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Nokia Abandoning Unlocked Strategy in Favor of Selling Phones Through Carriers



Unlike in the past where Nokia offered its smartphones fully unlocked and unsubsidized in the U.S., the smartphone-maker has announced that it will be fully working with carriers for Windows Phone 7. That means that the company will not be selling any unlocked devices in the U.S., and customers in the States would have to go through carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile to get Nokia handsets.

According to Nokia USA’s head Chris Weber in an interview with VentureBeat, the smartphone-maker says that there will be “No unlocked channels and no open distribution. It’s a big change for us. We’re going to be the most operator-friendly company around.”

Essentially, what that means is that for AT&T customers, you’ll have to be on a smartphone data plan. With Nokia’s unlocked and non-carrier distribution in the past, users of its smartphones such as the Nokia N8 and E7 can skirt by on AT&T on a cheaper feature phone data plan rather than the more costly data plan. However, as Nokia will only be working with carriers, carriers like AT&T will have the IMEI and serial numbers of Nokia phones, which means they can track which handsets are being used by customers and will force customers into the appropriate data plans. In the past, AT&T had been laxed about the policy, but has been aggressively pursuing customers in trying to get them on the proper data plan since the iPhone 4 launched.

On the positive side, going through carriers means that Nokia phones will be available cheaper, albeit with a two-year contract that’s typically the norm in the U.S. Carriers will be able to subsidize devices knowing that they can earn revenues from each user over the course of two years, and that means the out of pocket up-front cost of a mobile smartphone will be significantly less than an unlocked, unsubsidized device.

The new strategy is perhaps due to Nokia’s relationship with Microsoft, which has great relationships with U.S. carriers, an area that Nokia had lacked with Symbian handsets. Going with Windows Phone 7 will at least give Nokia a new distribution channel, but it’s unclear what impact, if any, going with carriers will have on Nokia’s niche customers who have enjoyed higher priced devices that don’t require a contract.




  1. Beelzebub

    08/12/2011 at 1:37 pm

    Boo!  I love buying unlocked Nokias & relying on free wi-fi (which is everywhere I go).  The cost is more up front but in 2 years time, I make it back by not paying for a data plan.   I agree that Nokia should get their phones subsidized so that people in the US will actually know that they exist – in addition to discovering how great they are.  Why can’t they do both??

  2. Mar

    08/12/2011 at 1:39 pm

    The main thing i wan’t to know if is the phones will still be Pentaband 

    • Anonymous

      08/12/2011 at 5:14 pm

      If they are being sold only by the carriers and are locked, you can be sure they will NOT be pentaband. Neither AT&T or T-Mobile has sold a  subsidized pentaband device.

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