Nokia eyes Asia's untapped markets

By AFP

July 15, 2010 Updated Jun 15, 2009 at 5:01 AM CDT

Nokia, the world's biggest phone maker, on Monday signalled its intention to stay ahead of its rivals in Asia with a new range of handsets aimed at the region's increasingly tech-savvy consumers.

An estimated 1.8 million people worldwide become mobile phone users for the first time each day, with a sizeable number coming from Southeast Asia, the subcontinent and China, the Finnish giant said.

Some expect Internet access with their very first phone, it added.

"The Asia Pacific market has been an extremely important region for Nokia over the years and remains hugely important to Nokia," said Mary McDowell, executive vice president and chief development officer.

"Asian consumers' eagerness to use technology makes this region a great place to introduce new devices and services," she said in a keynote speech at the opening of the Nokia Connection show held annually in Singapore.

The roadshow is being held ahead of CommunicAsia 2009, where rival phone makers will showcase their products from Tuesday.

The new Nokia line-up includes the E72 smartphone with a fully "QWERTY" keyboard. It comes with a more powerful camera than the popular E71 and easy setup of instant messaging accounts such as Yahoo! Messenger and Google Talk.

Nokia also announced the new music-oriented 5530 Xpress phone with a touch screen aimed mainly at younger consumers, and the compact 3710 device offering quick Internet access.

"The next phase of growth will be very much driven by the emerging markets, including Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam," said Chris Carr, Nokia's vice president for regional sales.

"Many of the population from these markets are accessing the Internet, information, education and entertainment on their first mobile," he said.

Loren Shuster, Nokia's regional head of marketing, told AFP reaching out to the first-time mobile phone owner was an important part of retaining the company's dominance in the industry.

"It's very important for us in terms of our entry strategy to capture the first-time user with a Nokia device and a Nokia solution," said Shuster.

"As consumers become more sophisticated and evolved, we want them to trade up within the Nokia portfolio... So that's why the entry consumer segment remains very important," he said.

Nokia is by far the world's dominant mobile phone maker with sales of 97.39 million units in the first quarter of 2009, giving it a market share of 36.2 percent, according to figures from research house Gartner.

South Korea's Samsung was ranked second with sales of 51.38 million units, or 19.1 percent, followed by LG, also of South Korea, with sales of 26.54 million units or 9.9 percent, Gartner said.

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