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PORTLAND, OR, United States – In the US, smartphones typically cost a lot of money, and that’s even with a contract. This is one reason I’m really excited about the Nokia Astound. Introduced earlier this month for only $80 with T-Mobile USA, the device will impress smartphone connoisseurs with its competitive capabilities. This phone comes with some stellar hardware capabilities including: a 3.5-inch all-touch screen, 8GB of internal memory, 8MP camera with LED flash, WiFi, GPS, integrated FM transmitter and much more.

Unique Factors

After rambling off that list, it’s important to point out a few things. First of all, you’re getting a fully functional phone that is all touch-screen, has GPS for mapping and traffic and Wi-Fi access for when you want to use it for data connections. Also, not only does this phone have an FM radio (relatively common amongst competitor’s phones), but it also has an FM transmitter. This means you can listen to your music on your car radio (or any radio for that matter) with no wires needed!

Second, the Nokia Astound has an 8-megapixel shooter that can also take 720p HD video, meaning this little device will make for an excellent companion when asked to capture life’s precious moments as they unfold. Also, with 8GB of onboard memory plus the ability to add a MicroSD card, your memory options are almost limitless.

Staying In Touch

For those who like to stay connected on the go, the Astound offers a built-in email client that’ll work with any popular web email, such as Yahoo or Gmail, and supports Microsoft Exchange as well. If you’re a social networker, the Astound will keep you in-the-loop with Twitter and Facebook via the Nokia Social application, with widgets for the homescreen if you so desire.

Designed With The Future In Mind

For those who like something very unique on their phone, they should know the Astound is one of the few phones available currently that has NFC. But wait, what is NFC? It’s a new technology that enables your phone, with just a tap, to communicate with other phones (or in-store payment machines) in unique ways. For example, with NFC, you can tap another phone and exchange contact information, play games with one another, or even send each other photos.

In the Astound’s case, the first use of NFC involves the super-popular Angry Birds game from Rovio. With the device, tap another Astound while running Angry Birds and new levels are unlocked. This sounds fun and all, but it will be even better as more game developers create games with NFC in mind and we can play multi-player games with one another simultaneously though NFC.

Built Tough

The Nokia Astound carries on with our legacy of building quality handsets that are tough enough to withstand day-to-day operations, plus a few drops, bumps and scratches. The Astound is built with toughened glass on the front and a steel battery door on the back. In the hand, the feel is that of a premium smartphone.

To prove the toughness of the Astound, the device was recently run over with a 4-ton van and lived on, fully functional with no scratches or dings.

Typically, if you want a fully featured smartphone in the US, you have to make big compromises if your aim is to not spend a bundle. This trend is bucked with the Nokia Astound. For $80 from T-Mobile (under a 2-year agreement), the Astound will help you capture your memories, stay in touch with friends and family and looks good doing it.

Have you picked up an Astound yet?  What are your thoughts?  Please leave a comment below and share your experiences.