Microsoft's $29 Nokia 215 is a smarter feature phone for the masses

nokia 215 single sim group

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Smartphones run apps. So Microsoft’s new $29 Nokia 215, a Series 30 phone that runs Facebook, Messenger, and Twitter is what, a phone of Homer Simpson-like intelligence?

No, Microsoft’s new Nokia 215 isn’t anything to write home about. But since you can access the Web via its Opera Web browser, you can email your parents and send them a picture.

Unfortunately, Microsoft chose the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to announce a phone that Americans won’t likely see. The Nokia 215 will ship initially to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe in the first quarter of 2015, Microsoft said, at just $29 before taxes and subsidies.

Nokia 215 Mark Hachman

Compared to a phablet, the Nokia 215 is tiny.

Some of the specs, however, are admirable. Charge it once, for example, and the single-SIM variant will remain in standby for 29 days, according to Microsoft. The dual-SIM version has a standby time of 21 days. Talk time is up to 20 hours, with MP3 playback up to 50 hours. Microsoft didn’t quote more modern metrics, such as the time the phone can stay powered up while surfing on 3G, or playing back videos. That’s not part of the phone’s vision.

Nokia 215 Mark Hachman

Are those apps?

The phone itself is relatively tiny, hearkening back to the old days of candybar Nokia phones. It measures just 116 mm long by 50 mm wide by 12.9 mm deep, and weighs just 78.65 grams, or 2.77 ounces. Nevertheless, there’s a 2.4-inch QVGA screen, so surfing the Web is going to be at least tolerable. There’s even a camera, although Microsoft didn’t disclose the resolution of it.

Nevertheless, it’s not quite a dumb phone, either. Yes, you can surf the Web, and access Facebook and Facebook Messenger—even with notifications. Twitter, which was designed from the get-go for SMS-like communications, works too. The Nokia 815 isn’t for modern smartphone lovers, and that’s okay.

Why this matters: Microsoft still has a strong legacy business in emerging markets, where the Nokia brand name still carries cachet. (The phone is branded Nokia, with no Microsoft logo.) In those markets, what the Nokia 215 can do is perfectly suitable for the task at hand.

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