Mobile chat app Line passed 100 million downloads in January and began its strategy to gain traction in the US, but it has not forgotten the potential of emerging markets after committing to launch an app for Nokia’s Asha range in March.
The Japanese company announced today that it will support the “reasonably priced” range of smartphones — which include touch screen and 3G devices — with an app next month. It will be available in a number of markets across Asia Pacific, including: China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thai, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia.
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The Line service can be used to make free calls and send free messages and the company says the Asha app will include one-on-one chats and stickers, but it doesn’t say if more sophisticated features will be present. Likewise, it is not clear exactly which (if not all) Asha devices will be supported, but the commitment alone is a big boost for the Nokia platform.
Line launched an application for BlackBerry — the generation of devices that pre-exists the new BlackBerry 10 range — and its launch on Asha will target another segment that is less fashionable but still sizable in Asia and other emerging markets.
Nokia is on the wane in the global mobile market but it says that it “exceeded expectations” when it sold 4.1 million Lumia handsets in a “solid” Q4 2012. During that period, the Finnish firm actually sold 9.3 million Asha smartphones — and that doesn’t even include Asha feature phones — demonstrating the device’s potential. While Nokia slipped to its lowest overall handset market share ever — 18 percent in Q4, according to Gartner – the research firm did note that sales of the Asha range, which includes touch screen and keyboard devices, were impressive.
Nokia launched the Asha range in 2011 to target “the next billion” people in emerging markets. Earlier this month it unveiled the Asha 310, a touch device screen with dual-SIM and WiFi interoperability that will be available in Q3 2013 for $102.
Headline image via topgold / Flickr, others via Line