Nokia debuts its first Windows tablet, two 'phablets,' and three cheap phones

Camera capabilities continue to be a differentiator, as well as LTE in the tablet

Nokia has added a tablet and two large-screen smartphones to its Lumia family, and is once again counting on its camera technology to attract buyers.

The Lumia 2520 tablet -- which runs Microsoft's much-criticized Windows RT operating system, has a 10-inch HD screen and is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processor. It has a 6.7-megapixel camera that can take pictures in low light conditions, unlike those on other tablets, according to Nokia. The screen is also bright enough to be read in sunlight, the company said.

Nokia has developed a keyboard with an integrated battery that can add up to five hours of extra life after the integrated 8000 mAh battery has given up. Unlike Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet, whch was released today, the Lumia 2520 has LTE as well as Wi-Fi.

Additionally, the Lumia 2520 includes Storyteller, a Nokia-developed app that combines images and videos as a story on a map, as well as Nokia Video Director, which offers the ability to edit videos shot on the tablet.

The Nokia Lumia 2520 will cost about $499 before taxes and subsidies, and will start shipping in the U.S., the U.K. and Finland before the end of the year. Additional countries to follow shortly after, Nokia said.

"Nokia is fully aware of the challenge it faces in tablets. The 2520 will be a difficult sell owing to the challenges of Windows RT, but Nokia is rightly playing to its strengths," said Geoff Blaber, director of devices and platforms at CCS Insight.

The Lumia 1320 and Lumia 1520 smartphones, revealed today as well, both run Windows Phone 8 and have 6-inch screens. The 1520 is the high-end model, with a full HD screen, LTE, and a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor. The device has 32GB of storage, which can be expanded by another 64GB using a MicroSD card slot, something that has been missing from recent Nokia smartphones.

Nokia is leaning on its camera technology to differentiate its products from rivals. The Lumia 1520 has a 20-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. Nokia has also developed a new app called Camera that lets users access settings more easily, the company said.

The Lumia 1520 will start shipping this quarter in Hong Kong, Singapore, the U.S., China, the U.K., France, Germany, and Finland. The price will be $749, before taxes and subsidies.

The Lumia 1320 will cost $339 before taxes and subsidies, but only has a dual-core processor and 720p screen resolution. It also has a simpler 5-megapixel camera, but users can still access the Internet using LTE. Nokia expects to start shipping it in the first quarter of 2014 in China and Vietnam, followed by other Asian markets, India, and Europe.

The lower price will make the smartphone a good fit for the Chinese market, said Pete Cunningham, a principal analyst at Canalys.

Both devices will run a new version of Windows Phone 8 called General Distribution Release 3, to which Nokia has added enhancements such as its Camera app. The software will also be offered to users of existing Lumia devices via an update called Black.

Instagram and Vine will soon be available on Lumia devices too, Nokia announced. App availability is still Windows Phone's Achilles heel, but the availability of those two third-party apps is a step in the right direction.

With these two large-screen smartphones, often called "phablets" due to being halfway in size between a smartphone and a tablet, Nokia is entering a competitive market, up against devices including the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the HTC One Max.

Nokia also hopes to better compete with low-end Android devices with three new Asha phones, including the Asha 503 with 3G for US$99.

The Asha family has become important for Nokia, as its Windows Phone-based Lumia devices are still too expensive to appeal to a broad swathe of consumers in developing countries. But the Asha phones too are under price pressure from low-cost Android-based products, and as a result sales have suffered.

Nokia hopes to change that with the introduction of the Asha 500, 502 and 503, which will start shipping before the end of the year. The three phones all use an updated version of the user interface the company announced on the Asha 501 earlier this year.

Users can, for example, swipe on the screen to start the camera, long-press to access camera settings, and swipe to switch from the image mode to the video mode or vice versa. A key feature in the user interface is Fastlane, which shows recently accessed contacts, social networks, and apps. It can now be personalized by users, who can choose what content they want it to show.

Nokia has been working hard to grow the number of apps available for the new phones, and now announced that WhatsApp is on the way.

The Asha 503 3G phone is the new flagship model of the family and will cost $99 before taxes and subsidies. It has a 5-megapixel camera and a 3-inch screen protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass 2.

The Asha 502 also has a 3-inch screen and a 5-megapixel camera, but there is no 3G, which helps make it $10 cheaper than its big brother. The last addition to the Asha family is the 500 model, which costs $69 before taxes and subsidies. For that users get a phone with a 2.8-inch screen and a 2-megapixel camera.

All three models can access the Internet using Wi-Fi, and hold two SIM cards. Just like most of Nokia's phones they come in a variety of colors -- this time red, bright green, yellow, cyan, white, and black -- but to make the new Ashas stand out, Nokia has added a translucent layer of plastic on top of the body.

The phones will be available across Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East, Nokia said without elaborating on specific countries. The 500 and 503 models will also ship in Latin America.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com.

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