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T-Mobile to sell Nokia Lumia 710 for $49.99

T-Mobile and Nokia are going after customers looking to upgrade to a smartphone for the first time. T-Mobile says the Lumia 710 will be a flagship product when it launches on January 11.

The Nokia Lumia 710 will come to T-Mobile in January in black and white versions.
Brian Bennett/CNET

T-Mobile USA and Nokia said today they will sell the Lumia 710, marking Nokia's push to re-enter the U.S. market in a real way.

With the Lumia 710, priced at $49.99 and available on January 11, Nokia and T-Mobile are going after consumers who own a basic cell phone, but have been hesitant to upgrade to a more complicated smartphone. The companies believe the low price of the handset, lower-priced data, and easier-to-use Windows Phone operating system will help people ease their way into a more sophisticated mobile device.

The phone will come with apps such as Netflix, Nokia Drive, and ESPN, preloaded on to the phone. Brian Bennett/CNET

It will mark the first Nokia Windows Phone to hit U.S. shores. For T-Mobile, the more affordable device should help it sway smartphone newbies and more budget-conscious subscribers at a time when its highest-tier customers leave for carriers offering a better selection of phones.

"This is the right product to go after the 150 million feature phone users in the country," said Chris Weber, head of Nokia's North America business, adding that figure is twice the size of the current smartphone base.

T-Mobile considers the Lumia 710 a hero phone--industry jargon for its flagship device--for the post-holiday period starting in January. Andrew Sherrard, senior vice president of handset marketing for T-Mobile, said the Lumia 710 would be prominently displayed in its stores, and that Windows Phone smartphones would become a larger share of the carrier's overall portfolio. He said the phone would be ideal for consumers who are watching their wallets a bit more closely after the holidays.

Nokia plans on a significant marketing campaign for both the Nokia brand and the Lumia 710, Weber said. While he didn't disclose specifically how much Nokia would spend, he said it would be "in the neighborhood of what it takes to be successful," and added it would pour money into marketing, sales incentives, and better presence in retail outlets.

The other vendors haven't done a good job of communicating the benefits of Windows Phone, something Nokia hopes to fix by highlighting some of the specific advantages and uses of the Lumia 710, Weber said.

Still, the launch represents a bit of a lackluster start for Nokia's big U.S. reboot. The Lumia 710 isn't Nokia's high-end device; rather it's the mass-market phone that doesn't stand out for its design or specs. Its launch partner, T-Mobile, is the fourth-largest national carrier in the U.S., and has seen its momentum slip over the past year, partly due to the distraction of trying to save a takeover by AT&T. At $49.99, the phone may be a good deal, but could also get lost in the shuffle amid post-holiday discounts of other higher-profile devices.

Nokia may be saving its bigger gun, the Lumia 800, for one of the big two carriers. CNET reported on Monday that Nokia is testing an LTE variant of the Lumia 800 with Verizon and AT&T, and it's believed that AT&T will announce the Lumia 800 as a device at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Weber said Nokia plans to have a broad range of products, including higher-end devices and different carriers, out in the U.S. Sherrard declined to comment on whether T-Mobile had the option of selling the Lumia 800.

The Lumia 710 features a 3.7-inch LCD display with "ClearBlack" technology, which Weber said works better in sunlight. It also has a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm processor, 512MB of RAM, a 5-megapixel camera, and 8GB of storage. Like other Windows Phone devices, it comes with 25GB of storage on Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud service. The phone will be able to tap into T-Mobile's speedy network, although it won't be able to achieve the higher speeds that the Samsung Galaxy S II or HTC Amaze 4G can get.

To set it apart from other Windows Phone devices, the Lumia 710 will come preloaded with the navigation service Nokia Drive, a special ESPN app, and Netflix, among other apps. Nokia is planning to offer concierge services to help new customers with setting up their devices and figuring out news ways to use them.

"For that price, those are excellent specs," Weber said.