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GLOBAL – There are now in excess of 4 billion mobile users in the world, many of whom are using entry-level heroes providing good basic features and reliable services at prices anyone can afford. The natural successors to the likes of the 1100 and 3310 may lack the sophistication of high-end smartphones, but are continuing a fine Nokia tradition by extending the reach of mobile communications into whole new markets. We’ve pulled out three such mobile superstars from the Almanac, and think all three are fully deserving of their place in the spotlight. Do you agree – or do you think we should be talking about other low-cost Nokias instead? Let us know in the comments below.

Nokia 1202Nokia 1202

1202 snapshot: 1.3in monochrome display / 96 x 68 resolution / 78g / speakerphone / 200-entry phonebook / flashlight / talk time: 8 hours, standby time: 624 hours

The 1202 has only been around for just over a year, but it’s already on its way to becoming another Nokia legend. At the time of its launch, Nokia’s cheapest ever handset changed the very definition of entry-level.

But the 1202’s popularity is not about price, it’s about community-friendly features like a phone book and pre-paid time tracker that can be shared between five people, and a standby time that can stretch to nearly a month.

It’s strong and durable too, with a scratch-resistant casing and dust-proof cover just the ticket for rural communities. Rugged, capable and eminently affordable, the Nokia 1202 is the very definition of entry-level hero.

Nokia 1280Nokia 1280

1280 snapshot: 1.36in monochrome display / 96 x 68 resolution / 81.9g / speakerphone / MP3 ringtones / 500-entry phonebook / FM radio / flashlight / calendar / talk time: 8.5 hours, standby time: 528 hours

The brand new Nokia 1280 is the current holder of Nokia’s “cheapest ever” title, having undercut even the 1202 in the value stakes, but you wouldn’t think it from casting your eye over what you get for that tiny amount of money.

The 1280 builds on the 1202’s community-centred foundation but adds the likes of an FM radio, MP3 ringtones and a torch.

With 22 days standby time from the battery, the 1280 is built with those living in a rural community in mind. Like the 1208, the dust and scratch resistance is key to the device’s longevity.

Nokia 2690Nokia 2690

2690 snapshot: 1.8in 256K-colour TFT / 128 x 160 resolution / 80.7g / MP3 ringtones / 2000-entry phonebook / microSD card slot / GPRS/EDGE / Bluetooth / micro-USB slot / VGA camera with video / web browser / stereo FM radio / talk time: 4.5 hours, standby time: 312 hours

Announced at the same time as the 1280, the 2690 may not be quite as cheap as its budget-busting brother, but take another read-through of that spec above – this is no bare-bones handset by any stretch of the imagination.

The 2690 completely shatters the perception that features like web access, picture messaging, a memory card slot and Bluetooth have no place on entry-level phones, and it does so without losing sight of basic concerns like a sturdy construction, good battery life and the everyday value of Nokia Life Tools – an innovative SMS-based info service delivering the likes of weather reports, agriculture news, market prices and career information to rural communities.

The likes of the 1202 and 1280 rightly deserve credit for introducing fresh new markets to the world of mobile communications, but it’s going to be phones like the 2690 that keep them coming back for more.