By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
A quintet of new high-end Nokia cellphones includes the world's first dual-slider phone and the company's first phone that operates on third-generation W-CDMA networks in the U.S.
All of the N-series models were dubbed "multimedia computers" because they double as portable media players (PMPs), digital cameras, and Web-browsing handheld computers, and all were described as delivering "convergence without compromise" by multimedia EVP/GM Anssi Vanjoki during a press conference here. The U.S.-market W-CDMA phone, the N75, "is the start of building U.S. market share," added North American multimedia sales VP Nigel Rundstrom.
In the second quarter, Nokia's U.S. unit-sales share was 13 percent, putting it in third place despite its number-one world share, said Strategy Analytics. The phone maker hasn't been aggressive in the U.S. CDMA market and has limited development of most of its cutting-edge GSM phones to models designed mainly for foreign-market activation, the research company explained.
Milton Keynes of Strategy Analytics said Nokia's problems in the U.S. have been varied. "Weak high-end CDMA products, poor CDMA carrier relations, and a general feeling that the U.S. plays second fiddle to Western Europe are some of the main issues."
To help turn around its U.S. performance, Nokia designed the N75 specifically for the U.S. market and expects broad U.S. distribution through carrier channels. Likewise, the company recently released the E62 email phone with QWERTY keyboard through Cingular, where the price starts at $149.
Nonetheless, Nokia's four other new models, including the dual-slider N95, will likely be available in the U.S. only through Nokia's Web site and through its two flagship stores in New York and Chicago, said Rundstrom.
The N95, which doubles as a handheld GPS navigation system, features a dialing keypad that slides out of the bottom and audio/video buttons that slide out of the top. When users rotate the phone to view video content in landscape mode, the screen is flanked by A/V buttons on the left and the phone's front-panel controls on the right.
Both models allow playback of protected WMA files, enabling them to download music over the air from the authorized Napster Mobile site if enabled by a U.S. GSM carrier. Like the other four models introduced here, they also feature dedicated music keys.
The clamshell quad-band N75, the smallest of the N series devices, operates in U.S. 850/1,900MHz W-CDMA and GSM/EDGE networks and in foreign 900/1,800MHz GPRS/EDGE networks. In W-CDMA mode, it provides simultaneous voice and data and data downloads averaging 220-320kbps.
The N75 features a 2-megapixel camera, dedicated front-cover music keys, stereo speakers, FM stereo radio, 40MB embedded memory and a microSD card slot to expand capacity by up to 2GB. It will be available in the U.S. toward the end of the year at an approximate unlocked price, before carrier subsidy, of $399, Rundstrom said.
Other N75 features include a dedicated shutter button, LED flash, MPEG-4 video capture up to 15fps and playback, a RealPlayer multimedia player, a 2.4-inch 240 by 320 main display, and the ability to view e-mail attachments in PDF and ZIP form and in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It accesses SMTP, POP3, and IMAP4 e-mail accounts and delivers high-speed Web browsing through its xHTML browser.
Music features include playback of music files in the following formats: MP3, MP4, AAC, eAAC+, and protected and unprotected WMA. The phone also supports the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) 2.0 digital-rights management (DRM) technology for music.
Other music features include equalizer, playlist, shuffle and repeat functions. Songs can be synchronized between PC and phone via a PC's Windows Media Player. The phone also plays WMA songs from subscription download services.
Although Nokia talked up the N75's credentials, the company spent more time promoting the N95, which Vanjoki deemed “the clearest expression” of Nokia's multimedia computer strategy. Compared to the N75, the N95 incorporates Wi-Fi for fast Web browsing and doubles as a handheld GPS device that displays maps, provides route guidance and provides turn-by-turn driving instructions. It's also Nokia's first phone to incorporate W-CDMA HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) for an approximate seven-fold acceleration of download speeds.
The five-band N95, however, operates in W-CDMA mode only in foreign 2.1GHz networks. It also operates in GPRS/EDGE mode in the U.S. 850/1,900MHz bands and in foreign 800/1,900MHz band. As a result, distribution in the U.S. will likely be limited to Nokia's Web site and stores in the first quarter at an unlock price of $699 at the current exchange rate.
Other advances over the N75 include 5-megapixel camera with 20x digital zoom and Carl Zeiss optics, video capture in full VGA at 30fps (although the main 2.6-inch display is a QVGA 240 by 320 display), AVC and MPEG-4 video playback, wired video output to a TV, USB 2.0, Bluetooth stereo, Microsoft's UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) for automatic discovery by PCs and other devices equipped with UPnP and Wi-Fi, and 160MB embedded memory. Like the N75, it features microSD slot.
Nokia's other three new multimedia computing models, all targeted mainly to foreign markets, were designed with a particular emphasis on music, the company said.
One is the N91, which has been available with a 4GB HDD but will incorporate an upgraded 8GB HDD and some software enhancements when the new version ships late this year. It will be priced the same as the 4GB version at an unlocked price of about $569. It supports the WMA and OMA DRMs and operates in 2.1GHz W-CDMA networks and 900, 1,800 and 1,900MHz GPRS/EDGE networks.
The N73 also operates in 2.1GHz W-CDMA networks and in 850, 900, 1,800 and 1,900MHz GPRS/EDGE networks. It supports WMA but not the WMA DRM and accepts miniSD cards up to 2GB. It ships this month at an unlocked price of about $449.
The N70, which accepts RS MMC cards up to 1GB, operates in 2.1GHz W-CDMA markets and in 900, 1,800 and 1,900MHz GPRS/EDGE markets. It's available at an unlocked price of about $319.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.