Nokia (NOK) is still by far the world’s biggest mobile phone maker, but it hasn’t been a serious player in the U.S. for a long time. Will the new Nokia Surge, on sale at AT&T, help rejuvenate Nokia here?
The phone looks nice — it’s smart to focus on messaging — and has good at least one good review. Engadget calls it “a winner in our eyes.” They add, “the keyboard is phenomenal, the OS is snappy and texting fiends will undoubtedly adore it.”
But Nokia is not getting much help from AT&T as far as pricing is concerned. In the era of a $99 iPhone, it’s hard to sell mass-market “feature” phones for much more. And at $129.99 with a 2-year contract, the Surge is not cheap.
If you want to add a data plan to use some mobile Internet features, AT&T will drop the phone’s price tag down to $79.99 after rebate hassles. But the carrier requires a full-size $30/month data plan for that — the same price as an iPhone or BlackBerry data plan. The iPhone and BlackBerry, we don’t need to remind you, have many more features than the Surge.
This is precisely where a cheaper data plan would be a smart idea on AT&T’s part — to drive adoption from mid-range consumers who want to sample the mobile Internet but are not going to use a ton of bandwidth. Indeed, AT&T offers a $15/month data plan for some phones, but not for the Surge.
The good news is that that Surge’s price will inevitably drop, and then it might be a more popular seller for people who want a nice phone for calls and texts. But with a full-fare data plan, it makes more sense to spend the extra $20 upfront on an iPhone 3G — which does not help Nokia at all.
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