Nokia, With Free Mail for Exchange App, Grows Asha's Options

Some Nokia Asha phones—designed to bring new users to the Internet—now have access to Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync.

Nokia, in a gesture for mobile users in developing markets, has added a free Mail for Exchange app to its Nokia Store.

The app, which uses Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync protocol, will enable users to sync work emails, contacts and calendar information between certain Nokia Asha smartphones and office servers.

The app can be paired with other apps in the Nokia Store, such as Editori Text and Editori Sheet, which enable users to view and edit Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, respectively.

"You'll now have a truly mobile work device that will enable you to keep in touch with your office at all times," Nokia's Boc Ly wrote in a May 28 post on the Nokia Conversations blog.

Nokia introduced its Asha line of smartphones in October 2011 as inexpensive on-ramps that the next billion people might use to access the Internet. In June 2012, it extended the line, introducing keyboard-free, touch-screen-based Asha phones with 3-inch screens, a 2.0 version of the Nokia Express Browser—which crunches 90 percent data in the cloud, instead of on the phone—and options including, in some cases, a 3.2-megapixel camera, dual-SIM capabilities and an HSPA modem.

The phones were geared toward young, socially active users—they include buttons on the home screen for one-touch connections to Facebook, Twitter and the Electronic Arts gaming site. But the option to make the Asha 300, 302, 303, 308, 309, 310 and 311 also work devices helps Nokia leave no stone unturned, as it fights competitors for users and works to take advantage of fast-growing emerging markets.

At the 2013 Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Spain, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop talked about his company's focus on those next billion people, and three questions it's focused on answering. How can Nokia provide customers with affordable ways to access content and data? How can Nokia help everyone gain access to the power of the app economy? And how can Nokia help new entrants to the digital world find content that's relevant to them?

In part, Nokia's answers include the Nokia Express Browser, which it says makes for a smarter Internet experience, and its SMS-based Nokia Life package, which gives users geographically relevant information on everything from entertainment to pregnancy health advice.

Google, the Wall Street Journal has reported, is also actively going after the Internet's next new users. While the company makes smartphones and tablets and the world's most popular mobile operating system, it's initiating the step ahead of that, considering how to bring wireless networks to markets, such as sub-Saharan Africa, where Internet access is spare or nonexistent.

According to the Journal, Google is considering various solutions that can involve using television broadcasting networks, blimps that can transmit signals over hundreds of square miles and, as in the case of a trial in South Africa, a "base station" that broadcasts signals several miles to wireless access points that receive the signals.

"Connecting the next billion is a huge undertaking," Elop said during his Mobile World Congress keynote. "The real challenge, and thus opportunity, lies in getting the consumer experience right and making the cost of entry affordable and individual."