Nokia bets on affordable smartphones to gain China share

Finnish phone firm launches pair of cheaper smartphone models via China Mobile

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 5:05am

Nokia, once the undisputed leader of the mobile phone industry, aims to regain some ground from its rivals with the release on the mainland next quarter of affordable smartphones.

"We plan to be aggressive there," said Chris Weber, Nokia's executive vice-president for global sales and marketing.

Weber said Nokia would release its new Lumia 720 and 520 smartphones, which run Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating system, through China Mobile, the world's largest network operator.

Also scheduled for release are the budget Nokia 105 and 301 internet-ready mobile phones, with some Lumia-type features, for first-time handset buyers.

China Mobile, which had 714.7 million subscribers at the end of January, was also Nokia's partner last year for the release of the Finnish company's high-end Lumia 920 phone.

Weber declined to provide a timetable for when China Unicom and China Telecom would also be able to provide the new Lumia models for their subscribers. Unicom also currently sells the Lumia 920.

"Our goal in 2013 is to continue to broaden our portfolio across differentiated experiences and price points," he said.

The starting prices for the Lumia 720 and 520 are €249 (HK$2,520) and €139 respectively. The Nokia 105 has a suggested retail price of €15, while the 301 costs €65. Weber said pricing is expected to vary from market to market.

Nokia and Microsoft are also expected to combine their resources in pushing the Lumia line of smartphones in the mainland's business market, where desktop Windows and Office productivity software are widely used, Weber said.

He said Nokia expects to be competitive on the mainland against low-cost devices that run Google's Android operating system and even the new Windows-powered smartphones from HTC, Samsung Electronics and Huawei Technologies.

However, Nokia has been hard-pressed to meet demand on the mainland and missed the Lunar New Year holiday shopping season. While 90,000 Lumia 920T models were ordered up to January 30, Nokia shipped only 30,000, China Mobile spokeswoman Li Yan said last month.