Nokia launches low-end Windows phone and 38-megapixel camera phone

Nokia focused on its low-end phone offerings at Mobile World Congress on Monday, a year after announcing it would try to boost its smartphone sales by giving up its home-grown operating system in favor of Windows Phone.

It introduced a new, low-end Lumia phone, three new phones designed for emerging markets, a new Symbian phone that can take 38-megapixel photos, and a handful of new services to run primarily on Lumia phones. 

The Lumia 610 will be Nokia’s lowest-priced Windows Phone yet. The company did not say where it expected to launch the phones, but said they’d likely retail at €189 (US$254) and be available in the second quarter. 

“Now we’re able to cover a range of needs and price points,” said Jo Harlow, executive vice president of smart devices for Nokia. The Lumia 610 is the fourth phone in the series. 

The phone has become possible because Microsoft has now lowered the system requirements for Windows Phone so that devices with lower memory and processor requirements can use the Windows Phone operating system. 

Microsoft also said that Windows Phone now meets language and network requirements for China. As a result, Nokia plans to start selling Lumia phones running on both CDMA (code division multiple access) and WCDMA (Wideband CDMA) networks in China in the coming months, Harlow said. 

Nokia also said it would bring the high-end Lumia 900 smartphone, initially launched in the U.S. to run on LTE (Long Term Evolution) 4G networks, to other regions of the world. It will become available on Roger’s LTE network in Canada. 

Nokia will also make a version of the Lumia 900 that runs on HSPA networks, designed for regions like much of Europe that don’t yet have LTE networks. The phone is expected to cost €480 and ship in the second quarter. 

In addition to the new hardware, Nokia announced some new software updates and services. Lumia phones will be able to use a new app called Nokia Transport, which offers door-to-door directions using public transportation. 

They will also get a new app called Nokia Reading that aims to consolidate news, ebooks and audio books into one app. 

Nokia also announced that it has developed new imaging technology that will first appear in the Nokia 808 PureView. Nokia is launching the technology on a Symbian phone, an operating system it is phasing out, but said it planned to incorporate it into future Windows Phones too. 

The PureView allows users to take 38-megapixel photos that they can zoom in on to see additional detail and blow up into very large printed images. Users can also opt to take 5-megapixel or 8-megapixel shots with the camera. 

Nokia opened its news conference by introducing three new phones designed for developing countries. “We’re targeting the 3.2 billion people who don’t yet have a phone and 1.2 billion who have a phone but don’t have a data plan yet,” said Mary McDowell, executive vice president of mobile phones for Nokia.

One of the new phones, the Asha 302, includes Microsoft ActiveSync to pull in email from Exchange and many other mail programs. It costs €95 and is available now. 

Two other phones, the Asha 202 and 203, will cost €60 and be available in the coming weeks. They include 40 games from EA including Tetris and Bejewelled. 

A week before last year’s Mobile World Congress Nokia, under new leadership, said it would use Windows Mobile to power its smartphones. It used that event to lay out its new strategy for smartphones. At the time, it said it might launch a phone using the new operating system by the end of 2011. In fact, it launched two. 

“One year later, we’ve changed the clock speed of Nokia, demonstrating we can rapidly execute our new strategy,” Steve Elop, president and CEO of Nokia, said Monday.

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