Stop the presses. Nokia isn’t quite dead. At least, the $29 Nokia brand feature phone from Microsoft. Something strange is going on in Redmond these days. Windows and Office remain the cash cows, but Microsoft has decided to go whole hog into uncharted, and so far, unprofitable gadget territory.
There’s the famous billion-dollar write down of the early Microsoft Surface tablet notebook hybrids. Then there’s all the Windows Phone models which are not selling to anyone, regardless of price. Now Microsoft is pushing the Nokia 215 ‘internet phone‘ for $29.
What’s going on?
Either Microsoft is trying to lose even more money competing against Android smartphones (where the Windows maker supposedly makes a few billion a year on patent licensing royalties; far more than it makes selling anything), or by losing a few dollars on every device, the company hopes to make up the losses by selling low priced devices in large volume.
The math coming out of Microsoft’s executives suites these days would indicate there’s a massive calculating bug somewhere in Excel.
The Nokia 215 is cheap at $29 and cheaper with limited everything else. It has Facebook, Bing, Twitter, Messenger, and Opera installed. And not much else other than a microSD slot for an additional 32GB of storage. To store what, though?
There’s no support for Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage or the trio of Office apps. The display is a tiny 2.4-inch LCD with a mere 320×240 resolution, a minuscule amount of RAM, an FM radio, and creaky old Bluetooth 3.0. Yes, Facebook folks, there’s a front-facing camera with a whopping 0.3 megapixel sensor. Think pix with pixels you can see.
Battery life seems good at up to 29-days on standby and support for 2G networks. 2G? Not 3G? I’m not sure how much internet you can get to on a 2G network, but what do I know? Microsoft is the genius company that is remaking itself. No. Wait. What? That price tag will make the Nokia 215 popular in the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia, perhaps as a burner phone for terrorists and local spies.
More than likely what is happening here is this– Microsoft is using Nokia as the entry-level device brand to migrate satisfied customers to the more expensive and capable Lumia line in a year or two. That means you won’t see the Nokia 215 anywhere in the U.S. Microsoft is using a cheap entry-level device to gain a toehold in emerging markets.
The problem I see with that strategy is simple. There’s no money in a $29 phone, and product migration upward seems to be taking two directions– one toward Android devices which have more capability than Windows Phones, even with the Lumia brand, and, two, toward the iPhone which is a symbol of upward mobility. For those in developing nations, you’re on your way up with an Android smartphone, but you’ve arrived when you own an iPhone.