New phones, a music store: Nokia fights back at Apple

The Finnish phone company's new music store allows people to buy songs on the go.

Published August 29, 2007 4:39PM (EDT)

So hey, if Apple's going to elbow in on the phone business, it's only fair for Nokia to barge into music, isn't it? That must have been the thinking. At an event in London at which the company put forward a bounty of new devices, it also announced something called Ovi, a brand name for a range of new Internet services, one of which is a music store.

Ovi means "door" in Nokia's native Finnish; Nokia hopes that people will consider it the entrance to their mobile lives, or something like that. The music store promises to carry "millions of tracks from major artists, independent labels as well as a broad range of local artists from around the world," though there's no specific word on which labels and artists yet.

The store, which will debut later this year, will offer purchases to mobile phones -- that is, unlike on the iPhone, you can buy a song from your mobile and listen immediately. Tracks will cost 1 euro each, with full albums going for 10 euros. Nokia will also offer a subscription streaming service for 10 euros a month.

The music store will be best for folks carrying the new phones Nokia introduced today, including an American version of the N95. The N95 is a much-loved phone, one that has long been considered the only contender to the iPhone's throne; it's been available in Europe for some time but in America it hasn't been able to run at 3G network speeds. Now, in addition to GPS, Wi-Fi, and a 5 megapixel camera, the U.S. version runs HSPDA, making it a true 3G demon. (Faster than the iPhone.) An unlocked version of the phone -- that is, not tied to or subsidized by any carrier -- will go on sale in a couple weeks for a hefty $699. (Nokia also announced an upcoming redesigned 8GB version; it'll go for $749.)

Nokia also put out the N81, the pretty little device pictured above that's meant for multimedia apps. It does sound and full-screen video and Wi-Fi and all the rest, at a price, unlocked, of $499 for one that carries up to 4GB, and $599 for 8GB.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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