Mobile handset company Nokia has launched its Life Tools suite of services in China, called Nokia Ovi Sheng Huo Tong, targeting primarily rural consumers with information services. According to the release, China’s rural population is 732 million, around 55 percent of the total population. This is the third country where Life Tools has been launched, following India and Indonesia, where Nokia claims to have a total base of over 1 million subscribers.

The service is being powered by six major partners – 39.net, Beijing Nongxintong Technology, Beijing Etiantian Net Educational Technology, British Council, Kongzhong Corporation and Sina.com. The services have been launched with two handsets: Nokia 1616 and the Nokia 1800. The content for Life Tools is available via SMS in simplified Chinese, both on-demand and via subscription. Services are divided into four categories:

— Healthcare, powered by 39.net: Information on topics including Respiratory, Hepatitis B, Female Illnesses, Male Illnesses. For each of the healthcare services: subscription cost is RMB 5 per month, while On Demand cost is RBM 1 per request.
— Agriculture, powered by Beijing Nongxintong Technology: includes Agriculture News, Market Prices (covering 800 markets and 100 commodities), and Agriculture Weather. Subscription cost is RMB 8 per month, while On Demand cost is RMB 1 per request
— Education services, powered by Beijing Etiantian Net Educational Technology and the British Council: includes Learn English, General Knowledge and Exam Tips, and will be made available in Q3 of 2010. The subscription cost will be RMB 5 per month.
— Entertainment services, powered by Kongzhong Corporation and Sina.com: includes Weather, Jokes and Straw Draw, with more content to be added in the future. The subscription cost is RMB 5 per month and RMB 1 per on-demand request.

In India, Nokia works with partners like Reuters Market Light for agricultural information, and EnableM for Learn English. For Nokia, these services are a means to an end – the objective is to sell more of its devices in rural markets, while also eying the over-40% margins that a services can provide for the company, as handset margins dip due to increased competition. They do have a problem in India at just about every level with increased competition: a large number of handset manufacturers have

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