Microsoft goes retro with Lumia feature phone

You can't play Angry Birds on it, but you won't have to charge it for a month, either.

nokia 215 lumia microsoft feature phone
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is rebranding its Nokia smartphone business to Microsoft Lumia, but apparently it can still use the Nokia name, and it is doing so with a feature phone that's a bit of a throwback.

Feature phones, a.k.a. "dumb phones," is the term for non-smartphones. They have rudimentary apps, if any at all, and they are good for two things: phone calls and texting. They have been making a slight comeback lately, in part due to hipsters and their contrarian-for-the-sake-of-it attitude, but also due to smartphones losing some appeal: short battery life by comparison, they are too large, they break too easily, and they are hackable.

So Microsoft's timing is perfect with the Nokia 215, which it calls its "most affordable Internet-ready entry-level phone yet." Designed primarily for emerging markets and for consumers with very modest budgets, the phone is just $29.

It only has a few pre-installed apps, like Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Bing Search, MSN Weather and the Opera Mini browser, which replaced the Nokia Browser. Microsoft killed off Nokia's home-grown browser after the acquisition and replaced it with a product from a company that has been a thorn in its side for years because there really wasn't an alternative.

The device comes with an FM radio and an integrated MP3 player, although it has a meager 8MB of storage. Fortunately, it is expandable with a microSD card that supports up to 32GB of extra storage. The screen, however, isn't particularly stunning – it's a 2.4-inch QVGA (320x240 pixels).

But this technical stinginess means the 1100mAh battery can last up to 29 days on standby for the single-SIM variant of the phone, while the dual-SIM variant can last up to 21 days between charges. That is part of the appeal of flip phones to people – days in between charges instead of hours.

Microsoft even made a point of noting a built-in light on the phone, which can be used in dark places or where there is no electricity. Smartphones just use a flashlight app.

The Nokia 215 will be available "in select markets" later this quarter, starting in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. No word on whether they will make it available in the U.S.

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