Nokia embraces open source Android for new smartphone range
Nokia has launched three new smartphones that run on Google’s Android operating system, marking a surprising move away from Microsoft’s Windows Phone mobile software.
The new X, X+ and XL smartphones are a brand new family of Nokia Androiddevices, marking the Finnish company’s first breakaway since committing completely to Microsoft’s Windows Phone in 2011.
The new Android-based smartphones are aimed at developing and budget markets. While they run Android software like many other smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Google Nexus 5, it is unlike Google’s Android, instead resembling Windows Phone with Microsoft’s applications and services.
“We’re bringing all our expertise to bear to connect the next billion people to the internet. The Nokia X family will introduce the next billion people to Microsoft and act as a feeder system for our Lumia smartphones,” said the Nokia chief executive, Stephen Elop, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Nokia’s style of Android
The Nokia X devices look similar to the company’s Lumia range of Windows Phone smartphones, with big, bold colours and plastic unibody design, as well as a tiled interface.
The new range includes the €89 (£74) 4in Nokia X with 3-megapixel camera, which is available immediately in developing markets, as well as the X+ which includes more memory and a microSD card slot in the same design for €99 in the second quarter.
Nokia also launched the €109 XL smartphone, which has a larger 5in display as well as a 5-megapixel camera and will be available at the same time as the X+.
Nokia App Store
The new smartphones run Android, but lack access to Google’s apps and services. Similar to the way Amazon has “forked” Android for its Kindle Fire tablet range, rather than using the Android found on most mainstream Android smartphones, Nokia has modified the Android software. It has heavily customised it to including both Microsofts and Nokia’s own apps and services like OneDrive and Here Maps instead of Google’s apps like search, Gmail and Google Maps.
Nokia has also launched an Android version of its Nokia Store, which will offer a curated collection of Android apps for download including EA’s Plants Versus Zombies 2 game. Nokia will also provide easy access to third-party Android app stores like Russia’s Yandex, when apps are not available through Nokia’s own store.
Nokia and Microsoft at lower cost
Nokia’s handset business is in the process of being bought by Microsoft, which is expected to complete later this year for $7.4bn (£4.4bn), making the Nokia X series Microsoft’s first Android smartphones as well as Nokia’s.
Microsoft has put a tremendous amount of money and effort behind Windows Phone as a viable mobile operating system for smartphones over the last three years. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft does with the Android smartphones once it completes its takeover of Nokia’s mobile phones.
With a dual-core Snapdragon processor, smaller screens and lower resolution cameras, the X is a significant down step from the powerful Lumia range, instead intended to be a step up from Nokia’s Asha range of affordable internet-connected mobile phones.
Elop explained that Nokia and Microsoft were using Android as a way to reach customers at a lower price point, in markets where the majority of smartphone purchases were made under €100. The Nokia X is aimed primarily at developing markets such as India and China, although Elop did not rule out expansion to other markets like the UK.