For $29, the latest Nokia will send Facebook Messages for weeks

Microsoft still makes legacy feature phones under the Nokia brand, and on Monday, the company launched the Nokia 215. The $29 2G candybar phone runs the old Series 30+ operating system and it will come pre-installed with the Opera Mini browser as well as Facebook Messenger.

Obviously, specs aren’t what most consumers consider when buying a feature phone. The dual-SIM Nokia 215 comes with a 2.4-inch 320 x 240 pixel display, Bluetooth, a FM radio, and a 0.3-megapixel camera.

But the installed internet services on the Nokia 215 might just be enough for someone in Asia, Africa or the Middle East to pick this device over other feature phones. The Nokia 215 uses Opera Mini to provide a rudimentary browsing experience by processing webpages over the cloud and sending them to the device. Preinstalled Facebook, Messenger, and Twitter apps will allow people to use those social networks even without a 3G connection. And [company]Microsoft[/company] wouldn’t allow this phone to ship without at least a light dusting of its services, in the form of a preinstalled MSN weather and Bing Search apps.

Like other feature phones, the Nokia 215’s battery life blows away that of smartphones. The device can manage 29 days between charges and 20 hours of talk time — just try to match that with your iPhone. The device will launch “this quarter” in a few markets, but the United States isn’t among them.

Opera’s app store will replace Nokia Store on feature phones

Microsoft’s purge of Nokia branding and services continues: Opera announced Tuesday that its Mobile Store will replace the Nokia Store on Nokia feature phones, as well as devices running Symbian, and Nokia X devices that run Android. The change will take place during “the first half of 2015.” It’s not Nokia that signed this deal — it’s Microsoft, which has to support those odd devices it got as part of buying Nokia’s mobile business. The move comes a week after Opera signed a deal with Microsoft to become the default browser on legacy Nokia devices, and on the same day that Nokia announced it was working on an Android tablet for China.

Carrier data confirms it: Half of US now owns a smartphone

According to a new report from Chetan Sharma Consulting, the US has reached 50 percent smartphone penetration. The big operators may be leading the charge toward more sophisticated OS-driven devices, but smaller operators and the growing prepaid market is making a contribution as well.

Verizon gives RIM a pass on 4G-only smartphone rule

Verizon pledged to no longer accept new 3G-only smartphones, putting its considerable market might behind LTE. But it now seems willing to make an exception to that rule for its old partner RIM. Verizon will sell the BlackBerry Curve 9310, a device with no 4G connectivity.