Microsoft launches sub-$30 'Internet' phone to connect the next billion

Microsoft Devices Group launched a new entry-level "Internet" phone that comes with a price tag of $29 (€24) and is aimed at "connecting the next billion people to the Internet".

Citing Internet World Stats, the company said almost 60 per cent of the world's population does not yet have access to the Internet. "At only $29 [before taxes and subsidies], the Nokia 215 will allow more people to access popular Web content and digital services," Microsoft Devices added.

The new mobile phone is expected to be available in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe in the first quarter of 2015, and will be available as a single SIM and dual SIM variant. It runs on the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequency bands and is based on Nokia Series 30+ software. Although it is not described as a smartphone, the device clearly aims to satisfy consumer demand for access to basic Internet services via the Opera Mini browser.

"With our ultra-affordable mobile phones and digital services, we see an inspiring opportunity to connect the next billion people to the Internet for the first time," said Jo Harlow, corporate vice president of Microsoft Devices Group. "The Nokia 215 is perfect for people looking for their first mobile device, or those wanting to upgrade to enjoy affordable digital and social media services, like Facebook and Messenger."

Low-cost mobile Internet devices are regarded as a key requirement in markets where fixed Internet access is either non-existent or thin on the ground, in order to get more people online.

Indeed, how to get citizens online in some of the most challenging parts of the world was a key topic at the AfricaCom conference in Cape Town last November. At just 26.5 per cent of the population in the second quarter of 2014, Africa is the geographic region with the world's lowest Internet penetration rate, according to Internet World Stats.

Although feature phones such as the new Nokia 215 provide access to some online services, the quest is to bring down the cost of smartphones for emerging markets. In Africa, the cost of smartphones in Africa remains a barrier to bringing more people online in many countries even though unit prices have come down, in large part due to the high taxes levied on devices by some governments.

Nonetheless Marc Rennard, executive vice president of Africa, the Middle East and Asia at Orange, said in November that Orange would sell 900,000 smartphones in 2014--more than double the original target of 400,000--primarily due to the drop in prices.

For more:
- see this Microsoft Devices Group release

Related Articles:
Smartphone competition heats up in the entry-level market
Africa bustles with innovative ideas to get its citizens connected
Taxing times for smartphone adoption in Africa
Orange puts emphasis on growth in Africa and the Middle East
Report: Microsoft to wind down Nokia's feature-phone biz to focus on Windows Phone

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