Nokia Launches Multimedia Smart Phones

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Nokia today launched three new Nseries mobile handsets, hoping users will be seduced by the smart phones' built-in multimedia gadgets, which take print-quality pictures, read e-mail, play music, browse Web sites, and display mobile TV.

Nokia also touts new features such as 3G (third-generation) technology, multigigabyte memory, VHS-resolution video, and WLAN (wireless LAN) capabilities. A major selling point is the integration of a high-quality camera into each model; in fact, one model boasts a lens from German optics maker Carl Zeiss.

The Nseries line employs Nokia's Series 60 software platform for smart phones, and each model sports a stainless steel finish and black-pearl-and-silver color scheme.

The new handsets are the N90, N91, and N70. According to Nokia's schedule, the first of the new phones to hit the market--sometime before the end of June--will be the N90. It is being marketed as Nokia's premier mobile photography handset, though Nokia declined to specify a precise launch date. The suggested retail price for the N90 is about $909, but a Nokia spokeswoman stressed that prices will depend on local markets and retailers.

The N90's 2-megapixel camera has a multihinge twist-and-shoot design; it offers autofocus, 20X digital zoom, the Zeiss lens, and integrated flash. The phone has two screens: a 352-by-416-pixel main display, and a 352-by-416-pixel second screen with 262,144 colors that can serve as a viewfinder for shooting video in MP4 format, Nokia said.

The N70 is a 3G smart phone with a 2-megapixel camera, video-calling capabilities, stereo FM radio, a digital music player, and new 3D games all contained in a compact package measuring 4.2 inches by 2.0 inches by 0.6 inches. This phone will be available sometime in the third quarter of 2005 for just over $646, Nokia said.

Nokia also expects to make a variant of the N70 available for EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) markets at an unspecified later date.

4GB Hard Disk Inside

The N91, which can store up to 3000 songs on its integrated 4GB hard disk and play music for 12.5 hours at a stretch, will begin shipping in November at a suggested retail price of about $905, the Nokia spokeswoman said.

All of the Nseries phones are initially being pitched at European markets, with pricing in euros. Eventually, however, the tri-band handsets will be sold worldwide, allowing U.S. consumers, for example, to use the phones wherever WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks exist, Nokia said.

In the past, critics have argued that Nokia--the world's largest handset maker--had fallen behind the times in an era when a demand for camera and clamshell phones was sparking the market.

Nokia has aggressively sought to make its handsets more appealing to customers, particularly in the United States, where demand for the clamshell form and for built-in cameras has been high.

Yahoo Partnership

To win converts to 3G and multimedia, the company is partnering with others to boost the appeal of its smart phones and to entice customers to use the Internet connection and audio/video features. On Tuesday, Nokia said that, as part of a partnership with Yahoo, it will begin embedding Yahoo messaging, search, and Web browsing software in its 6680, 6681, 6630, and N70 phones. The 6680, 6681, and 6630 are already widely available in Europe and Asia, according to Nokia spokesperson Karoliina Lehmusvirta.

"We'll see the fruits of this partnership initially in Europe, but there is great interest by both parties to expand the capabilities to additional handsets and markets, like the United States," Lehmusvirta said, "But we have no timetables to announce yet."

The agreement with Yahoo is not exclusive, and Nokia is currently in "discussions with other players, looking into similar partnerships," Lehmusvirta said, adding that she could not name any potential partners.

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