CES 2015: Microsoft's $29 Nokia 215 lasts 29 days on a single charge

Microsoft hopes the Nokia 215, debuted at CES 2015, will catch on in emerging markets, where electricity and mobile networks aren't always plentiful.

The Nokia 215 has a modest suite of built-in Internet apps, and can last 29 days on a charge.

In a smart phone market dominated by handsets with huge displays and powerful processors, Microsoft introduced something unexpected at CES 2015: a small feature phone with a 2.4-inch screen and a 0.3 megapixel camera.

The Nokia 215 can connect to the Internet, but only at 2G/Edge speeds (which is 20 to 50 times slower than 4G LTE). It has Facebook and Twitter apps, but they’re stripped down due to the phone’s small screen and slow connection speed.

With the Nokia 215, Microsoft is betting that there’s still a market for feature phones in parts of the world where mobile data networks and electricity are scarce.

The phone can last for 29 days in standby mode, or for 20 hours in-call. There’s a dual-SIM version, which allows users to make calls from two different numbers, or on two different carriers’ networks. And, most important, it costs only $29 – which means it is affordable for users in emerging markets, where smart phones are simply too pricey to compete.

Microsoft has dropped the “Nokia” branding on its smart phones – those are now sold as Microsoft Lumia devices. But it retained the name on this feature phone, likely because Nokia is well known in many parts of the world and considered to be a reliable brand. In its announcement, Microsoft referred to the Nokia 215 as the most affordable “Internet-ready entry-level phone” it had ever made.

The Nokia 215 runs on the Series 30+ platform, which is designed for minimum power consumption. Users can’t download new apps to the phone, but it does come with Bing web search and a weather app, in addition to the aforementioned social media apps. The Nokia 215 also has a specially designed Opera Mini web browser, which uses its own servers to redirect traffic in order to make the amount of data that’s actually sent to the phone as small as possible (which is extra-important on a 2G connection). The handset even has a built-in FM radio, and can be used with a Bluetooth earpiece.

Feature phones may have become obsolete in many parts of the world, but they’re not going away altogether anytime soon: out of about 460 million phones sold in the third quarter of 2014, 140 million were feature phones. The Nokia 215 will be available in parts of Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East within the first few months of 2015.

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