Nokia's sub-$US100 Asha phone features a Facebook button

The Asha 205, priced at about $US62, provides a key for fast access to the social network, and an audio player and recorder.

It's back.

The Facebook button pioneered by HTC in 2011 is an integral part of a handset introduced on Monday by Nokia.

The new Nokia Asha 205, a feature phone for budget shoppers who want to access the Web with their handset, has a dedicated key for immediate access to Facebook.

Originally hatched by HTC in February 2011 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, two smartphone models from the company included the feature, the ChaCha and the Salsa. Neither have been bestsellers.

Selling for around $62, the Asha 205 has a modest 2.4-inch color screen and 0.3 megapixel camera. It also has 64MB of internal storage, as well as supporting storage cards up to 32GB, and a full QWERTY keyboard.

The Asha is a compact unit that's a little over half an inch thick and measures 4.4 by 2.4 inches. Nokia estimates maximum 2G standby time for the phone to be 608 hours and talk time, 11 hours.

The 205's Facebook button can be used to access the Facebook for Every Phone app, according to Nokia. Facebook introduced the Java-based app in July last year so users could more quickly access the site and its messaging service from mobile devices. It works just like the smartphone apps but has been implemented in a way that uses less data, according to Francisco Jeronimo, research manager at IDC.

The dedicated Facebook button is a feature, but not unique, Jeronimo notes. "It is not the Facebook button that will make a difference; it is the device itself and its overall feature set. The button is more of a marketing tool," he said.

In addition to Facebook support, the new Nokia phone enables several other technologies to keep its owner connected. It supports popular webmail programs, such as Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Gmail; as well as email protocols like SMTP, IMAP, and POP3.

The handset also supports popular instant messaging services such as Google Talk, Yahoo, and Facebook chat.

Not only does the phone have a music player for listening to music files in popular formats, such as WAV, MP4, AAC, MP3, WMA, and WMV, but it also has an audio recorder and stereo FM radio.

Web surfing with the phone is conducted with Nokia's Xpress Browser, which the company says optimizes data compression to improve Internet performance.

The Asha, with its focus on budget-minded handset shoppers, is a far cry from the Facebook smartphone that's been rumored to be in the works from time to time.

The social network has constantly denied that it is working on such a phone. It "wouldn't make very much sense" to build such a phone, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Mikael Ricknas of the IDG News Service contributed to this report. IDC is a sibling company of IDG News Service, PC World, and TechHive.

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John P. Mello Jr.

PC World (US online)
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