Microsoft, facing an uphill battle in the fiercely competitive U.S. and European smartphone markets, continues to target consumers not ready to pay for a powerhouse device.
The company on Monday unveiled the Nokia 215, an internet-capable basic phone at prices starting at just $29.
Microsoft said the phone will be available in select markets in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe (so, candidates include the entire world save the Americas) in the first three months of 2015.
“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.
That’s an explicit endorsement of the strategy hinted at by Microsoft’s latest smartphone offering: the company is planting the flag in the emerging markets expected to provide the bulk of the world’s newest phone users. Part of that strategy could reflect how poorly Microsoft’s smartphone efforts fared with the first billion smartphone users. But it also plays to the historic strengths of Nokia, a brand that’s been strong internationally and among users of basic phones.
The Nokia 215 features a 2.4 inch screen, 0.3 megapixel camera, and comes loaded with Facebook and Messenger notifications. Microsoft says the phone’s battery can last up to 29 hours on standby. Microsoft has more details.
Microsoft, which bought Nokia’s handset business last year, in November started phasing out the Nokia brand on its smartphones. The Microsoft Lumia 535, a budget-priced smartphone rolled out first in India, was the first phone Microsoft released under the Lumia brand alone.
With the Nokia 215, Microsoft may be signalling it plans to hold onto the Nokia brand on basic phones for a while longer. As part of the Nokia purchase, Microsoft acquired the rights to use the Nokia name on basic mobile phones for 10 years.