Nokia Shoots for the Moon With High-End Models

Nokia unveiled three new mobile phones this week and aimed for the moon with the most expensive of the trio: a dark, smoked-glass and soft-touch stainless steel creation called the “8600 Luna” that features a pulsing “heartbeat” of a keyboard.

Taking a backseat to the high-end Luna, but still fairly svelte, are the 6500 Classic and the 6500 Slide. Both, asserted Nokia, reflect “an artful fusion of materials and technology.”

The Moon Unit

The pricey Luna is getting the most attention. The phone features a glass and stainless steel body that marks another of Nokia’s famous forays into using unusual materials for its cell phones.

Adding to the luxury quotient of the Luna is a glowing keypad that pulses beneath the glass case when the phone is not being used. When the user answers a call, the keypad raises from its “glass cocoon” as the glass cover is slid out of the way.

The phone marks Nokia’s first use of a micro-USB port, which handles charging, audio and data connections. Even that attribute is being touted by Nokia as being stylistically important since it “allows for a streamlined design free of extraneous indentations.”

The phone features quad-band GSM support and a 2 megapixel camera. While the Luna’s technical attributes are up to par, it’s Nokia’s breathless descriptions of the phone that seem to be attracting the most attention.

Star-Struck Copywriters

“The melding of nearly opaque smoked glass with unique, soft-touch stainless steel makes the Nokia 8600 Luna as enchanting to behold as it is a joy to touch,” whispers the company’s press release. “Adding to its mysterious allure, a gentle keypad illumination pulsates from beneath the glass case while the phone awaits a call. Combined with the warmth of its glass and stainless steel body, this ‘heartbeat’ transforms the Nokia 8600 Luna from an inanimate object into a trusted companion with an organic, virtually alive form.”

That’s enough to give the other new phones an inferiority complex. They should bear in mind that Nokia was inspired by a higher power: “Much like the Nokia 8600 Luna that we named in her honor, Luna, the goddess of moonlight, was often represented by the Romans as a mysteriously captivating beauty encircled in a soft, yet radiant light,” the company said.

Speed Over Style

Meanwhile, the earth-bound 6500-series phones “have been created with maximum usability in mind,” according to Nokia. Both have dual-band, 3G WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) technology, 1 GB of internal memory and the micro-USB port.

The slide version comes with a 3.2 megapixel Carl Zeiss optics camera with 8X digital zoom, while the classic unit has a standard 2 megapixel camera.

“The 6500s seem to fit real well into the mid-tier, with just enough features like decent cameras (2 and 3.2 megapixels) and 1 GB of memory on one and micro SD on the other,” said JupiterResearch mobile device analyst Neil Strother. “So, without going the smartphone route, a buyer would have most of the features he might want. The Luna is just EDGE, so it’s not 3G. And it sounds like it will be pricey. So this would appeal to the person trying to make a fashion statement.”

There’s a Market

The amount of effort extended by Nokia in trying to make the Luna fashionable comes as no surprise to Silicon Valley technology forecaster and essayist Paul Saffo.

“Cell phones are fashion,” he told TechNewsWorld. “That’s why this sort of thing is hugely important. Thirty years ago, everybody watched models on runways in Paris. Now they search Web pages and look at the models on the shelves of cell phone stores. It’s fashion with batteries.”

Companies, Nokia included, have hired “an astonishing number of engineers” who focus on style and design, he said.

None of the phones are available yet in the United States. The 6500 Classic is expected to retail for 320 euros (US$430) before taxes and subsidies. The 6500 Slide is expected to sell for 370 euros ($497) and the Luna is expected to sell for about 700 euros ($941), Nokia said.

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