The $29 Microsoft Smartphone

Will It Open the World to the Web?

The $29 Microsoft Smartphone
February 11, 2015

As Apple, Samsung, and other smartphone manufacturers battle for market share in the upper end of the cellphone market, Microsoft has made a significant impact in the lower end with a series of inexpensive yet functional smartphones. Since its acquisition of Nokia Devices and Services in April of 2014, Microsoft has introduced multiple inexpensive smartphones – and the release of the Nokia 215 represents the least expensive smartphone to date.

The Nokia 215 costs just $29, over a 45% decrease from the Nokia 225 that was released last year. It is designed primarily to make phone calls (what a concept – a phone designed to make calls!) and allow for basic connectivity.

We do mean basic ¬– so basic that the Nokia 215 will not work in the U.S. or Canada and is unlikely to work throughout Central and South America. This is a 2G (second-generation) phone and only operates as a phone on 900 and 1,800 mHz bands. It should generally work in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

However, the Nokia 215 comes with the Opera Web Browser as well as Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, and the Bing search program. Without 3G or 4G capability, it will not handle data-hogging tasks – and that is by design. It is clearly aimed as a first phone for introductory users in emerging markets, which is not a market that most phone providers are addressing.

For a basic phone, it does have some impressive capabilities. It can handle standby mode for 29 days after a charge (21 days for the dual-SIM version). Features include up to fifty hours of MP3 playback time and twenty hours of talking time, a 2.4” LCD screen, Bluetooth, FM radio capability, a USB port, and a 0.3 megapixel front-facing camera. There is even a flashlight function, a calendar, a calculator and a voice recorder.

Memory is reasonable for the price, as the unit comes with 8MB of RAM. The unit is also capable of microSD support of up to 32GB with an aftermarket card.

It is not suited for streaming video or other more complex operations, but it is well suited for taking simple pictures, sending e-mail, tweeting, and checking social media. Those capabilities alone should appeal to those who have never had affordable Web access. There are also a few apps and games that can be downloaded which are intended to run under the lesser capabilities of the Nokia 215.

The phone debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in January in Las Vegas. While this may be an unusual place to release a product that will not be available in the U.S., the price tag alone drew a significant amount of attention.

Will the Nokia 215 create a revolution in previously untapped markets for the Internet? It could, just by showing underserved areas of the world what is possible. According to some estimates, there are approximately a billion people that will be receiving Internet access for the first time between now and 2017, and these relatively inexpensive smartphones are an excellent way to bring along novice Internet users without overwhelming them.

However, the web capabilities here are still quite limited – and while the cost of the phone has been reduced significantly, there is still the running cost of Internet access that may keep most consumers from using it as anything other than a basic phone.

The Nokia 215 is a step in the right direction for increasing smartphone and Internet access, but it is only one step. Let’s see if the supporting infrastructure will follow.

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