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Following Monday's teaser photo of a keyboard-equipped device, Nokia announced today its newest entry-level handset, the Asha 210.
As a member of the Asha family, which is the company's line of inexpensive phones aimed at emerging markets, the 210 will not be heading to the U.S. Rather, it will launch in Q2 in parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia for about $72 (before tax and subsidies). It will come in single- and dual-SIM models as well.
Nokia is also partnering with three social networking and messaging apps, and bringing them onto the Asha 210. Depending on where you are, the device will sport a shortcut key for either Facebook, Weibo, or WhatsApp.
The handset is compact and has a sleek, minimalistic aesthetic that's similar to the Lumia. Save for the top of the phone (which houses a 3.5mm AV jack and Micro-USB port for charging), and a door on the left edge for the optional second SIM slot, its edges remain largely unblemished. It has a polycarbonate construction and a thin, severely bricklike shape. I especially welcome its smooth, almost chalky feel as well.
The Asha 210 measures 4.39 inches tall, 2.36 inches wide, and 0.46 inch thick. At 3.43 ounces, it's lightweight and fits well in the hand. It comes in four other colors besides yellow: white, cyan, magenta, and black.
The front includes a 2.4-inch QVGA screen, with a 320x240-pixel resolution. So, while it won't display crisp HD video, text and menu icons still looked clear and easy to read when I handled it. Below the display are two selection keys, two buttons to make and end a call, a center navigation key, a shortcut camera button on the right, and a hot key on the left that will launch a certain social networking service (more on that later).
The four-row QWERTY keyboard lights up when in use and is textured for easy typing. In addition, the space bar doubles as a Wi-Fi launch button when long pressed. During my time with the device, I found the keyboard to be a bit cramped. However, save for a few typos and missed letters, the buttons are easy to press and again, I love the keyboard's chalky texture.
On the rear is a camera lens that lacks a flash. Below it is a wide speaker grill. With the help of a small indent up top, the back plate is easy to take off. Once removed, you can gain access to the primary SIM card slot, the microSD card slot that's expandable up to 32GB, and the battery.
One of the center selling points of the Asha 210 that Nokia is pushing is its connectivity to certain social networking and messaging services. Using its Wi-Fi or 2G capabilities, users can access these apps with the aforementioned shortcut key that's left of the center navigational button.
For Europe and Latin America, the handset will feature a physical button to launch Facebook (no, not Home, just regular Facebook). The 210 in China will have Weibo, a mobile messaging and micro-blogging service, and India, the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia (more specifically, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia), will get WhatsApp, another mobile messaging application. As mentioned in its review, WhatsApp is free to download, but after one year of using it, customers will have to pay a 99-cent subscription fee. Fortunately on this phone, that yearly fee is waived.
The 2-megapixel camera has some editing options, including a 4x digital zoom. The device is powered by a 1,110mAh battery, which has a reported talk-time of 12 hours and a standby time of 24 days.
It runs the minimalistic and user-friendly Series 40 Asha interface and includes Nokia's cloud-based Xpress Internet browser. Other features include 64MB of flash memory and Bluetooth 2.1.
Though the Asha line isn't bound for the U.S., the 210's $72 price tag makes it reasonably affordable in developing markets. It also sports the bare tech necessities, such as a camera and Internet connectivity, and its dual-SIM capabilities adds onto its global appeal. Most importantly, however, is its ties with demographic-specific social media services. Pushing apps like Facebook and WhatsApp elevates the handset to a younger, Internet-connected customer base, and keeps it relevant in today's market.