Ina Fried

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Nokia Reentering U.S. Smartphone Market With a $50 Windows Phone for T-Mobile

After essentially dropping off the radar screen, Nokia is looking to get back into the U.S. smartphone business, starting with an entry-level Windows Phone model for T-Mobile.

The Lumia 710, one of two models that Nokia has launched in Europe, is slated to go on sale Jan. 11 for $50 after rebate and with a new contract.

Choosing to launch with that phone rather than the high-end Lumia 800 means that Nokia could appeal to more cost-conscious shoppers. However, it also means that consumers’ first look at the new Nokia won’t be of the company’s flagship product.

“It’s the right space to launch our first Windows Phone in the U.S.,” Nokia U.S. president Chris Weber said in an interview. “It is the greenfield for us.”

Weber also put a good spin on the fact that Nokia didn’t launch any Windows Phones in the U.S. in time for the holidays.

“I think we can take advantage of the fact we are not launching in this noisy period,” Weber said, noting that Nokia will launch the product with a significant amount of advertising — including TV spots — as well as efforts to fully train T-Mobile’s sales force on the benefits of the product and Windows Phone.

As for the Lumia 710, it comes in mostly white or basic black and features a 1.4GHz single-core Qualcomm processor, a 5 megapixel camera and 3.7-inch screen.

In addition to the standard fare that comes with the Mango version of Windows Phone, Nokia’s phones also come with turn-by-turn navigation built in as well as an ESPN app that is unique to Nokia’s Windows Phones.

That T-Mobile was planning to start selling the phone was not a shocker after Nokia showed a T-Mobile-branded Lumia 710 in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission.

T-Mobile has been less agressive than AT&T when it came to the first crop of Windows Phones. Though that could be changing as the Lumia 710 will mark the second Mango phone, joining the $99 HTC Radar, which is already on sale.

“We think Windows is a great addition to the lineup,” said T-Mobile Senior Vice President Andrew Sherrard. “It’s a strategic bet for us.”

Sherrard and Weber noted that Nokia and T-Mobile have a long history together, with T-Mobile USA predecessor VoiceStream having launched service with a Nokia phone as its first device. While true, the recent past has been less rosy for Nokia.

Its most recent U.S. smartphone effort, also with T-Mobile, was the March launch of the Astound, a rebranded Symbian phone that had an awkward debut at the CTIA trade show in Orlando and met with disappointing sales.

In an August interview with AllThingsD, Weber said that Nokia wouldno longer sell Symbian phones in the U.S., focusing entirely on its Windows Phone efforts.

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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google