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At the turn of the millennium, the West accounted for around three quarters of the world’s mobile phones. In 2009, developing nations account for three quarters – and over half the people alive own at least one. The 2690 isn’t quite the cheapest phone in the world (that honour goes to the Nokia 1280) but at just 54 Euros it is one of the most affordable to offer web and email access, media player and full GSM phone service.

A 1.8-inch colour screen gives access to a WAP browser, a suite of calendar, recorder, converter and notes apps, and Ovi Mail. Nokia’s innovative Life Tools software brings rural and small town users crucial agricultural information, help with studying English and assistance with local school exams. The tough, slim phone has an FM radio, VGA camera, picture messaging and even Bluetooth, with a class-leading standby time measured in weeks (two) rather than hours.

If you only do one thing

Create, set up and start using an Ovi Mail email account without ever needing a PC, thanks to the Nokia 2690’s messaging suite and GPRS data connection. This computer-free email solution promises to open up the online world to first-time users in developing countries.


With the Nokia 2690’s email client, the whole world can stay in touch. But before 1s and 0s, long distance communication was a little more tricky:

In 150 BC, the Greeks invented the Polybius Square, a system that allowed users with two torches to encode written messages into smoke signals.

Chinese guards along the Great Wall could send smoke signal messages long distances as fast as 100mph.

An optical telegraph network – a bit like semaphore – criss-crossed France in the 19th century. Stations located 20 miles apart could transmit about two words per minute but required clear weather and daylight to work.

Portable heliographs were used extensively during the Boer War, by the US Forest Service in the 1920s, and by the British and Canadian armies until as late as the 1960s.

The first commercial electric telegraph (in 1839) was owned and operated by the Great Western Railway. It ran 13 miles between Paddington Station and West Drayton.