Nokia Targets Emerging Markets With Android Phone

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -

Nokia is targeting emerging markets with a low-cost smartphone that uses Google’s Android operating system rather than the Windows Phone software from Microsoft, the company about to buy Nokia’s phone business.

Nokia will ditch many of the Google services that come with Android, which Google lets phone makers customize at will. Instead, the new Nokia X phone announced Monday will emphasize Microsoft services such as Bing search, Skype communications and OneDrive file storage. Its home screen sports larger, resizable tiles resembling those on Windows phones.

Jussi Nevanlinna, Nokia’s vice president for product marketing, said the Finnish company is positioning the Nokia X as a bridge to high-end Windows smartphones under the Lumia brand.

He said Nokia is still committed to Windows and Microsoft, which is buying Nokia’s phone business and patent rights in a 5.4 billion euro ($7.3 billion) deal expected to be completed next month.

“The Lumia continues to be our primary smartphone strategy,” Nevanlinna said. “We take that pinnacle experience and make it more affordable.”

Once the No. 1 maker of cellphones, Nokia has been struggling to keep up with the iPhone and devices running Android. Nokia said smartphone revenue fell 29 percent in the recent year-end quarter compared with the same period in 2012. And even as competition intensifies for high-end smartphones such as the Xperia Z series, Nokia has been hit by competition from cheaper mobile phones made by Chinese and other Asian companies.

The Nokia X phone will sell for 89 euros ($122) and won’t be available in the U.S., Canada, Korea and Japan, in part to avoid competing with Lumia phones, which cost hundreds of dollars in the U.S. without subsidies from phone carriers.

Nokia officials said that although much of the development on the new phone came after Microsoft announced the deal in September, there was already talk before then as part of a long-standing partnership between the two.

At the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain, Nokia announced two even cheaper phones on Monday:

  • The Nokia 220 is meant as a starter phone, for 29 euros ($40). It will have some features and games already installed, but users won’t be able to add apps.
  • The Asha 230 will offer more options for apps. The 45-euro ($62) phone is meant for people who are not yet ready for the Nokia X. It comes with a touch screen, but lacks the power and versatility found in smartphones.

All three phones are expected to go on sale in early March.