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Why Nokia's 'Tube' Is the iPhone's Biggest Threat

The iPhone is still king of the smartphone, but Apple's future dominance is in serious question with a flurry of new competitors. Nokia is the latest to threaten the iPhone's dominance with its just released touchsceen phone the 5800 Express Music phone, previously known as "Tube."

While this is not Nokia's first touchscreen phone (the 7710 was launched back in 2004) the Finns definitely borrowed some design cues from Apple's iPhone, but it seems that Nokia has hit all the right notes with the 5800. And above all, apparently, you get so much more for your money than with an iPhone.

The 5800 Express Music will be available this quarter for about $390, simfree (iPhone comes with a two year contract for $199). Only the simfree part could be a great selling point, as you would be able to use the phone on any network, anywhere around the world, without the hurdle of unlocking the phone(legally or not quite as legally).

No word on when this phone will hit the US market. Unfortunately it's highly unlikely to see the 5800 here in the U.S. in time for this holiday season. Most likely, Nokia will test the waters across the pond in Europe and early next year we might see Tube on a GSM carrier in the UK, as in T-Mobile or AT&T. But if you travel to Europe this winter, you can snap up an unlocked one from there - as the Tube is compatible with North American HSDPA (GSM) carriers.

Tube will feature the Nokia's Comes with Music bundle, which will allow users to freely download an unlimited number of songs from Nokia's Music Store over a year after the initial purchase.

For the iPhone, you know the drill: iTunes Music Store, $0.99 a pop. Being able to download as many songs as they want, for free, seems to be a great selling point for the 5800, especially for those who are on a lower budget.

Nokia's 5800 Express Music also features a 3.2-megapixel camera, with autofocus Carl Zeiss optics and a dual LED flash. All these blow iPhone's 2006 style 2-megapixel-no flash camera out of the water. Also, Tube records videos at VGA quality (640X480px) and has a frontal camera for video calls, something that the iPhone can't do at all. In this category, it's clear who's the winner.

Storage capacity-wise, the 5800 and iPhone seems to be on the par. Tube comes with an 8GB memory card and supports up to 16GB cards. Still, the Tube can have a slight advantage for those who want more than the given storage capacity, as they can buy additional memory cards and just pop them in the phone (iPhone's memory is built in and cannot be expanded).

The rest of the features, are just like one would expect from a true iPhone competitor. GPS, Wi-Fi and a 3.5mm jack so you can plug in any headphone you like. But as an added extra, 5800 will support Adobe Flash from the start, something that iPhone is still lacking, so the Web browsing experience might even be better than Apple's.

The only thing left to doubt about the new Nokia 5800 Express Music is the software interface. From pictures and video snippets around the Web one can't really give a proper verdict which one is the winner.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for a full review.

The Apple hype did help Apple to sell millions of iPhones, but Nokia sells over 500 million devices every year, out of which almost 100 million are smartphones. If we take in consideration brand loyalty and the other advantages Tube has over iPhone, we're about to see a very tight competition between the two.


  Tony Kim

August 31, 2009 at 11:00 AM


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