BARCELONA, Spain - A year into its partnership with Microsoft, Nokia is filling out its Windows Phone smartphone portfolio and differentiating devices with Nokia-only features and apps.
On Monday, Nokia kicked off the Mobile World Congress tradeshow here with a new low-end Lumia Windows Phone smartphone, the Lumia 610. This is now the fourth Lumia Windows Phone in the portfolio, and it will sell for 189 euros ($254) in Europe before subsidies.
Microsoft announced the Lumia 710 and Lumia 800 in October. These were the first Windows Phone devices for Nokia, and they were initially only available in Europe. Now, the devices are selling worldwide and the 710 is available on T-Mobile in the U.S market.
Last month at the Consumer Electronics Show, Nokia unveiled the Lumia 900, its flagship high-end Windows Phone device in the U.S. With a larger screen than the other Lumia devices, the Lumia 900 also has 4G LTE support.
At Mobile World Congress, Nokia also announced that the high-end Lumia 900 will be going global. Starting in the second quarter the Lumia 900 will be available in Canada and throughout other parts of the world for 489 Euros.
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Stephen Elop, Nokia's CEO, acknowledged during the press conference here that it's been a tough year for Nokia as the company retrenched and restarted its smartphones business. At last year's Mobile World Congress, Nokia had no new devices to announce, and instead fielded questions about the newly formed partnership with Microsoft. Since then, the company has pushed itself ahead of schedule, Elop said. After announcing its first two IWindows Phones in October, it now has four Lumia Windows Phone devices for market, including the Lumia 610.
"It's been a very challenging year," Elop said. "And yet it's been an amazing year. An in the year head we will continue to accelerate our new products and continue to build out the ecosystem."
Nokia has quickly become the world's largest maker of Windows Phone devices, which isn't surprising given the small base from which Windows Phone is building. But Windows Phone with its latest 7.5 software currently has more than 65,000 apps available in its store, Elop reported.
And even though Nokia leads the pack on Windows Mobile, the company is also working hard to make sure its Nokia phones are differentiated from other manufacturers using the Windows Phone platform.
To make this happen, Nokia has focused on differentiating its services and features on devices. The new Nokia PureView 808 announced here Monday is an example of Nokia flexing its hardware muscle and showing what is possible.
The new device, which operates on Nokia's older Symbian operating system, pushes the boundaries of technology in terms of photography and audio. The new Pureview 808 smartphone has a 41-megapixel camera and surround sound-like audio. The 41-megapixel camera was developed from satellite camera technology, and it will allow users to zoom in and out of photos while still rendering clear pictures. While the technology will initially be available only in the Pureview 808, the imaging and audio technology will eventually be ported to the Windows Phone devices, Nokia's X Jo Harlow said during the Q&A portion of the press conference.
Nokia also introduced a a slew of Nokia-exclusive features and apps that will be included in the latest version of the Windows Phone 7.5 software.
Nokia Maps, which has been a popular feature on Nokia devices, has been updated for Windows Phone to make the experience easier to use. It now allows users to zoom in closer and pull back to get a larger context of the route they want to take. The updated Nokia Maps also allows people to create and collect a list of favorite places. Nokia Maps is offered in over 190 countries and the update will be coming to Windows Phones in a few weeks.
Nokia Drive offers free turn-by-turn voice guided navigation in over 100 countries. And Nokia has now updated the app so that users can get full access even if they don't have a cell phone signal. The offline search and routing capability also shows speed limit alerts and estimated time for arrival.
Nokia Public Transport is another app that's been added to the suite of location-based navigation tools. It will offer city-dwellers access to information on the fastest routes from one place to another. It will also offer information on the nearest public transprotation, including train, buses, and subways with directions for getting to the closest location. The app also provides arrival and departure time for public transportation, so you know when the next bus or train is coming. The new app will be available in the next few days, the company has said.
Nokia Reading is another new app for the Windows Lumia devices. It offers streaming news service from newspapers and magazines. And it offers a e-books and audibooks specifically for the Nokai Lumia smartphones. The app also allows users to download their reading material so they can read it offline. The app will be available in April and it's initially launching in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia.