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Nokia targets emerging markets with Android phones

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Nokia is targeting emerging markets with three low-cost smartphones that use Google’s Android operating system rather than the Windows Phone software from Microsoft, which is about to buy Nokia’s phone business.

Nokia will ditch many of the Google services that come with Android, which Google lets phone makers customize at will. Instead, the new Nokia X line announced Monday will emphasize Microsoft services such as Bing search, Skype communications and OneDrive file storage. Its home screen sports larger, resizable tiles resembling those on Windows phone.

“More and more people are buying smartphones for less that 100 euros,” said Stephen Elop, Nokia executive vice president, as he presented the new phones at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. “That sub-100 range is a massive opportunity for us. According to analysts, it will grow four times as fast as rest of smartphone market.”

The Nokia X is on sale immediately for 89 euros ($122). The Nokia X+ will cost 99 euros and the Nokia XL will cost 109 euros, with both going on sale in early March.

The Nokia X and X+ both have 4-inch screens, but the X+ offers an SD card. The XL has a 5-inch screen and a better 5-megapixel camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera.

Elop said all three phones will be “available broadly around the world, starting in growth markets.” The aim is to make the Nokia X a bridge to high-end Windows smartphones under the Lumia brand.

They won’t be available in the U.S., Canada, Korea and Japan in part to avoid competing with Lumia phones, which cost hundreds of dollars in the U.S. without subsidies from phone carriers.

Elop said that the use of Android on these phones in no way means Nokia is shifting away from its work with Windows and Microsoft, which is buying Nokia’s phone business and patent rights in a 5.4 billion euro ($7.3 billion) deal expected to be completed next month.

Once the No. 1 maker of cellphones, Nokia has been struggling to keep up with the iPhone and devices running Android. Nokia’s smartphone revenue fell 29 percent in the recent holiday quarter compared with a year earlier. And even as competition intensifies for high-end smartphones, Nokia has been hit by competition from cheaper made by Chinese and other Asian companies.

Nokia announced two even cheaper phones on Monday, also expected to go on sale in early March:

— The Nokia 220 is meant as a starter phone for 29 euros ($40). It will have Facebook, Twitter and some games already installed, but users won’t be able to add apps.

— The Asha 230 will offer more options for apps. The 45-euro ($62) phone is meant for people who are not yet ready for the Nokia X. It comes with a touch screen, but lacks the power and versatility found in smartphones.

For a first-time smartphone experience, Nokia Corp. is pushing the Nokia X. Because it uses Android, it will be able to run most Android apps. However, app developers may have to tweak some of their software because the phone doesn’t have key Google services.

For instance, location services will have to be designed for Nokia’s Here mapping software rather than Google Maps. In-app payments will have to be tweaked to allow billing through mobile carriers rather than credit cards, which many people in emerging markets lack.

Jussi Nevanlinna, vice president for product marketing, said Nokia is trying to lure those who might have been drawn to the large offering of apps available on Android. Instead of having them hooked on Google services through Android, he said, Nokia could steer them to Microsoft services with a customized Android system.

Both the Asha and the Nokia X will have a feature called Fastlane. It remembers your favorite apps and services and offers quick access, along with recent notifications, on a single screen that is one swipe away from the home screen.

Associated Press

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