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Nokia’s Plan for Cheap Mobiles Could Aid Payments Growth

Nokia, 220, ASha, mobile payments, m-pesa, mobile world congress

Emerging markets could benefit from Nokia’s latest slew of entry-level smartphones and feature phones

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Nokia announced a slew of new feature phones designed to bridge the gap between smartphones and the traditional button-based handsets that we all used back in 2004/5. However, these phones are a little different. They feature rather speedy internet capabilities, with a handy browser that doesn’t eat into data allowance, and comes pre-programmed with both Facebook and Twitter fully integrated.

It also makes use of Microsoft’s services, providing those who adopt a chance to become familiar with Bing instead of Google and use mail programs such as Outlook or OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) – thus helping drive Microsoft’s image into emerging markets and new smartphone users.

Nokia’s new phones also come with a rather cheap price tag of $40 for the Nokia 220, and $60 for the slightly more feature-rich Nokia Asha 230.

What exactly does this mean then?

Well, it’s putting really affordable, and quite feature-rich phones, into the hands of those who would otherwise never be able to get at them. That means that people in emerging countries could make the most of mobile payments and mobile wallets – helping grow the install base and aid in banking the unbanked. Companies such as M-Pesa have done wonders in this department in Kenya and Tanzania, and having more advance technology in the hands of users would only help them grow larger. It would also mean that it, and similar companies, could spread across Africa more easily.

It’s also an entry point for users to upgrade to Nokia’s Lumia handsets, which are probably going to become more affordable for older models later in the year – meaning more people will be taking up smartphones for the first time. This, in turn, will allow for far more people to make use of new payments technologies. While it’s less likely that change will come about in emerging economies, it does mean that North America, Europe and China will see an increase in smartphone users over the next year. But who knows if it’s going to be a Nokia-flavoured future.

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