This morning Nokia finally took the wraps off a long rumoured (and leaked) Android phone – unveiling a family of smartphones, called the Nokia X range, with the first three handsets being the Nokia X, X+ and XL, the first two with 4-inch displays, and the latter on the cusp of phablet territory with a 5-inch pane.
The Nokia X family forks Android, using the Android Open Source Project, in order to replace Google’s services with Nokia’s own, and with cloud offerings from the soon-to-be-parent of Nokia’s mobile making division, Microsoft.
“The Nokia X takes people to Microsoft’s cloud, not to Google’s cloud,” said Nokia’s Stephen Elop at today’s launch.
The strategy here is for Nokia X handsets to work as “feeder” devices — or, using another metaphor, as a gateway drug — to encourage users who are in the market for a low end smartphone today to upgrade to a full-fat Windows Phone-powered Nokia Lumia tomorrow.
To achieve this Nokia has brought together different elements from multiple platforms to make up the Nokia X, creating a mobile UI cocktail that’s one part-Android, one-part Windows Phone, with a sprinkling of Nokia’s Asha UI and even a philosophical dash of MeeGo/Maemo. Nokia’s Jussi Mäkinen told TechCrunch that the development team that’s been beavering away on Nokia X for the past year are especially excited to be working on an open source project again.
Yesterday, at Microsoft’s press event, the Windows Phone VP Joe Belfiore conceded that Microsoft’s mobile platform has “slightly more natural appeal in the low end” — owing to its relative lack of apps vs Android/iOS.
But the problem has been pushing the price-tag low enough to compete with budget Androids. The Nokia X family fixes that, with an initial price-point range of: $122, $136 and $150 for the X, X+ and XL respectively. (The entry level Lumia, the Lumia 520, was announced at last year’s MWC with a price-tag of $180).
Expect the Nokia X family to be expanded to include even cheaper handsets, as Elop talked up the opportunity around sub-$100 phones, and also for Nokia to continue trying to squeeze the price of an entry level Lumia even lower.
TechCrunch got hands on with the Nokia X handsets here at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Read on for our first impressions.
The Nokia X and X+ are the same handset on the surface, with the X+ having beefed up internal memory (and thus a higher price-tag). All three devices in the range have a clean look, with matte plastic casing that feels soft and smooth in the hand. Edges are squared off, with rounded corners and gently curving backs.
On the X and X+ the handset has a pleasingly chunky feel, while the XL takes the same design and stretches it so it’s bigger across the front but also thinner. The result is a large handset, that looks very bold — especially when painted in the bright orange colour variant — yet isn’t too heavy in the hand (which was a problem for Nokia with its early Lumia flagships).
As with the rest of Nokia’s handset portfolio, all the devices in the Nokia X family are offered in a choice of eye-popping colours — including a luminous green for the Nokia X/X+ (which came out more yellow in the shots below, thanks to the on-sight green lighting), and the aforementioned ‘high-vis jacket’ orange.
Cyan, yellow and red are also offered, along with white and black for people who want something more vanilla. All three handsets have user-removeable/replacement batteries, with the casing peeling off of the front of the phone to come away as a single piece.
The Nokia X/X+ is pictured in the gallery below.