Finnish handset maker Nokia kicked off its 2009 Nokia Connection event in Singapore with the debut of three handsets, including the E72, its latest full QWERTY smartphone, and the touch-screen 5530 XpressMusic, targeted at fans of social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
The company also introduced a compact, presumably low-cost flipper, the 3710 fold, which offers mobile Internet and an "artistic pattern" on the cover.
The E72 will allow owners to set up instant messaging accounts provided by Nokia Messaging direct from the home screen for the first time. The XpressMusic device offers users a "scrolling" Contacts Bar, which provides access to 20 people and their latest conversations and media updates.
The company expects the E72 and the 5530 XpressMusic to begin shipping late in the third quarter of 2009, while the 3710 fold will be available starting in the fourth quarter of 2009. All phones will have access to Nokia's heavily promoted Ovi Store, an application store similar to the Apple App Store. There was no word as to when the phones might reach U.S. shores.
In her keynote speech at the event, Mary McDowell, executive vice president and chief development officer at Nokia, said Nokia is driving a transformation both as a company and externally to build a vibrant ecosystem and deliver relevant solutions to consumers. ""Nokia envisions a world where people will be empowered to share and connect with what matters most to them through highly personalized and contextually relevant solutions," she said.
Chris Carr, Nokia's vice president of sales in the SEAP region, said the mobile industry is witnessing exciting developments driven by the rapid convergence of the Internet and mobile. "According to industry estimates, we have already reached the 4 billion mobile connections milestone globally early this year," he said, noting this development is not only happening in advanced markets, but all markets.
"The next phase of growth will be very much driven by the emerging markets, including Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam," he said. "Many of the population from these markets are accessing the Internet, information, education and entertainment on their first mobile."
Nokia caused a stir last week by announcing the N97, its flagship smartphone that the company announced in December. The phone is being sold without carrier backing, carries a $699 price tag, and is available online and through Nokia stores in New York and Chicago. Critics immediately decried the phone's cost, although the N97 does offer an impressive feature set and is the first Nokia to ship with the Ovi Store.
The announcement comes on the heels of a price reduction on Apple's popular iPhone at the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which saw the price of the iPhone 3G reduced to $99 and the new iPhone 3G S retailing for $199. Nokia's N97 also faces competition from another less expensive competitor offering similar features-the touch-screen Palm Pre.
In her opening remarks, McDowell also stressed the importance of the Asia Pacific market, calling the area an "extremely important region" for the company. "Asian consumers' eagerness to use technology makes this region a great place to introduce new devices and services," she said. "Singapore and many of its Southeast Asian neighbors represented here today will be among the first to take advantage of the future solutions Nokia intends to bring as we connect the planet so that everyone can participate."