By Chris Velazco
There’s little question that Nokia (NYSE:NOK) is taking the low-end of the smartphone market very seriously these days. They just kicked off their race to the bottom with the colorful, budget-conscious Lumia 610 at this year’s Mobile World Congress, and while it’s far and away the least powerful of the Finnish company’s Windows Phone brood, it’s certainly priced to move at €189.
According to Nokia EVP Niklas Savander though, that price tag isn’t quite cheap enough. In a brief interview with Pocket-lint, Savander revealed that in order to better compete with Android, Nokia is very concerned with getting their hardware to even lower price points.
“Android is in many markets at the €100 price already, so that would suggest that if we are at €189 with the Lumia 610 we still have work to do when it comes to creating a lower-end first-time user smartphone.”
Now, Nokia is no stranger to pushing out low-cost, no-frills hardware — their venerable Nokia 1100 once held the crown for the best-selling bit of consumer electronics in the world, but getting their Windows Phones to that level of ubiquity will take a bit of doing. While Nokia toils away on the hardware front in an attempt to cut costs without stymieing performance too much, Microsoft’s Windows Phone Tango update will make sure that the eventual end-users don’t lose too much functionality in the process.
Ultimately, the goal of Windows Phone Tango and this new breed of low-cost hardware is to provide Microsoft and their vendor partners a way to bust into a wider array of markets. It’s a sound concept, but there’s no guarantee that things will go according to plan. Android already enjoys a tremendous level of popularity worldwide thanks in large part to the dirt-cheap hardware it can often be found on.
Fortunately for Nokia (and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)), that inexpensive hardware can help just as much as it hurts. Devices like the Lumia 610 won’t set anyone’s world on fire, but it shines as a handset meant for first-time smartphone owners not looking to shell out too much money for new hardware. Unlike Android, which can often chug on more basic hardware, Windows Phone Tango has been tuned to work as well as possible on devices with as little as 256MB of RAM. The end result is a user experience that can occasionally lack some of Windows Phone’s hallmark fluidity, but still feels like a more polished option than Android albeit without some of the frills.
Nokia is going to have to prove Windows Phone’s worth as they try to enter new markets where Android has become the mobile OS of choice. India and China immediately come to mind here — Android is the most widely-used mobile OS in both countries, but Nokia still accounts for most of the handsets shipped there. If Nokia can drive costs down and keep from watering down the resulting hardware too much, their smartphones could soon enjoy the sort of global popularity that marked much of Nokia’s heyday.