Ina Fried

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Nokia Upgrades Asha Line with $99 Phone in Effort to Combat Low-End Android

Although its Windows Phone bid gets most of the attention in the U.S., Nokia has another effort to combat Android.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 4.56.59 AM

The company’s Asha line has grown up from a feature phone to something of an entry-level smartphone. On Thursday, Nokia added its most powerful model yet, the $99 Asha 501.

While it lacks as sophisticated an app marketplace as Android’s or even Windows Phone’s, it features other things popular in cost-sensitive markets, including low prices, long battery life, and the ability to access the Internet using a browser that minimizes data use.

The new model features a redesigned software interface that offers a traditional icon-based view and something Nokia is calling “Fastlane,” which organizes things by featuring recently used contacts, apps and social networks. The new-look Asha stems from Nokia’s purchase last year of Smarterphone.

Many key apps are already available for the new Asha, with others coming on board later this year. Among the apps not yet ready but on the way is Here, Nokia’s own mapping service. Also not yet there is popular messaging service WhatsApp.

“WhatsApp and other key partners continue to explore new Asha,” Nokia said in a statement.

Nokia is also partnering with operators in key regions to offer free and low-cost data plans for accessing Facebook and other apps.

CEO Stephen Elop introduced the phone at an event in India – -a key market for the new phone and for Nokia as a whole, which has been losing market share globally amid the rise of Android.

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