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T-Mobile debuts new Nokia music phone

The Nokia 5310 XpressMusic handset will be available in the United States on T-Mobile USA's network starting next week. The only downside is that it doesn't support 3G.

NEW YORK--Nearly six months after its next generation of music phones hit the market in Europe, Nokia is finally bringing the latest XpressMusic phones to the United States.

T-Mobile USA on Tuesday unveiled the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic phone, a slim, music-playing handset, at a party here that featured specialty cocktails with names like Disco Lemonade and Purple Rain, and performances by up-and-coming artists K.i.D Cudi, Chester French, and the DJ Kid Capri.

Showing off the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic phone at the T-Mobile party in New York. Marguerite Reardon/CNET Networks

T-Mobile is the first and only wireless operator in the States to sell the new 5310 Xpress Music phone and its big brother, the 5610 Xpress Music phone. Both phones were announced by Nokia last August, and they started shipping in Europe in the fourth quarter.

The Nokia 5310 MusicExpress handset hits T-Mobile stores on May 28. Unfortunately, the flashier Nokia 5610 won't be available until sometime this summer. Why the wait? The company is still adding and making special tweaks to the 5610 that are specially designed for the T-Mobile network, said Tom Harlin, product marketing manager at T-Mobile.

The Nokia 5310 XpressMusic is a very slim candy bar-style phone measuring only 0.39 inches thick and weighing just 3 ounces. It features a 2-megapixel camera that takes still pictures and videos. And, of course, it's got a music player with external controls and stereo Bluetooth connectivity, along with T-Mobile's special MyFaves support.

Also in the box is a wired stereo headset, a USB cable for loading music, and a memory card. To top it off, T-Mobile has preloaded the phone with two exclusive new songs from artists Panic At The Disco and Phantom Planet. As an added bonus, the Nokia 5310 is also loaded with Panic At The Disco's latest video, "That Green Gentleman." T-Mobile also included a making-of-the-video promotion, with a greeting from the band.

"We wanted people to be able to use it and start listening to music right out of the box," Harlin said.

Getting handsets like the XpressMusic phones into the U.S. market is important for Nokia, as it tries to bolster its stateside market share. The company, which is the worldwide leader in handset sales, is in fourth place in the U.S. market. It has been working closely with operators to get more of its mobile phones into the market, but it's struggled to make significant headway. That said, Nokia's chief financial officer told Reuters earlier this week that it expects to grow its market share in North America into the double digits by the end of the year.

The music phones could be a good start for the company. Music-enabled phones made up 60 percent of the phones sold in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2008, according to NPD Group.

The only downside to the new Nokia XpressMusic phones is that neither phone supports 3G, which means that they won't be able to take advantage of T-Mobile's newly upgraded network. The phones also lack Wi-Fi. But at $50 for the Nokia 5310, the trade-off might be worth it. Pricing for the Nokia 5610 hasn't been disclosed yet.