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Nokia gets hip to flip phones

Handset maker hopes clamshell-style models will revive its slipping market share.

Nokia has unveiled new clamshell-style phones in a bid to shore up its slipping market share.

The company on Monday introduced the 6170 and other midtier folding models. The releases were made to fill a "hole in our portfolio" that competitors have been feasting on, said Frank Nuovo, Nokia's chief designer of mobile phones.

The Finnish handset maker has been losing market share as a result of a gap in its product line, though it continues to retain the top slot, Nuovo said.

"It was real simple: Our problem was we didn't have a clamshell for people to upgrade to," Nuovo said.

The Finnish handset maker's slide began in 2003 and has continued this year. Nokia accounted for 44.7 million of the 153 million phones shipped in the first quarter of 2004, down 11 million from the previous quarter, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

The Motorola StarTAC and other flip phones were pioneered in the 1990s by an industry obsessed with making phones smaller to get customers to upgrade from their initial brick-size products. The phones were svelte enough to fit inside a pocket or clip to a belt. An eager public snapped up tens of millions, and later hundreds of millions, of the phones a year.

Nokia's 6170 handset features e-mail, instant messaging, multimedia messaging services and push to talk. The company also introduced another flip phone, the 6260. It features push to talk, e-mail, a camera and a foldable keyboard with a wireless Bluetooth connection.

The 6630 is a wideband CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) smart phone. The company said it's the first dual-mode, tri-band handset designed to work on WCDMA, EDGE and 2G networks in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Nokia also now offers two entry-level color-screen phones, the 2650 and the 2600. The company did not reveal pricing for the new models.