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T-Mobile Readies $69 PND Phone

3/03/2010 01:14:53 PM Eastern
Bellevue, Wash. - The convergence of cellphones and portable navigation devices (PNDs) will hit a new level when T-Mobile launches a touchscreen 3G smartphone that doubles as a PND and costs only $69.99 after $50 rebate.

Nokia Nuron
The price, however, requires a minimum $39.99/month voice plan and minimum $9.99/month data plan. A two-year service commitment is also required.

The full-touchscreen phone is the Symbian OS-based Nokia 5230 Nuron, due in the coming weeks in T-Mobile stores and select retailers with 3.2-inch display. Like a traditional PND, the phone incorporates on-board maps, points-of-interest (POI) data and routing algorithm. Because the data reside on the device rather than on a carrier's servers, such phones provide multiple advantages over carrier's subscription-based navigation services. Consumers, for example, don't have to wait for maps and route information to download over the cellular network; phones can be used for navigation even when cellular signal is lost, and users don't have to pay a monthly fee.

Nokia began offering its first unlocked PND phone in the U.S. late last year and expanded its unlocked PND phone selection earlier this year, but the Nuron is the first Nokia smartphone available through a U.S. carrier with Nokia's preloaded Ovi Maps navigation application. The phone is also the first Nokia phone from a U.S. carrier to come preloaded with an app to access Nokia's Ovi store. Carrier-offered Nokia phones from AT&T, in contrast, require users to download an Ovi Store app from http://store.ovi.com before downloading store content, Nokia told TWICE. The cost of Ovi Store content can be added to the user's phone bill or to a credit card.

The Nuron comes preloaded with maps for the U.S., Canada and Mexico and lets users access maps of more than 180 countries when traveling at  www.nokiausa.com/maps. Like its unlocked counterparts, the Nuron features pedestrian and driving route guidance, automatic rerouting, and lane assistance. An embedded database that includes points of interests (POI), speed-limit warnings and speed-camera locations can be updated via over-the-air downloads. Free online services include real-time traffic updates, event and movie listings, and weather forecasts. The phone also features IM, email access and full HTML browser.

Nuron's maps and navigation data are provided by digital map maker Navteq, acquired by Nokia in 2007.

With the planned T-Mobile launch, PND phone options get more affordable. Unlike Nokia's unlocked PND phones, for example, the Nuron's price benefits from a carrier subsidy. Likewise, AT&T subsidizes the price of the Garmin-Asus PND phone, which is priced at $99 after $100 rebate and requires $30/month data plan. The pricier iPhone is also available with downloadable third-party navigation apps that cost from $39 to $99. Those apps feature onboard maps, routing algorithm, POIs and traffic reports.

The $199 Motorola Droid at Verizon Wireless, which requires $30/month data plan, and $179 Google Nexus One at T-Mobile with required data plan incorporate a navigation app called Google Maps Navigation, a hybrid navigation technology that downloads a route's maps and driving directions on demand from the cloud for local storage. Unlike carrier-based navigation services, the app continues to provide route guidance even if the cellular signal is lost. The navigation service is included in the price of a subscriber's data plan.
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