Nokia 5800 XpressMusic Touts Touchscreen

At a press event in London today, Nokia took the wraps off its first touchscreen phone, dubbed the 5800 XpressMusic, previously known as “The Tube.” The 5800 XpressMusic marks Nokia’s first foray into touchscreen technology, and it hopes to appeal to media-savvy mobile phone users who find things like Apple’s iPhone 3G too pricey: the 5800 XpressMusic will sell for €279 (about $400), which is low enough that many consumers will be able to get the phone “for free” with a contact.

The 5800 XpressMusic runs S60 5th Edition, and features a 3.2-inch 640 by 360-pixel display, a 3.2 megapixel camera, integrated Wi-Fi and GPS, and a microSD card slot that supports up to 16 GB of add-on storage. The touch screen supports fingers or a stylus, and will eventually be availabel in GSM, European HSDPA, and North American HSDPA versions—although Nokia hasn’t announced any plans or partnerships to bring the phone to North America. Although Nokia is the world’s top maker of mobile phones, it doesn’t lead the North American market, which has never really embraced the S60 operating system. Nokia does plan to offer a “Comes With Music” version of the phone in early 2009.

Speaking of Comes with Music, Nokia’s new foray into the digital music marketplace: Nokia announced today that record label EMI will partcipate in Comes with Music, along with a variety of smaller music labels through The Orchard, IODA, Pinnacle, and other groups. EMI was the last major label holding back from Comes with Music; Warner Music, Universal Music, and Sony BMG were already onboard. Comes with Music gives users all-they-can-eat-and-download access to a wide music library for 12 months following purchase of a Comes With Music phone—after which users get to keep material they downloaded. The cost of the music licenses is essentially bundles into the cost of the phone. Nokia announced that its first Comes with Music phone will go on sale in the UK via Carphone Warehouse for £129.99 beginning October 16.

Nokia’s Comes with Music model will no doubt be watched carefully by other consumer electronics and mobile device manufacturers—Sony Ericsson is reportedly prepping a competitor. If it’s successful, the prospect of selling blanket music licensed with hardware devices may become more mainstream and serve as a challenge to services like Apple’s iTunes which offer music and media on a per-item basis. And since the services expire after a fixed period of time, users are constantly encouraged to lay down more money for new devices on a regular basis.

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