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T-Mobile Best Buy Alliance

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Nokia has had problems distributing its world leading lineup of smartphones in the fast growing American market. Mostly because of lack of marketing visibility and carrier accessibility, Nokia’s Symbian OS-powered smartphones are still largely a virtual unknown to Uncle Sam’s consumers. Moves are slowly being made to now remedy some of those issues and bring Nokia’s US marketshare more in line with its dominant global position.

T-Mobile USA and Best Buy, America’s largest big box electronics retailer, apparently plan to take the lead in righting the ship. Most Best Buy locations don’t even offer T-Mobile USA services or devices. That will evidently change. In images posted on TMoNews, Best Buy has begun offering unlocked Nokia smartphones with a healthy T-Mobile USA subsidy! While these devices are equipped to only access mobile broadband data speeds via AT&T’s 3G network, AT&T offers absolutely no subsidy for these advanced devices. T-Mobile USA subscribers will be limited to EDGE connections, but a large majority of American Nokia smartphone users already deal with this anyway.
According to the TMoNews report, Best Buy will offer models that include the E71-2, N95-4, and N96. The E71 will be a true Best Buy, offered for $459 unsubsidized, or $199 with a two year agreement, a subsidy of $260! The N95-4 is listed at $759 SIM-free, or $349 on a two year deal, and the N96 can be had for $899 SIM-free, or $599 subsidized by T-Mobile USA.

Best Buy has already positioned itself as the best and only brick and mortar big box location to shop for the top premium unlocked smartphones in the world. It is one of the few places consumers can go to actually see and try these advanced devices. This should open the door to increased sales. While online retailers have always offered the top devices, consumers prefer to actually touch and try such high end purchases before buying. Big traffic locations like a big box retailer are the perfect solutions, and a natural fit.

T-Mobile USA’s lower rates, better call quality and network performance, top rated customer service, and open policies have always made it a haven for unlocked smartphone users. It was T-Mobile USA’s subscribers that brought early awareness and adoption of Nokia’s premium Nseries and Eseries models, offering the N90 with subsidy just over two years ago. There was a loud outcry when Nokia released American versions without support for T-Mobile USA’s new mobile broadband network. While this still doesn’t give users that access, it’s a step in the right direction. Many T-Mobile USA’s customers have been loyal Nokia smartphone users. It’s high time they finally got some price relief, especially when just two years ago, they paid high premiums to import European Nseries models into America.

In related news, WalMart, the world’s biggest store, and epitome of big box retailer, may also be joining the party. They already offer the T-Mobile G1 at a low subsidized price. A good Christmas season may motivate WalMart, and models could soon follow. Either way, advanced devices are getting easier to try and buy for all carriers. Hopefully, Nokia will get a better response and be motivated to include AWS 3G support in future models to allow T-Mobile USA’s subscribers to finally enjoy the devices they introduced to America on their new 3G network.

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By , Senior International Correspondent on Nov 10th, 2008 GMT +2

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