Doing double duty, Nokia announces new high-end, low-end handsets

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Reaching for any way to regain share lost to Apple and other competitors, Nokia on Friday revealed a new version of its flagship Lumia handset, redesigned and exclusive to Verizon, capping off a week in which it also looked to tackle the low end of the smartphone market with $99 phones.

Friday marked the introduction of Nokia's long-rumored Lumia 928, a Verizon-exclusive variant of the manufacturer's Windows Phone 8-powered Lumia 920, available on AT&T. The 928 sports a slimmer build than the 920 — addressing one major complaint the tech press had about the device — and has a more squarish design. Underneath its 4.5-inch 1280x768 display, the device packs a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 2,000mAh battery, and 32GB of storage.

The Lumia 928 will go on sale from Verizon on May 16. It will be priced at $100.

As with the other Lumia handsets, Nokia has been touting the photographic capabilities of the 928, especially the xenon flash unique to the 928. Nokia's teaser ads for the device, released over the past week or so, have touted its photo and video recording prowess, showing the 928 outperforming both Apple's iPhone 5 and Samsung's Galaxy S4.

Nokia has for some time been touting the image quality produced by its PureView technology as a main selling point for its smartphones, but it still lags far behind Apple and Samsung in terms of sales, having sold 5.6 million Lumia handsets in the most recent quarter.

Even as it rolls out its Verizon exclusive, Nokia is making ready for another announcement next week. On May 14, the company will unveil what it called a continuation of the "Nokia Lumia story." Nokia could be introducing the Lumia EOS, a rumored aluminum-constructed flagship device that does even more to leverage its PureView technology with a rumored 41MP camera.

At the same time that the erstwhile mobile phone leader is looking to regain share in the premium smartphone segment, Nokia has also turned its eye toward the very low-end segment. The phone maker introduced this week a new line of devices with capabilities somewhere between those of a featurephone and a smartphone.

Nokia's new Asha 501 is a touchscreen devices running what Nokia calls the "Asha software platform." The handset runs Java-based apps, and the OS features a swipe-based navigation system. The new Asha is priced according to its specifications as well, with a suggested cost of $99 or 75 euros.

Nokia is initially targeting developing markets with the new Asha, with the handset set to debut in India before launching worldwide — with the exception of North America — before the end of this quarter.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, in an interview with My Nokia Blog, admitted that the Asha line does not run a "high-end [operating system]." The company's goal was to bring as "high-end" an experience as possible to more people, but to keep the cost of the unit down at the same time.

Nokia chose to go with a different smartphone OS instead of Windows Phone 8, Elop said, because the low-end hardware necessary to keep the price low would result in a poor Windows Phone 8 experience.

"Lumia is Nokia's future," Elop said. "If it were to bring that experience to low-end devices, like you see on low-end Android, the experience is terrible, and it ruins the integrity of a brand — which is the last thing Nokia want."

Low cost phones like the Asha 501 may help Nokia compete more effectively in developing markets, where billions of people are expected to adopt smartphones as their first computing devices in the coming years. Those looming billions are likely to represent much of the growth in smartphones, as many observers believe the premium end, concentrated heavily in developed nations, has largely matured.


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