I took the front-row at London’s charming Camden Palace gig venue for Nokia (NYSE: NOK) Remix – an event with announcements the handset maker had shrouded in mystery but which had been rumored online for weeks… the launch of its all-you-can-eat Comes With Music program and its first mass-market touch-screen handset, the 5800, aka “Tube”. So, the only unknowns are the details….Nokia 5800 XpressMusic Release. Comes With Music release.
Touchscreen Details: The 5800 has comes with both a stylus and a “plectrum” (think guitar pick) as well as its finger-touch UI. It packs Flash in to its on-board web browser and uses a new version of Symbian S60 to add a home screen with a contacts bar for four friends and a media bar with photo feeds from Ovi, Flickr et al. The availability is a bit odd. The phone will launch in time for this year’s holiday season in the UK for 279 euros, but it won’t include Comes With Music until next year.
Unlimited music: Is it really unlimited? Nokia’s Entertainment EVP Tero Ojanpera sort of confirmed that they’ll have a no fair-use policy: “The prices disappear, the candy store is open; no prices, no worries.”
— First handsets for the music service will be XpressMusic 5310 (£129.95 from Carphone Warehouse UK from October 16), then N95 8Gb, then the 5800, on both 12- and 18-month contracts. Nokia Music head Jo Harlow: “This is about half the price of competitive touchscreen devices in the market today. It is the best value touchscreen device in the market today.” No prizes for guessing she was setting the 5800 up against the iPhone. EMI is confirmed on-board, along with several indie labels.
After the jump, there’s more details on the 5800 specs and the Comes With Music service, which after today’s announcements offers music from all four major record labels with the addition of EMI….
Comes With Music…
— Ojanpera said the Nokia Music Store was already seeing 35 percent of visitors coming via mobile, a third of downloads happening over the air, whether 3G or WiFi. Nokia is keen to localize the service for particular markets (it made a bigger deal of streaming in Sweden, for example); the United Arab Emirates will be the first Middle East territory and more are coming in the next 12-18 months. He hailed Comes With Music as promising to “bring new revenues to the music industry”.
— Labels: On top of the three other majors already known about, EMI repertoire was announced tonight, plus indie distributors The Orchard (NSDQ: ORCD), Beggars Group, IODA, Minister of Sound and PIAS are on board for UK. There’s licensing through EMI Music Publishing, SELAS, Sony (NYSE: SNE) ATV, GEMA and MCPS-PRS.
— Handsets: First will be the XpressMusic 5310, as known, retailing in Carphone Warehouse in UK from Oct. 16 at £129.95, next will be N95 8Gb, then the 5800 XpressMusic in the UK from Q109. It’s a bit of a disappointment that the touchscreen Comes With Music version won’t launch until next year (after the holiday season), but Nokia is saying it was necessary so that they could customize the phone for certain carriers.
— Contracts: CWM will be available on both 12- and 18-month contracts. Nokia started out with the 12-month version, but operators said their contracts are typically 18 months nowadays, Ojanpera said, “so that’s what we did.” More varieties of arrangements are in the offing over the next few months.
— Handset costs: CWM head Tom Erskine told our EconMusic event music would not be “free” with the program, meaning some extra sum may added to the handset cost. Asked about this, Ojanpera ducked my question and said: “Is £129.95 good value for money? I would say it’s great value for money.”
— Launch: Coming to UK, in Q1.
— Speakers: The handset has Surround Sound speakers. Harlow said this feature particularly targets territories like Latin America and India, where “it’s not enough just to listen with headphones.” Also bass boost and noise cancellation. “These are the loudest and most powerful speakers on a mobile phone today.”
— Memory: 8Gb internal, expandable to 16Gb.
— Screen: 3.2-inch widescreen with 16 million colours. Harlow: “The best color screen you can buy in the industry.”
— Flash: Unlike iPhone and others, the handset can do Flash on the web. Harlow: “Some people thought Flash was not important on a mobile device but we made sure that you can browse the whole web and not just pieces of it.
— Camera: 3.2 megapixel – hardly up to the 5 megapixel standard of the N95, for example.
— Touchscreen: “We wanted to make the user interface a human interface.” There are ways of interacting – a stylus for handwriting recognition, large and small touchscreen QWERTY keyboards and (get this!) a “plectrum” for pointing at the screen (think musical gadget used to puck strings) which is attached to the included lanyard…. Harlow: “for a little bit of fun.”
— Homescreen:Made possible through an v5 update to Symbian S60, a contacts bar lists your top four friends, who can be dialed or messaged from the homescreen. A media bar also lets users add four feeds ie. RSS feeds from friends’ Ovi pictures.
— Price: 279 euros without subsidy and without taxes. No doubt what smartphone Harlow was referring to when she said: “This is about half the price of competitive touchscreen devices int he market today. It is the best value touchscreen device in the market today.” Unclear what it will cost when Comes With Music is added.