updated 09:10 pm EDT, Mon March 21, 2011
Entry-level smartphone paired with cheap data
Confirming recent rumors, Nokia at CTIA announced plans to reintroduce its C7 handset in the US market as the Astound. The device shares the same hardware as its international counterpart, but with a slightly improved version of Nokia's Symbian OS. Electronista took a closer look at the new entry-level smartphone and the company's unique strategy that aims to fill a new niche.
From a hardware perspective, the Astound matches the same specs and appearance as the C7. The handsets remind us of Motorola's i1 with rounded features, which generally keep to a compact form. For an $80 smartphone, the device does offer an attractive form and what appears to be quality construction.
After Nokia announced its partnership with Microsoft to develop Windows Phone devices, Symbian's future came into question. The OS had fallen behind its primary competitors, but the v3.1 release aims to overcome many of the usability issues. Despite its clear purpose as an entry-level smartphone OS for entry-level smartphone hardware, Symbian is now surprisingly fluid and intuitive. Keeping in mind that it is no longer intended to compete directly with WP7, iOS or Android, the software seems to be perfectly suitable for individuals transitioning from feature phones to smartphones.
One of the most important details of the Astound launch lies not with the phone itself, but with the partnership between Nokia and T-Mobile. We believed that Microsoft's Kin offerings were actually decent phones headed in the right direction, but buying an entry-level device with a $30/month data plan proved to be a tough sell. Nokia has worked to overcome that same obstacle by pushing the carrier to pair the phone with an entry-level data plan priced at just $10/month, a modest jump from feature-phone plans.
The Astound certainly is not the most exciting smartphone to land on the market this spring, nor is it an entirely new device, but we still see the handset helping to fill the current gap in device/plan pricing combinations. Nokia expects the Astound to ship on April 6 as a T-Mobile exclusive in the US market.