Microsoft Outs An Entry Level Facebook Messenger Phone, TechCrunch
CES two thousand fifteen
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Fans of branding confusion will be pleased to hear Microsoft hasn’t ditched the Nokia phone brand fairly yet. It’s just announced a fresh entry level mobile phone, badged with the Nokia name: the Nokia 215, dubbing the handset its “most affordable Internet-ready entry level phone yet” — and aiming it at very first time mobile buyers embarking in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe in Q1.
Likely Microsoft is more comfy carrying on trading on the brand of the company whose mobile making division it acquired last year (for some $7.Two billion) here at the barrel-scraping end of the device spectrum. The Nokia two hundred fifteen is not a smartphone — so does not run Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS — but it is a very inexpensive dumbphone: priced at just $29 before taxes or subsidies.
Low price aside, what’s most interesting about an otherwise uninteresting mobile phone is that Microsoft is carrying on Nokia’s strategy of attempting to ‘sex up’ dumbphones with some smartphone-esque features.
In February two thousand thirteen Nokia was releasing a basic mobile for $85 with smarter-than-average camera phone features. Roll the clock on almost two years and Microsoft is pushing this same strategy to an even lower price point, albeit the Nokia two hundred fifteen does not have Trio.5G or even 3G. It’s a 2G device with Bluetooth — so the “Internet-ready” description is, to put it charitably, rather tenuous.
And, in fact, the Nokia two hundred fifteen is not fairly as cheap as the $25 Nokia one hundred thirty — announced by Microsoft back in August — but those few extra bucks buy a few more ‘smarts’. Specifically Microsoft has preloaded Facebook Messenger onto the device, touting instant notifications of when your friends ping you via its Messenger talk app.
So it’s evidently hoping to tap up the appeal of the social web as a stand in for the full-fat Internet, which isn’t going to be any kind of pleasing practice on this handset (the Opera Mini browser and Bing Search are the basic web navigation devices in this 2G toolbox). Ergo Microsoft is aiming to trade on Facebook’s appeal, as well as Nokia’s brand clout in emerging markets.
“ Nokia two hundred fifteen is our very first entry-level phone to come with Facebook and Messenger with instant notifications, providing people more options to connect with friends and family,” noted Microsoft in a statement.
(Long time Nokia watchers will recall that company previously attempted to hitch its low end phone wagon to Facebook and other messaging apps by putting physical keys on devices to fire up specific social services.)
Why is Microsoft making this dumb phone, rather than attempting to squeeze the price-point of its Lumia smartphones even lower? Well it’s doing that too. But at $29 this dumbphone goes where Lumia can’t and where the growth in the mobile market is strongest. Microsoft is evidently hoping to hook very first time mobile owners onto its services with the carrot of a very tasty price-point.
As well as Bing Search the phone has MSN Weather. So that’s at least two Microsoft brands it can shove before digitally impressionable eyeballs. Whether that translates into any long time brand loyalty and/or subsequent upgrades to Lumia smartphones remains to be seen.
The latter seems unlikely, given how low Android’s price-point already goes. But perhaps Microsoft is also laying the ground work for a services-centric future in mobile — if it runs out of road/will-power for pushing its own platform.
Using another mobile platform to thrust Microsoft-branded services was also a strategy cooked up by Nokia — with its Nokia X fork of Android. But after acquiring Nokia’s mobile division last year Microsoft killed off this Android trojan pony to concentrate efforts on pushing its Lumia smartphones.
And while it originally appeared the company would axe all Nokia’s low end mobile phones, Microsoft’s Jo Harlow subsequently confirmed the company sees potential to convert low end consumers to Microsoft account holders via dumbphones. And so we arrive at the Nokia 215.