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Nokia Previews Low-Cost Windows 8.1 Phones

San Francisco — The first new smartphone available in the U.S. with Windows Phone 8.1 OS will be the Nokia Lumia 635, a 4G LTE/HSPA+42 phone that Nokia priced at $189 before taxes and subsidies to broaden the Windows Phone customer base.

The Lumia 635 “will be the first device sold in the United States powered out of the box by the very latest Windows Phone 8.1 operating system,” said T-Mobile, which said it would offer the device in the summer.

AT&T said it would offer the device “this year.” Neither carrier specified a price.

Nokia executive VP Steven Elop also announced that a planned 3G version, called the Lumia 630, would be available in the U.S. in July.

The 630 will be available in a single-SIM variation at $159 before taxes and subsidies and in a dual-SIM variation at $169, but the dual-SIM version is targeted for outside the U.S., Nokia said.

Last year in the U.S, T-Mobile launched the low-cost Windows Lumia 521 at $30 down with 24 monthly payments of $5, for a total of $150. But it lacked LTE, featured HSPA+21, had a smaller 4-inch screen, and came with less powerful CPU.

During Microsoft’s Build developers conference, Elop also announced that the new Windows Phone 8.1 OS will be available as part of an over-the-air update for all Lumia phones this summer “following testing and partner approvals.”  The update, called Lumia Cyan, will also incorporate new Lumia features.

Separately, Sprint announced plans to update its HTC 8XT and Samsung ATIV S Neo to Windows Phone 8.1 this summer.

At the Build conference, Nokia also unveiled the higher end Windows 8.1 Lumia 930 with 5-inch FullHD screen and $599 price before taxes and subsidies, but the product won’t be marketed in the U.S. because it is similar to the Lumia Icon already available here, Elop said.

During the event, Elop described the 630 and 635 as an “entry point to Windows Phone without compromising performance.” The phones feature 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm CPU, 4.5-inch 854 by 480 display with 221 ppi, 512MB RAM, 5-megapixel main camera, 8GB capacity, 128GB MicroSD slot and Bluetooth 4.0.

The 3G 630 incorporates HSPA+21Mbps cellular-data technology in place of the 635’s HSPA+42Mbps and LTE technologies.

Both models also incorporate sensors to track location and motion for use with a Bing Health and Fitness app and other planned fitness apps. They also come with changeable color shells, Microsoft Office, free Nokia MixRadio streaming service and free Here global maps with turn-by-turn navigation.

New features enabled by the Windows Phone 8.1 OS include a Siri-like voice assistant called Cortana, a central hub for notification of messages from different apps and services, and Word Flow, said to be an intuitive smartphone keyboard that lets users glide a finger over the screen to let the device predict what users are going to type.

Windows Phone 8.1 also adds new Start Screen personalization features, such as an extra column of Live Tiles and ability to use pictures as background for each tile.

Also new are individual volume settings for such things as ringtones, music playback and the like.