For the longest time, my only involvement with smartphones was limited to Nokia's Symbian devices, then I bought an HTC Desire Z in February 2011 and the rest, as they say, is history. I was immediately ecstatic about most of the Android experience save for two aspects where my heart strings kept tugging back to my Nokia N8: photography and mapping. Android cameras have improved a lot over the past three years — I am amazed by the Lumia 1020's scary-good 41MP sensor, but my LG G3 does an excellent job 99% of the time — and so did Google Maps, but at no point has Google's mapping service completely levelled up with parts of the experience that I used to get through Nokia Maps, even in 2010 on an N8.
Last month Nokia announced that it would release a version of its highly-regarded HERE mapping and navigation app for Android, but only to licensed partners, starting with Samsung. Late last week an APK for a beta version of HERE, labeled as 1.0, was posted to MediaFire and spotted by Spanish language Android enthusiast site El Android Libre. The app appears to work with any Android device running 4.0 or higher.
Nokia is generally regarded as the best maker of Windows-powered phones on the market, which is probably why Microsoft snatched them up. While most of that attention is focused on the Finnish company's solid hardware, Nokia's custom HERE mapping platform has also received rave reviews, with many saying it outperforms Microsoft's own maps. Now Nokia is bringing a beta version of HERE Maps to Android... but strangely, only on Samsung hardware.
Every major corporation has to fire people at some point. But Microsoft's plan to eliminate 18,000 jobs this year is, to say the least, a big deal. The company announced its plans on a blog post titled "Starting to Evolve Our Organization and Culture," written by new CEO Satya Nadella. Former Nokia employees will bear the brunt of this downsize, with 12,500 office and factory workers from the Finnish phone giant being laid off.
The big question on everyone's mind when Nokia revealed the Android-powered X line was whether their new masters at Microsoft would continue the line after the acquisition. It looks like Redmond is ready for another lap around the Android pool, at least in conjunction with its extensively-customized software load, because Nokia just announced the X2 for immediate release. The 99 Euro ($135) phone is "available immediately in select countries globally." Both global and select, huh?
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 unveiled its long-awaited Android-powered phone today, but in something of a twist, it turned out to be not just one device, but three! As expected, the Nokia X, X+, and XL all run software based on the Android Open Source Project, but that software looks very little like Android in most respects. Like Amazon's Fire OS, Nokia's "X" Android fork eschews all of Google's various products and services in favor of a heavily modified user experience and custom app ecosystem.