Microsoft's Nokia group is about to take on the world's low-cost smartphone makers with its new $29 Nokia 215 smartphone.
Microsoft unveiled the Nokia 215 in a Jan. 5 announcement, which touted the phone's availability in single and dual SIM models, giving it flexible capabilities for users in a wide range of countries.
With the inexpensive new model, Microsoft said it is directly taking on competitors in the race for users who can't afford phones that are much more costly. The sub-$100 smartphone market is filled with competitors from China and other nations where low-margin manufacturers are cranking out cheap, well-designed and full-featured phones that are being sought by new users.
"The Nokia 215 is designed to connect and introduce first-time mobile phone buyers to the Internet and new digital experiences" through the company's most affordable phone ever, Microsoft said in its announcement.
"With our ultra-affordable mobile phones and digital services, we see an inspiring opportunity to connect the next billion people to the Internet for the first time," Jo Harlow, corporate vice president of Microsoft Devices Group, said in a statement. "The Nokia 215 is perfect for people looking for their first mobile device, or those wanting to upgrade to enjoy affordable digital and social media services, like Facebook and Messenger."
The Nokia 215 will be available in bright green, black or white.
The devices, which run on the Nokia Series 30+ operating system, will include a 2.4-inch QVGA display, a micro SD slot supporting up to 32GB of storage, a 1,100mAh battery and a VGA camera. The 2.78-ounce Nokia 215 measures 4.57 inches long, 1.97 inches wide and a half-inch in thickness.
The phones come equipped with apps for the Opera Mini browser, Bing search, MSN Weather, Twitter, Facebook and more. Also included is SLAM, which enables content to be shared between devices and callers making hands-free calls using Bluetooth 3.0 and Bluetooth audio support for headsets, according to Microsoft.
A built-in flashlight is also built into the Nokia 215, as well as MP3 playback capabilities, FM radio services and more.
Microsoft's Nokia Lumia division has been busy for the last several months with other new models as well.
In November 2014, Microsoft announced its new $138 Lumia 535 smartphones in both 3G single-SIM or 3G dual-SIM models, with bright 5-inch capacitive discharge touch-screen displays covered by Corning's Gorilla Glass 3, a 5MP auto-focus, wide-angle main camera and Windows Phone 8.1 operating systems. The Lumia 535 also includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 1.2GHz quad-core processor, a 5MP fixed-focus front camera and Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant. Also included are integrated Microsoft services, such as Skype, OneNote, a Lumia selfie app and the Lumia Denim Update, which provides enhancements for Windows Phone 8.1.
For users, the availability of the new Lumia 535 with either a single- or dual-SIM card adds flexibility, particularly for users who often travel to foreign countries and want to get lower rates on calls or avoid carrying two phones. By having a dual-SIM model, the Lumia 535 allows users to install SIM cards for their native countries and for the countries where they are traveling so they can get the best of rates in both places.
In early October, Microsoft released through T-Mobile the low-cost Lumia 530 smartphone for $79.20 without a contract, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The 530 runs on the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system and includes a 4-inch LCD touch-screen, a quad-core processor, dual-SIM capabilities and a rear-facing 5MP camera. Also included is 4GB of storage.
Microsoft's Lumia smartphone line appears to represent the future of the company's mobile division and strategy, according to a July eWEEK report. The Lumia 530 is not intended to take on Apple's iPhone, but is aimed at carrying the Windows Phone flag into emerging markets and growing the worldwide market for Windows Phone devices.
Also in October, Microsoft announced that it is rebranding its Nokia nameplate as Microsoft Lumia after acquiring Nokia's mobile handset business for $7.1 billion in April.
The Lumia line of Windows-based phones, despite being generally well-received, has barely made a dent in unseating Android and iOS from the top of the smartphone market.
In September, analysts at ComScore named Android the top smartphone operating system for July 2014, with 51.5 percent market share. Apple placed second, with 42.4 percent, while Microsoft claimed a distant third place, with 3.6 percent.