Nokia Launches Sleek Budget Models at CES

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Though the lion’s share of attention at Nokia’s CES booth was directed to their flagship N97 (the prototype model of which they tethered to a floor rep so it couldn’t travel more than three feet,) the company actually has a number of interesting inexpensive models on the way, too. I had a chance to handle all three of the upcoming models as I waited for a chance to handle the almighty N97.

The first, the Nokia E63, has a rather bland feature set but has been imbued with the company’s typical solid quality and should be of interest to Nokia fans who want 3G and a QWERTY keyboard for the North American market. Its main attraction is a “dual home screen” feature, which allows users to customize two different home screens: one for work and one for personal life. Though I liked the concept, Nokia probably could have put more work into making it more powerful, since the different screens really mainly allow for two different sets of shortcuts. Adding the e-mail icon to either one, for instance, will bring you to the same account, even if you have separate e-mails for work and personal life.

The cheapest of the budget phones, the Nokia 1006, thrives on its simplicity. Priced at only $30 with contract on CMDA networks, the 1006 candybar offers a lightweight and compact design with all the essentials, including Bluetooth, speakerphone, voice recorder, and 262K color LCD screen. It will arrive in blue, silver, and red.

My personal favorite of the bunch would have to be the Nokia 7510, which combines a very slick design with a reasonable $50 price tag (with contract from T-Mobile). The clamshell design has a silky-feeling matte-finish exterior shell, with a display that elegantly lights it up from beneath to show the time. Besides looking and feeling great, the shells can be swapped out to make the phone red, brown or green, and all three covers are included in the box. Other features include a digital music player, FM radio, 2.0-megapixel camera, and microSD card to expand storage up to 8GB.

Nokia has all three phones on track for availability within the first quarter of 2009 here in the United States, with the 7510 slated to start selling through T-Mobile by the end of this month.

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