24
Feb
wm_DSC01980

You've probably read by now that Nokia's making Android phones. Sort of. And I'm sure there are all sorts of analysts, experts, and other people trying to scream at you collectively that this means something. Nokia's changing directions. Nokia's making Android a backup if the Microsoft merger doesn't go through. Nokia's Android is going to finally end Google's dominance in the world of cheap smartphones!

Let's leave all that aside, because those are frankly annoying and pointless conversations to have. Nokia ditched the Asha line and is now selling smartphones running a forked version of the Android OS - those are the facts. Everything else is noise you'd do best to ignore.

Having had some time to play with these budget devices, I have to say I came away pretty impressed. While the Nokia X, X+, and XL don't offer the specification to value ratio of, say, the Moto G, they do have what I'd call a pretty compelling experience for what is a very, very entry-level smartphone. And while Motorola goes through the turmoil of its Lenovo buyout, Nokia's (admittedly diminishing) developing world clout may have X phones flying off the shelves.

wm_DSC01966

Nokia plans to go all-out bombarding Android app developers to port their applications to the Nokia store and optimize them for X Platform hardware, a task it claims will be trivial for a large majority of apps currently on the Play Store. It also didn't waste any time pointing out that sideloading 3rd party stores like Amazon or GetJar was completely OK. Why? Because once developers start getting 1-star reviews on the Amazon Appstore because they don't support the Nokia X phones (eg, an app crashes), they'll be increasingly pressured to add that support. Nokia wants these phones exposed on every content channel possible, because it wants developers to accept them as a de facto member of the Android device community, very similar to what Amazon did with its Kindle Fire devices.

wm_DSC01973

The actual software experience on the X phones is only vaguely reminiscent of Android most of the time - the aesthetics (tiles) definitely harken more strongly back to Windows Phone, though X Platform is still obviously very distinct. Nokia's multitasking interface, of sorts, dubbed Fastlane, is also quite interesting. Instead of merely displaying your recently used apps, it acts as a sort of historical hub for everything you do on your phone. Take a photo earlier today? It'll be somewhere in the Fastlane timeline. If you just opened up Outlook.com, it'll show in the list, too. And if you happen to have some apps that need updating, Fastlane will tell you. It's part notification center, part multitasking interface, and part activity log. At the least, you have to admit it's an interesting concept.

wm_DSC01969

Some parts of the OS, though, feel incredibly intuitive if you come from an Android device background - there's a pull-down notification bar with quick power toggles, and the settings menu hierarchy is easily navigated. The lack of dedicated home or multitasking buttons may seem a bit odd, but on phones with so little RAM (768MB on the X+ / XL, 512 on the X) and positioned at such a price point, a single "back" button may just make more sense - it certainly makes it harder to get lost.

Build quality on the devices seems typically Nokian - extremely hard, rather dense plastic shells you'd be fairly comfortable using as personal defensive weapons or light-duty hammers. The 5" XL isn't a featherweight, either, tipping the scales at 190g, well over the mass of the significantly larger Galaxy Note 3.

wm_DSC01976

While I spent most of my time messing around with the XL, the experience on all the X phones is basically identical. The only difference internally for the X and X+ is RAM - the X+ has 256MB more than the X. The XL sports a front-facing camera, a better rear camera, a larger battery, and a bigger 5" display. Otherwise, these phones are ridiculously similar - they're all even priced within 20 Euros of one another.

Can Nokia beat many of the more competitive low-end OEMs when it comes to pure price versus performance measurements? Probably not. Can it offer enticing hardware and design with a hell of a lot more brand cachet in tow? Definitely - and that's what's going to move these phones. While they may not be desirable to you or me, Nokia's X phones target a very real segment of the market, and I think they're absolutely on the right track with them.

wm_DSC01988

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • RobbertBobbertson

    Terrible terrible terrible terrible NoooOooooOOOoOoOooo.
    MS trying to intentionally confuse the market, making android phones look like windows phone. Its not Android I weep for, its Nokia.

    • didibus
      • dudi

        You are probably talking about Google with its "Play services" strategy. Or maybe Google with breaking AOSP browser, and not updating AOSP apps...

        • didibus

          Ya, I guess you could say that.

    • gargamel

      This IS Android, you little Google fan. This is one of the best things that ever happened to Android (not Google!). We love choice, and now we can use Android and choose between Nokia and Google ecosystems. This is an amazing development!

  • Tomáš Petrík

    What happens when you sideload an app to a device like this and at some point, it expects Google Play in-app purchase, Google Play Services or similar things? Does it crash?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      It might crash, it might jut not work.

    • David Sousa

      Depends.

      If the apk employs defensive coding, it may not work (as in disabled functionality), as David (Ruddock, not me) says.

      If the apk just expects Google services to be there, then it will probably crash with some kind of exception.

    • José Francisco Rosado Muñoz

      CyanogenMod purpose is the same. Most CM users don't need Google Services as there are so many alternatives and just a little fraction of android apps mandatory require Google APIs

      • nokiasucks

        I'd much rather take CM over this abomination

        why create such a device at all ?

        i doubt that they are serious about servicing their customers, because their real intention is to peddle their expensive winblows phones.

        the low end market is a different segment in itself.

        • José Francisco Rosado Muñoz

          Been thinking about it... I agree with you. The logic I see in this is that lots and lots of apps in Play Store would appear as "incompatible" with these low end nokias. So, they created their own app store so crappy apps and crappy games can be compatible with crappy phones (specs wise). Their own abismal ecosystem...

        • Leonardo Farage Freitas

          IMO, Nokia is targeting developing countries with this phone. With the X series they can replace the Asha series, taking advantage of the already large pool of developers and apps. With this, they replace their feature phones with "smartphones".

    • dibp

      apps downloaded on Nokia x, x+, xL will have nokia in-app payment. The developers have to change it in the source code. same thing with google maps; has to be changed to here maps by the developers. The apps simply won't crash!!!!!!

      • Tomáš Petrík

        Sure, but that was not the question.
        I asked what would happen if somebody sideloaded the original version of an app, intended for Google Play.

  • Proioxix

    Pathetic. What a total disappointment.

    • aldisiij367

      my Aunty Eva recently got a nice 12 month
      old Audi allroad Wagon by working off of a macbook... look at this site C­a­s­h­D­u­t­i­e­s­.­ℂ­o­m

  • http://twitter.com/phonecount StalkyTheFish

    Out of the box, not that interesting, but I can't wait to see what the hackers do with them!

  • RadarJammer

    GAPS to the rescue ....

  • Markoff

    does it have super sensitive display you can operate with gloves (same as WP lumia line) unlike most other Android phones?

    • Kevin Turabian

      There are lot's of phones that work with gloves on, a few examples are the Galaxy S4, the Note 3, or Xperia Z1/Z2.

      • xperia

        add to that list - xperia SP, sola, L, Z, Z1 compact, z ultra, etc

  • Pitou

    Quick question: Can I install that Nokia Store on my Nexus 5 ?

    • Yash Ostwal

      Why would anyone, even in their wildest dreams, do that? Why God, WHY!

  • Sootie

    As a cheap phone for your parents/grandparents to use this beats the heck out of an iphone now, android was always a bit complicated to try and explain to technophobes and iphones are too expensive this looks like it might hit this target perfectly.

    • nokiasucks

      how do you know before you used it ?

      every phone has its challenges for the parents/ grandparents. to trash iphone and then say this one is better than it is stupid

      • Sootie

        I don't know I'm just going off the photos of the interface and the description provided by David (the one back button and single task nature he describes above). Also I didn't trash iPhones I actually said they were the best for an older generation I just said they were expensive compared to the expected price for these.

        Just because its not what you wanted it to be doesn't mean nobody can ever use it for anything.

        To argue on the internet is also stupid so I wont reply again.

  • nokiasucks

    nokia has been thrashing android for years at end now.
    so nokia and microsoft are eating crow, now that they are forced to use android as a gateway strategy.

    as a former nokia fan, what a disappointment!
    I'd have liked a "real" nokia-android phone.

  • usaff22

    Can't wait to put HERE maps from that phone onto my Nexus 5!

  • Rovex

    People need to remember how cheap these are. The price quoted isn't the US price, or carrier price.

    The X is 89euros SIM free, in the UK the 8GB MotoX is £149, thats 180euros or $249.

    • jswinds

      The MotoG is ~£149 in the UK. The MotoX is closer to £329

      • Dale

        The Moto G 8gb can be had for £99 in the UK (eg Argos).

        • Rovex

          Not SIM free.

          • Leonardo Farage Freitas

            They can't compete with the MOTO G!

          • Rovex

            Did you miss that the Moto G is a lot more expensive??

          • Leonardo Farage Freitas

            It's like 60 euros more than the XL. That's not a lot more expensive, IMO.

          • Rovex

            In is in emerging markets where 60 euros can be a weeks wages, or more.

    • Jounar

      The Moto G 8gb is only €150 which works out around £95-101 and that's sim free,

      • Rovex

        Still 60 more than the Nokia X or hadnt you noticed? 150 euros is £125.

        • Jounar

          Yeah its cheaper but you get what you pay for. Outdated specs and a weird hybrid android OS that can't access the Google play store. And lets be honest, do you really think dev's will bother to make apps for the Nokia store?

          • Rovex

            These are for emerging markets where that extra cost can amount to a weeks wages, or more. You realise that right?

          • Leonardo Farage Freitas

            Well, he has to choose then. Wait a few more weeks or buy the Nokia X (+, L)..

            I wouldn't recommend the Nokia X for anyone that asked for my opnion. But I understand people buying it.

  • Duy Pham Xuan

    I will buy it if I can sync gmail contacts on this phone

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    They lost me at "forked."

    • Leonardo Farage Freitas

      Is it because you don't know what "fork" means in this context? Or just sarcasms? :P

      • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

        I understand what forked means... what I mean is that I have no interest in a forked version of android, so they lost all my interest.

        • Leonardo Farage Freitas

          I'll fit it into sarcasms then :P

          But I don't have a problem with the forked part. Just the rest of it :P

  • Luis Millán

    Can't wait for AOSP ports for these phones

    When they become a reality, i *might* get one of these

    • Mike Reid

      I'd get one and slap CM or other on it.

      Last I heard, Nokia HW quality is still good.

      I understand some of the hate, for forking and no GAPPs etc. but I think there's too much hate here. How long have many of us been saying Nokia and Blackberry both should go Android. Now they head in that direction... and... hate.

      Still, with MS involved this could be a trojan horse for the ol' "Embrace, extend, extinguish" routine that made MS dominant in desktop OS's.

      But that won't matter to those of us who ROM. If enough of these things sell, ROM devs will pop up soon enough.