nokia, the Finnish phone company betting its future on Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, will mark the U.S. debut for its devices on Jan. 11, when T-Mobile rolls out the Nokia Lumia 710 running Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango."

The Lumia 710 is the economy-priced version of the two Windows smartphones Nokia unveiled in late October. After a $50 mail-in rebate with a two-year service agreement including voice and data, the device cost is expected to be $49.99. (The "expected" phrasing, weirdly, comes from T-Mobile's announcement. You'd "expect" them to know what they'll charge for the phone at this point, but whatever.)

In announcing the Lumia 710's availability Wednesday, T-Mobile articulated some of the reasons that Microsoft and Nokia business planners must believe they still have a shot despite the long lead in smartphones held by Google Android-based devices and Apple iPhones.

T-Mobile's news release noted that 150 million people in the United States haven't upgraded to their first smartphones. Cole Brodman, chief marketing officer for T-Mobile USA, made the argument that T-Mobile's voice and data plans, combined with the relatively inexpensive new Nokia device, would be attractive to first-time smartphone buyers. "Our research shows nearly everybody in the U.S. wants a smartphone, but many believe they can't afford it," Brodman said in a statement.

In the same release, former Microsoft partner executive and current Nokia Americas President Chris Weber added, "This is the perfect first Nokia Lumia experience and the start of our re-entry into the U.S. smartphone market."

Michael Stroh, who posts regularly on the official Windows Phone Blog, wrote that the T-Mobile version of the Nokia phone will come "pre-stocked with popular apps including ESPN, Netflix, The Weather Channel, Slacker Radio, T-Mobile TV, and Nokia Drive for voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation." The voice navigation app is being touted by Nokia as a major differentiator for their devices.

The device has a 3.7-inch ClearBlack WVGA touchscreen, a Qualcomm 1.4 GHz Snapdragon processor and a 5-megapixel auto-focus camera. Unlike the version launched in Europe, the Lumia 710 for T-Mobile in the United States is available only in white and black. European carriers have blue, pink and yellow versions, as well.

The other notable missing feature of the Lumia 710 and its higher-end-but-not-publicly-announced-for-America-yet sibling, the Lumia 800, is a front-facing camera (FFC). The omission is important because the Nokia devices will compete with a second-generation of Windows Phone devices that mostly have FFCs and because key Microsoft apps like Lync and Skype are expected to eventually depend on FFCs for some functionality.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 14, 2011


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