Nokia really is going Android with the launch of three 'gateway' devices called X

Nokia really is going Android with the launch of three 'gateway' devices called X

Summary: The last gasp of Nokia's devices unit before it gets sold to Microsoft is a radical departure from its normal Windows Phone smartphone strategy: three devices running Android.

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Stephen Elop onstage at MWC. Image: Liam Tung/ZDNet.com

Three years after ditching Symbian for Windows Phone, and mere months before being absorbed into the Microsoft empire, Nokia has released its first Android mobile phones.

The devices, called the Nokia X, X+ and XL, were unveiled at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona on Monday.

The widely-leaked Nokia X is a low-end device and appears to be aimed at emerging markets. It comes with a four-inch screen with an IPS display, a three-megapixel rear camera, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage.

The X+ has the same four-inch screen, but adds an SD card slot, with a 4GB microSD card included. There's 768MB of RAM, 4GB of storage and a three-megapixel rear camera.

The XL has a five-inch screen, 768MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, and two cameras: a two-megapixel front-facing camera and five-megapixel rear equivalent.

All three run dual-core 1Ghz Snapdragon processors from Qualcomm.

The devices are available in green, red, yellow, red and bright blue. The X, available now, will go for €89, the X+ is priced at €99 and slated for an early Q2 release, while the XL, also planned for early Q2, will cost €109. "The devices will be available broadly, starting in growth markets," across Asia-Pacific, Europe, India, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, said the head of devices and services at Nokia Stephen Elop - who is  soon to be head of Microsoft's devices business.

What makes the devices remarkable is that they won't be powered by Nokia's traditional choice for its lower-end handsets, the Series 40-based Asha OS, or its preferred smartphone operating system, Windows Phone. Instead, the X family will be running Android.

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The four-inch X. Image: Nokia

Handset makers can use Android in two ways: by using the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) or by also using Google Mobile Services (GMS) which gives makers access to a raft of additional functionality, including likes of the Play app store and Google Maps. The former is a free-for-all, the latter requires handset makers to pass a certification process, and it isn't open source.

Android, but no Google services

Nokia has gone for AOSP for the X family, which means anyone buying the X, XL and X+ won't get access to the million or so apps available on Google Play. However, Android devs can port their Play apps to the handset in what Elop said would be "a matter of hours if even that", and the company will be offering a curated selection of apps through the Nokia store on the devices. X and X+ users can get apps from other Android app stores like Yandex, or in the case of the X+, sideload via the micro SD card.

"We will be taking advantage of the Android app and hardware ecosystems, but we have differentiatied by adding our own services and user experience," Elop said.

Despite being a slap in the face to Windows Phone, the Android-powered X and X+ do have a whiff of Redmond about it: Nokia's custom UI is tile-based, a nod to Windows Phone's own live tiles, including the ability to resize tiles. It will also feature Fastlane.

The phone will come with a range of Microsoft services already onboard: Skype, Nokia MixRadio and OneDrive. "Nokia X takes people to Microsoft's cloud not to Google's. This was very deliberate... with this Microsoft will be able to reach people it has never before," Elop said.

The release of the X family is a notable break with Nokia's past mobile strategy: although the company had used Symbian and experimented with MeeGo — both open source OSes — in the past, Nokia subsequently abandoned both to throw in its lot with Microsoft.

Gateway to Microsoft

According to Elop, while it may not involve a Microsoft OS, the Android-based X family will serve to bring more users to the company in emerging markets. The X family will be "a feeder system for Lumia", he said, and "gives people a gateway" to Microsoft's Windows Phone products.

It looks like Nokia is getting serious about emerging markets, with the devices chief announcing that both the Lumia and X ranges will get price drops in an effort to grow market share: the Lumia range will go to "lower and lower price points" in the not so distant future, he said, with the X family then "trending below that".

Despite its newfound interest in Android, the Lumia will remain Nokia's true focus on mobile. "Lumia continues to be our primary smartphone strategy," Elop said, adding all the company "innovation" will come to Lumia first.

The rumours of Nokia considering making an Android handset first surfaced last year, when the New York Times reported that the company had a working Lumia Android prototype when it began negotiations with Microsoft in February over a possible sale of its handset business.

When the acquisition was confirmed in September a €5.4bn deal that would see Microsoft take over its devices and services unit and license Nokia patents for 10 years - it was assumed that the Android plan had been shelved.

The X family looks to be the last gasp of Nokia as an independent smartphone maker — the Microsoft deal is expected to close later this quarter.

There were also a handful of other product announcements for Nokia's other product ranges. BBM will be coming to Lumia phones, Nokia said. "Particularly in emerging markets, we're going to see a lot of interest in BBM," Elop said.

Nokia also announced the Nokia 220, a 2G low-end device running Series 40. Priced at €29 for a single-SIM variant, the phone has a 2.4-inch display, and has Bing, Facebook and Twitter already loaded on the phone.

Nokia's smartphone-esque Asha line also got a new addition: the 230, the company's cheapest touch Asha so far at €45. An OS update is also on the way for the Asha OS, bringing access to OneDrive, and MixRadio for wi-fi handsets.

Correction: This article previously identified Stephen Elop as the current head of Microsoft's devices head. He is due to assume this role role once the acquisition of Nokia's devices unit closes later this quarter, and is currently executive VP of devices and services at Nokia.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Hardware, MWC, Nokia, Smartphones

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22 comments
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  • "Android, but no Google"

    Somebody had better call Dr. Phil!
    Mujibahr
    • Nokia's Android FAIL..

      Nokia's Android FAIL..


      [Nokia's custom UI is tile-based, a nod to Windows Phone's own live tiles..]


      That Windows Phone's live tiles ugly MONSTROSITY
      ported to Nokia's Android?

      FAIL..


      No Google Play app store with it's million Apps?

      FAIL, FAIL, FAIL..


      The Nokia 3 year Windows Phone experiment

      FAILED MISERABLY . .

      . . bankrupt Nokia, sold to Microsoft . .


      And Nokia still stuck on Windows Phone?
      even with Android?

      Some people just don't have brains inside their heads..



      RIP NOKIA



      ff
      ffinder-cy
  • Nokia is really going Android

    Microsoft is now a devices and services corporation if Microsoft is to be very successfull in this type of Business MS has to offer a lot of diverse devices to sell to differrent types of Customers and that includes Android customers. The Nokia x phones offers Microsoft to be able to make money from Android customers. this device could easily be modified to run Googles Android apps and services. I hope that Microsoft is smart enough take advantage of this . The USA carriers will want the Nokia X-XL with better specs to sell to the american People
    gregnewm7
  • How do you know that?

    "this device could easily be modified to run Googles Android apps and services."

    I'll bet it is locked to stop that happening!
    1,2,3
  • I can hear Microsoft sharpening the axe.

    It seems unlikely they will continue using it. These might be collectibles someday.
    Joe.Smetona
  • Nokia has something people will want.

    They have to sell something... And WP8 isn't working...
    jessepollard
    • "Nokia has something people will want"

      Seriously?

      This is like a dummy security camera. Looks like one but isn't. This looks a bit like Windows phone but is not. Underneath it has Android base, but without anything that makes Android immensely popular I would argue it's not Android either.

      Tell me who's going to want it when it can't make up it's mind on what it is?

      Nokia - oh how the mighty have fallen. Microsoft is proving again it has no idea what customers want either.

      At the proposed prices you can get equivalent TRUE Android devices with all the good bits present.

      So tell me, who is going to want this?
      Ramrunner-5dd3e
  • HMMM

    Do you know that Elop is soon to become MSFT device chief soon? This will not die!
    revben
  • This is confirmation of what many have said for a while, Nokia SHOULD NOT

    have put all it's eggs in the Windows Phone basket 3 years ago. They should have either gone forward with WP and Anrdoid (or Meego ). They were large enough and still making enough money to have had a "second front" and then let their customers decide which platform was the winner. Now they have to scramble to play catch up.
    jkohut
  • Nokia really is going Android with the launch of three 'gateway' devices ca

    Nokia is shooting itself in the foot. The android market is saturated and has very little growth. They should have stuck with Microsoft Windows Phone which has incredible opportunity available to it. Its going to be funny to see the same android users who hated Microsoft Windows Phone's live tiles say how great they are on this device.
    Loverock.Davidson
    • Android Market Not Yet Saturated.

      The Android market is not yet saturated because there are a lot of iOS users that have yet to make the switch to Android! ;)
      If you listen closely, you can hear Apple stock taking another dump. lol
      rm6565
    • MS call, not Nokia's - they should have done it years ago

      As the number one shill for MS, they must have left you out of the loop. Clearly Nokia did not pursue this strategy without Microsoft blessing. It is a brilliant play that recognizes the obvious realities. One, WP8 is way behind iOS and Android and will probably never catch up. Two, an Android phone can achieve the same benefits for MS if it ties back into the MS ecosystem instead of the Google ecosystem. Three, there are many fans of Nokia handsets who will immediately look at them as a relevant choice now that they are not running on a niche mobile OS. And without getting into the tireless arguments of why the Windows 8 platform is so much better (in your opinion), the cold fact is that it is not profitable for the legions of app developers to develop for Windows 8. However, it would be very easy for those same developers to create an MS -flavored version of Android. Even if Microsoft is still committed to the Windows Phone platform, this is a smart hedge.
      whooizit1
    • Einstein defined insanity as

      "doing the same thing time and again but expecting a different result".

      It would be sheer insanity for Nokia to persevere with WP. It has given WP a chance to prove itself for several years but the nicest thing that can be said is that it has been a failure. Nokia has every reason to try a new direction.
      1,2,3
  • Smart move on Microsoft's/Nokia's part

    Remember who the demographic is for these phones: not the US, Europe or high-tech Asian countries but emerging markets. They could care less about the religious phone wars going on.

    What Nokia has done is given them a device that should be affordable, linked them to Microsoft's services and - most importantly - given these Android phones the look and feel of Windows Phone. So when these potential buyers want to upgrade to a better phone, they'll (Microsoft hopes) gravitate to Windows Phone because it already "looks" and "feels" like what they're used to.

    The only problem I see with this plan is when this same demographic gets bitten by the app bug. Then things could backfire.
    tallbruva
  • This buys time...

    for Android Desktop to finish off Windows in the business office. Google doesn't have to waste time beefing up Android while their guys work on desktop, but Microsoft has all their guys working on something, anything, that will work mobile. Meanwhile, 3D graphics chips for pads will eat into the MS XBox cash cow, causing yet another panic at Microsoft. Woo hoo! Up and at'em! Avenge Netscape!
    Tony Burzio
  • Slap in who's face?

    This move is as much of a slap at Google as Windows Phone. They took open-source Android but not Google Services. And clearly Microsoft is on board with this. Why would Elop be doing this if Microsoft was going to kill it when the devices unit sale closes?

    WP Central has described these phones as Trojan horses into the Android world, because they bring in Microsoft services and make for a cleaner upgrade path to Windows Phone at the high end.

    Microsoft realizes they need apps, and it seems they plan to get them by making Android apps runnable on (or easy to port to) Windows Phones.
    FDanconia
    • Agree with most of what you said

      But remember, Blackberry runs Android apps as well. And it hasn't done anything for them.

      What most are forgetting here is that this move by Nokia is not targeted to existing mobile markets. Thus this move has nothing to do with Android saturation or whether it was a good or bad move to go solely with WP.

      The real competition for these devices are Firefox phone and Ubuntu phone. They intend to slug it out in *emerging markets*. If Android becomes a major player there (and it could if a hardware company used AOSP Android like Nokia is), then we can talk about Android saturation and all the other stuff being debated here.
      tallbruva
  • Some good, some bad

    I have a hard time to find if this will be good or bad for Microsoft/Nokia or Google. I suppose in the end the balance will be close to zero.

    Nokia is in one way admitting that android can be good, they could say it's only good for cheap devices (a message many want to pass) but the reality is that cheap devices are WP devices - they are probably the smartphones with lower average selling price.

    On the other way, android is a huge success, going android can make them selling a few million more phones.

    I wonder if they are doing any good by going with a different app store, yes app makers can all release apps for the Nokia store, but Google is not going to do it, and there is a lot of Google stuff making android a better platform. Without arguing what is better, Gmail is becoming the webmail standard, google maps is "the" map solution everybody knows, google search is just way bigger than anything else and google now is becoming the personal assistant ruling all others.

    If Nokia succeed with this line of phones (I doubt they will be a hit), it will be another win for android - in one way it makes windows phone even more irrelevant. If they fail they can blame android and praise WP but for Nokia will be just another failed attempt.

    I still don't see a bright future with WP, but as an hardware and service maker, it's seems Nokia (as others) should be platform agnostic. Betting on WP only seems something very wrong.
    AleMartin
  • No good phones yet

    I used to work in the Cell Phone industry back in the Cantel days and saw the emergence of Rogers/AT&T and I can remember that Nokia was the phone to have. It was the most advanced and expensive pf the phones out there. What has happened? Dual core 1Ghz Processors? I think they should have shown us that they are STILL that heavyweight company and released a phone that could actually compete with the Samsung S4, Note 3 and the LG G2. And get rid of the Highschool student aimed colour scheme. Nice sleek Adult oriented fast efficient phones.
    colin_l2003@...
    • Nope

      They just realized that WP is DOA. And if they want to survive themselves, instead of flatlining, they need to go with RISC and Android.
      CornheadsBack