Confirming earlier reports, T-Mobile USA will be the first carrier to sell a Nokia (NYSE: NOK) Windows Phone in the U.S. — a key market for the beleaguered handset maker. Rather than splashing into the U.S. with a high-end, expensive product, Nokia is taking the more humble route and launching with the cheaper of its two new handsets, the Lumia 710.
One large reason for Nokia’s turnaround “fightback” plan this year, in which it has dropped Symbian in favor of Microsoft’s OS, has been to better tackle markets like the U.S. So in that sense seeing the first of those devices come to market in the country is significant.
The device, built using Windows Phone 7.5, will work on the company’s “4G” HSPA network and comes preloaded with different services including Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), T-Mobile TV, Bing Search with voice activation and Local Scout for local search results. It will also come with the Nokia Drive navigation system and feature sports content from ESPN.
T-Mobile will be selling the phone from January 11. It will cost $49.99 with a $50 mail-in-rebate card, and based on a two-year service agreement.
Without a contract, the 710 model retails for about $360, and is the cheaper of the two new devices launched by Nokia as part of its new smartphone strategy based around Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform. The first of these, the Lumia 800, is selling for about $625 without contract.
By choosing to go with the cheaper of its first two devices, Nokia and T-Mobile are (probably wisely) looking to target the 150 million people in the U.S. who have yet to buy a smartphone and may be more price-conscious as a result.
But that doesn’t mean that Nokia is only going to push lower-end devices in the U.S.; there are also reports that it is testing LTE devices with AT&T .
The 710 device, which has many specs in common with its more expensive sibling save for display and exterior cover, is being offered in black and white varieties, although users have the option of buying different-colored covers. Apart from the T-Mobile branding on the front of the device, it looks much like the Lumia 710s being sold elsewhere, according to the specifications sheet.
The Lumia 710 started to ship last week; at the time Nokia had announced four developing markets as its first targets: Russia, India, Hong Kong and Singapore.