Nokia Intros Lumia 710, Its First U.S. Windows Phone

Budget device marks the Finnish phone maker's U.S. debut on Microsoft's mobile operating system.
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Nokia formally introduced the first phone it will ship into the U.S. market under a strategic partnership with Microsoft that some observers have described as a "bet the company" move.

The Lumia 710 will ship on Jan. 11, and is available for just $50 with a two-year contract on T-Mobile. Despite Nokia's close relationship with Microsoft, there's little to distinguish the Lumia 710 from rival offerings based on the Windows Phone platform, such as the Samsung Focus Flash or the HTC Radar. It runs on a 1.4-GHz Snapdragon processor and features a 3.7-inch, scratch-resistant display and a 5-megapixel camera. Windows Phone 7.5, also known as Mango, is preinstalled.

And like all Windows Phones, its interface uses Microsoft's Live Tiles, which display real-time updates from social networks, e-mail, messaging, and other services, directly to the home screen.

Nokia and T-Mobile are making no bones about the fact that the Lumia 710 is aimed at the budget market. "Our research shows that nearly everybody in the U.S. wants a smartphone, but many believe they can't afford it," said T-Mobile USA chief marketing officer Cole Brodman.

[ What's Nokia's future? One Danish Bank Believes Nokia Will Sell To Microsoft. ]

Nokia Americas president Chris Weber said the device is "the perfect first-time smartphone: a well-designed product that delivers the most compelling Windows Phone experience in its price range."

Nokia does plan to introduce higher-end Windows Phone offerings into the U.S. market. Next in line is most likely be some version of the Lumia 800, which is already available in Europe and could be a difference maker in the Americas. The 800 is armed with an ultra-bright ClearBlack Amoled screen that adds cyan and magenta to the standard RGB electronic display spectrum.

It's also got a camera that uses Carl Zeiss optics, HD video playback, and European buyers get 25 GB of free cloud storage on Microsoft's SkyDrive service. All that won't come cheap, however. The Lumia 800 is selling for 420 Euros (about $550 U.S.) on the Continent.

Microsoft and Nokia announced their broad alliance in February. Under the deal, Nokia, which is now headed by former Microsoft exec Stephen Elop, will eventually make Windows Phone its exclusive operating system for mobile products. Microsoft, in return, is aiding Nokia's efforts with billions of dollars worth of R&D support.

It's a risky bet for Nokia, as Microsoft's mobile products currently hold less than 6% of the U.S. mobile market, according to research firm ComScore.

To set itself apart from the rest of the Windows Phone crowd, Nokia earlier this year inked an exclusive deal with developer Polar Mobile, under which the Canadian company will build apps that format content from a number of international publishers, including WiredUK, Kompass, Advertising Age, Shanghai Daily, and the Globe & Mail, for display on Nokia's Windows Phones.

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