Nokia just launched the all new Nokia X series Android-based Smartphone range. The first ever Nokia device running Android, the Nokia X series is based on a forked version of Android which effectively locks out Google apps and services. The Nokia X, Nokia X+ and Nokia XL are targeting the affordable Smartphone segment and offer a Microsoft-inspired tiled UI matched with Microsoft apps and services –but why release an Android-based device weeks before new owners Microsoft take the reigns?
At the heart of this story, we have a cell phone giant in Nokia, releasing it’s very first device running Google’s open source Android OS. You could be confused in thinking that Nokia had changed its tactics and seen the light as far as Google and Android are concerned. And of course you would be completely wrong.
Far from embracing the Google apps and services eco-system, Nokia have used a ‘forked’ version of Android to create what is essentially an OS that is Android under the hood, but in almost all other respects resembles a simplified version Microsoft Windows Phone OS. The devices will not have access to GooglePlay but apps will instead be available on the Nokia app store.
In terms of services, the new Nokia X range will connect with Microsoft services Bing, Skype, OneDrive and Outlook – the same as all Nokia Lumia devices do today. Considering that Microsoft is due to acquire Nokia in the next few weeks, today’s announcement has left many scratching their head.
But the reasoning is clear enough. Nokia has failed to really penetrate the high end Smartphone market with heavy competition from Samsung, Apple Sony, LG and even HTC relegating the once mighty Nokia to a second tier player. The Microsoft Windows Phone 8-based Lumia brand has failed to make serious in roads. The Nokia X series is clearly a strategic ploy to help Nokia compete in the entry-level segment – one where it can successfully entice first time users, and particularly young, first time users.
Microsoft Windows Phone 8 sets the minimum hardware requirements bar pretty high, requiring a fairly high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. Microsoft wants to and maintain and strengthen its position as a high-end player, offering a top quality mobile OS experience. Also, by optimizing for one silicon platform (in this case Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 SoC), Microsoft can ensure comparable performance with iOS and Android. The low-end currently does not appeal to Nokia’s new ownership.
The Nokia X uses a more affordable Snapdragon S4 Play clocked at 1.2GHz with an Adreno 203 GPU and 512BM of RAM. If we continue with the $89 Nokia X, we have a 4″ IPS LCD display at a reasonably ow 480 x 800 pixels. A single 3.15MP camera with video recording at 480p and below is provided. The battery is also a pretty paltry 1,500mAh.
Here is Nicole’s assessment of the 89 euro Nokia X from the show floor at MWC 2014:
Lower specs like these are much more forgivable when you consider the device should retail at a mere 89 euro ($122). But even at that price, I believe Nokia is more concerned with the enrollment of new users than actual margins. The colorful, vibrant designs also point to an attempt to lure younger users. Imagine if Nokia (and thus Microsoft) could corner the 12yrs to 17yrs user segment. That would be the market success story that Nokia desperately needs.
The Nokia X range is a way for Nokia to try to persuade Microsoft that the entry-level market is essential to its long term survival and possible success. What will become of the Nokia X series after the keys to the office have been handed to their new owners, only time will tell.