After three years of being a standout provider of Android smartphones, T-Mobile USA is also placing big bets on Windows Phone devices for 2012.
T-Mobile today is announcing that it will be the exclusive launch carrier of Nokia’s Lumia 710, one of the first two phones produced by the sweeping partnership between Nokia and Microsoft announced in February.
Microsoft and Nokia began selling their new phones in Europe in mid November but haven’t said yet when they’ll bring them to the U.S.
T-Mobile is spilling the beans, saying that it will start offering the Lumia 710 in the U.S. on Jan. 11. It will cost $49.99 after a $50 rebate.
The arrival date is just after Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer’s keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where he’s likely to announce the availability of Nokia Windows phones on additional carriers.
Still undisclosed are which carriers will sell the top-end Nokia Lumia 800, a striking slab with a curved glass face and minimalist design, that’s likely to sell for more than $49.
T-Mobile will not be carrying the 800, for a while at least. but it will be the exclusive Lumia 710 carrier in the U.S. for an extended after the launch.
The company also expects to benefit from a huge promotional push by Microsoft and Nokia, which will be advertising heavily to reintroduce its brand in the U.S. It’s been carrying Windows Phones all along but will now broaden the lineup and providing more training for store crews to sell them.
“We’ll be working to leverage their overall advertising pressure and commitment to the marketplace,” said Cole Brodman, T-Mobile’s chief marketing officer.
T-Mobile is hoping the Lumia 710 and the clean, simple Windows interface will appeal to Americans who haven’t yet begun using a smartphone. The company believes there are nearly 150 million people in this category.
The Lumia 710 “is a great choice for first-time adopters, or smartphone intenders — those who really want the benefits of using smartphone but maybe are confused about the choices,” Brodman said.
T-Mobile’s offering the 710 as a 4G device that will use its HSPA+ network. The phone is theoretically capable of download speeds of up to 21 megabits per second, though Brodman said typical download speeds are likely to be in the range of 3 to 6 Mbps.
Behind the Lumia’s 3.7-inch touchscreen and white or black case is a 1.4 gigahertz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The phone has a 5 megapixel camera, which is fairly standard but lower than the 8 megapixel camera used on the Lumia 800.
It won’t be the least expensive smartphone offered in T-Mobile stores, which were the first to carry Android smartphones in 2008 and are full of Android options nowadays. But Brodman said it’s “pretty powerful” to offer a phone with that screen size, hardware quality and form factor at that price point.
Brodman noted that the expanded relationship with Nokia is a reunion of sorts of T-Mobile. Back when it was VoiceStream Wireless, the company — including Brodman — launched its first wireless service in Hawaii in 1996 with a Nokia handset.