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Nokia looks to attract users with new Symbian phones

With good specs, an upgraded user experience and affordable prices, Nokia hopes to give Symbian sales a boost

Nokia announced Belle, an update of Symbian, along with three phones running the software, on Wednesday at an event in Hong Kong, as it tries to keep consumers interested in the OS.

Since Nokia made the decision to go with Microsoft's Windows Phone, the company has made a number of Symbian-related announcements. The OS is important to Nokia because the company is dependent on the sales of Symbian-based smartphones until it starts to ship large volumes of Windows Phones, which won't happen until next year.

Symbian Belle adds to the work done on Anna -- the first update to Symbian 3, which Nokia started distributing to end users last week -- to improve and modernize the Symbian experience, according to Nokia.

"Symbian Belle is our most competitive Symbian user experience ever," said Colin Giles, head of sales at Nokia.

The upgrade includes more home screens, which have been increased from three to six, and a pull-down menu to access notifications. Widgets for e-mail, music, favorite contacts and the calendar have been redesigned and now come in five different sizes. The lock screen will tell users about missed calls, inbox messages in and more. Nokia has also improved the user interface for multitasking.

The new phones -- the Nokia 700, the 701 and 600 -- all use Belle and come with 1GHz processors, support for NFC (Near Field Communications), and in a number of different colors.

The 600 is the least expensive of Nokia's new phones, priced at about €180 (US$260) before taxes and operator subsidies. The phone has a 3.2-inch display, A-GPS and a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash. The phone's built-in speaker has the highest volume of any Nokia phone.

The 700 measures 110-by-50.7-by-9.7 millimeters, making it the most compact touch monoblock smartphone in the world, according to Nokia. The phone has a Gorilla glass-protected 3.2-inch AMOLED display, a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash, and A-GPS. It is expected to cost about €270 without local taxes or operator subsidies, according to Nokia.

The 701 is the most advanced of the three and is expected to cost approximately €290 before taxes and subsidies. The phone's Gorilla glass-protected 3.5-inch IPS LCD display is the brightest smartphone screen to date, according to Nokia. There is also an 8-megapixel camera with a dual-LED flash on the back.

All three will start shipping in the third quarter. Nokia will announce when owners of existing Symbian 3-based smartphones will get the upgrade at a later date, it said.

This is not the end of the line for Symbian. Nokia will continue to release more phones based on Symbian and software updates will continue into 2012.

"We will use Symbian to introduce competitive products, that offer more choice at affordable prices to people all over the world, and especially here in Asia-Pacific" said Giles.

The price and features of the new phones combined with Symbian Belle will not turn things around for the platform, but will help slow down the loss of market share, according to Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner.

Symbian's market share was 22.1 percent during the second quarter, compared to 40.9 percent during the same three months last year. In the same period, Android's market share grew from 17.2 percent to 43.4 percent, according to market research company Gartner's account of smartphone sales to end users.

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