Price is right for Nuron phone, but that’s about it

By Rachel Metz Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Nokia Corp., the world’s largest cell phone maker, hasn’t gotten much love lately from consumers dazzled by iPhones, BlackBerrys and phones running Google’s Android software.

Now the company is clamoring for attention with its latest smart phone, the Nuron. But while it’s attractively priced — $70 with a two-year T-Mobile contract and rebate — its less-than-stellar touch screen, lack of Wi-Fi and ho-hum operating software make it more dud than stud.

Nuron has a touch screen that is 3.2 inches diagonally and a few buttons on its face, as well as a small touch-sensitive key in the upper right corner that gives quick access to things like your music, photos and videos.

It runs Nokia’s Symbian operating system — software that ran on 47 percent of all smart phones worldwide at the end of last year, according to Canalys market research. But just because you’ve captured such a large portion of the market doesn’t mean your offering is the best.

I was often confused about how to navigate around the device, and it seemed to take too many steps to do things such as sending a friend an instant message.

Much of my frustration with the Nuron traced back to its touch screen. Many times I pressed the screen to click on a Web link or type a message and nothing happened.

The Nuron is Nokia’s first phone with a U.S. carrier that comes with the company’s Ovi Store — Nokia’s version of the application stores available on the iPhone, Palm devices, Android phones and BlackBerrys.

I found several popular applications to download, including apps for YouTube and the song recognition service Shazam. But the selection wasn’t nearly as broad as those on the iPhone and Android phones.

The Nuron is OK for basic Web surfing, and it can handle the average YouTube video, though the quality of the clips I saw wasn’t great. It doesn’t have Wi-Fi.

One of the Nuron’s few positives was that phone calls sounded quite good. Another bright spot was the Nuron’s camera. Its resolution is only 2 megapixels and it has no flash, but it took fairly bright shots in the low light of my office and outside on a cloudy day.

If you’re concerned about paying a lot for a smart phone upfront, the Nuron’s price tag is alluring. But if you factor in how much you’ll end up paying for cell phone service over a two-year contract with T-Mobile, it will probably make sense to pay more for one of the carrier’s other smart phones, such as the Motorola Cliq ($150). In the long run, it will seem like a better deal.