Rumors of Nokia launching an Android phone seemed unlikely for a company acquired by Microsoft, but the company today announced not just one Android device, but three: the Nokia X, X+ and XL. The company’s flirtation with Android does, however, appear to be a token one – not that Microsoft is pleased.
The three budget phones are effectively hybrid devices. Not only have they been given an overlay designed to make them look like they are running Windows Phone, they aren’t even running a standard version of Android and won’t be able to run apps from the Google Play store …
Instead, they run a heavily-modified version of Android (an approach Amazon took with its Kindle Fire ebook readers). While apps would need only a small amount of adaptation to run on the devices, it’s unclear how many developers will bother to do this and upload them to Nokia’s own app store given that the X range are budget devices that won’t be sold in either Europe or the USA.
The Nokia X has a 4-inch, low-res display, with just 512MB RAM and 4GB of storage, and is expected to sell for the equivalent of $120 in a range of developing markets. The X+ is an X with slightly more RAM, while the XL gets you a 5-inch screen but otherwise much the same specs.
Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop says that the hybrid phones are intended to act as a gateway to Windows Phone devices.
Nokia Lumia continues to be our primary smartphone strategy. We are deliberately using the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) without Google cloud services. This ensures a high degree of Android app compatibility, while introducing the next billion people to Microsoft. Nokia X gives people a gateway to Microsoft.
It doesn’t seem a particularly convincing argument. Perhaps Elop just wanted to register a token protest to Microsoft at being passed over for the CEO role …