It’s amazing how Nokia has placed a low-end smartphone on the front and centre for its MWC 2014 lineup. The new Nokia X has created an amazing amount of interest, particularly when it was revealed that the device is based on the Android Open Sourced Project (AOSP).
But, as the rumours have pointed out time and again, this device is not meant to be a flagship of any sort, but rather serve as yet another platform for Nokia’s lower-end offerings. And so it proved with the Nokia X, X+ and XL, three smartphones of varying sizes and specs but all geared towards an entry-level price point.
Interestingly, Nokia is calling this platform the Nokia X Platform, similar to how it named its other low-end operating system the Asha Platform. At its MWC 2014 booth, Nokia was even actively calling out to developers to produce quality apps on the platform, with a set of APIs that are already available. It will be very interesting how this turns out, though we won’t be surprised if this eventually replaces the Asha Platform altogether.
As for the devices themselves, the Nokia X, X+ and XL all share a very Asha-esque design language, featuring thick colourful slabs of polycarbonate that is likely able to take quite a beating. However, they’re not heavy either, with the exception to the XL, which weighs 190g.
Otherwise, the general feel of the Nokia X devices are largely similar to that of the Asha devices. But what’s more interesting is in the software. The UI is a cauldron of Windows Phone, Android and even Asha Platform influences. The Fastlane UI is here, coupled with a Live Tiles-style app drawer, while the entire system is based on Android. The tiles on the app drawer can be resized to personalize it in a similar way to Windows Phone users, while the Fastlane screen shows off the last 50 activities you’ve done with your phone.
Given that this variant of Android does not contain any Google Apps – including the Play Store – users would have to be creative in procuring their apps. Most of the Nokia X devices available at the Nokia booth had all kinds of Android apps already installed, from Flappy Birds to even the popular Nova Launcher, giving a stock Android skin on a Nokia device…not to mention wetting the pants of plenty of geeks the world over.
The Nokia guys I spoke to at the booth had no problems with procuring apps from stores outside of the Play Store. There’s the Yandex marketplace that is popular in Russia, while many Nokia X owners in the booth had more than one app store installed. Being developers, this is of course not a challenge, but this lack of a central repository for apps will likely frustrate new customers, especially when many are already confused by the Android-but-not-Google-Android nature of the platform.
With its Malaysian launch less than two weeks away from now, Nokia is clearly aiming to push the Nokia X devices and its userbase as quickly as possible. With more users, more developers would be interested with the opportunity, thus further expanding the barren Nokia X app store.
Just don’t expect Nokia to build a high-end Android. Not right now, at least.