February 24, 2014, 5:05 AM — In a bid to go after the low-end smartphone segment, Nokia is using Android with its own user interface and Microsoft services on the X, X+ and XL devices.
The last couple of years has seen Android take over the fast growing low-end smartphone market thanks to a wide variety of apps and low price points, which Nokia now hopes to take advantage of with its new X family.
The phones are all based on the Android Open Source Project software.
"That means people will have access to hundreds of thousands of applications right out of the box. With AOSP we benefit from the app and hardware ecosystem, but we have differentiated by adding our own services," said Stephen Elop, executive vice president for Devices & Services at Nokia.
One big question when the first reports of the X family started circulating was whether Microsoft would sell the phones when it takes over Nokia's handset business, and is backing the strategy, according to Elop.
The Google services available on regular Android devices have been replaced by Microsoft services such as Skype, Outlook.com and OneDrive for hosted storage. However, when asked about the availability of Office, Elop did not comment.
Nokia has also added in-house applications such as Here maps.
The phones won't come with Google's Play app store. But users will be able to access apps from Nokia's own Store, as well as more than a dozen third-party app stores and by sideloading. Most Android apps, but not all, will work directly on the X family, Elop said.
The user interface has tiles that can be resized just like the Windows Phone UI, but also the Fast Lane navigation feature from the Asha family, which lets users see most recently used apps.
"What Nokia has done is put a Windows suit on Android. The interface looks very similar to Windows Phone," said Malik Saadi, practice director at ABI Research.
All members of the X family are powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor from Qualcomm and can be equipped with dual SIM cards, which is a must in many developing countries.
The XL has a 5-inch screen with a 800 by 480 pixel resolution, a 2-megapixel front camera and a 5-megapixel camera on the back. There is 768MB of RAM and 4GB of integrated storage.
The X and X+ both have a 4-inch screen with a 800 by 480 pixel resolution and a 3-megapixel camera. Both devices have 4GB of integrated storage, but the X+ has 768MB of RAM instead of 512MG and a microSD card slot.
The Nokia X will go on sale immediately, priced from €89 (US$120) in Asia-Pacific, Europe, India, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
The Nokia X+ and Nokia XL are expected to start shipping in the same parts of the world during the beginning of the second quarter, and will cost €99 and €109, respectively.