Nokia's President and CEO Stephen Elop at the Mobile World Congress

Nokia unveils new Windows smartphone

Nokia has unveiled a cheaper smartphone using Microsoft's Windows Phone software which it hopes will attract a wider audience.

Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia last year dumped its own smartphone software in favour of Windows Phone to step up its fight against rivals such as Apple's iPhone, but the high prices of its phones have been a major weak point.

Nokia said at the Mobile World Congress 2012 this week that its new Lumia 610 model would carry a price tag of 189 euros, excluding subsidies and taxes, when it goes on sale next quarter.

That compares with around $600 for the iPhone and other high-end smartphones.

"The 610 takes Nokia's Lumia portfolio to an encouraging new price point in its pursuit of cheaper Android rivals," said Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight.

However Asian handset makers such as Huawei and ZTE are coming out with even cheaper smartphones for closer to $100, analysts have noted.

"I had hoped for a slightly lower price range. Maybe the markets were a bit disappointed with the price, which was quite high," Inderes analyst Mikael Rautanen said, adding the shares had spiked last week in anticipation of the event.

Nokia also announced a global version of its high-end Lumia 900 phone and unveiled a new top-of-the range cameraphone 808, which comes with a 41 megapixel camera sensor, as well as three more basic models.

The move comes over a year after Chief Executive Stephen Elop compared Nokia to a "man standing on a burning oil platform" and teamed up with Microsoft to take on Apple and Google's Android phones.

Wall Street and industry analysts say that although the latest Windows phones could be worthy competitors to Apple's iPhone and top-of-the-range Android handsets, the devices lack unique qualities to make their sales take off.

Microsoft's share of the smartphone market fell to just two per cent last quarter, from three per cent a year ago and 13 per cent four years earlier, according to Strategy Analytics.

In addition to its struggle in high-end smartphones, Nokia also faces an increasing threat from Asian manufacturers.

Analysts say both Huawei and ZTE are set to grab more market share globally in 2012, as they shift their focus from basic phones to smartphones.

Huawei and ZTE are now selling smartphones running on Google's Android operating system, attracted to the higher margins the market provides.

Both companies made new handset announcements at the trade show in Barcelona.

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