A smart move! The Nokia X-series: Android with Microsoft services (and a nice camera on the XL)

No doubt, Nokia "going Android" with the Nokia X, X+ and XL was the biggest surprise of this years Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, although we already heard much about it thanks to the incredibly accurate sources from  @evleaks.

Now there is no PureView to be found in the Nokia X, but it's a very interesting development, so I'd like to share my thoughts about it with you here anyway - moreover, the camera on the XL even proved to be pretty nice :-)

Go Nokia!

As Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop wrote it in his (in)famous memo, the mobile industry lives in a "war of ecosystems", and a bit more than one year ago I wrote about what I thought of that "battlefield". Reading  that post now one year later, I'm actually a bit surprised - I'll quote a few of my own lines:

Why would it be so unthinkable for Nokia to produce Android smartphones? Would that be some kind of treason? To what? (...) Nokia has always said it will be looking for the best way to survive in this war and keep all options open. (...) So if Nokia is really keeping an eye open for any plan B, isn’t it most likely to be Android after all? (...) I’d buy high-end Nokia hardware running on the newest Android platform too. In a heartbeat. Why not? It’s not platforms, it’s people who create wars."

I'm not trying to prove that I'm some kind of visionnary here, only that the thought of Nokia going the Android way seemed logical to me, a bit more than a year ago even. The important difference is, Nokia didn't choose Android to realize a high-end flagship, but a few low-end devices - at a very interesting price point! Stephen Elop during Nokia Press Conference - 3 - Mobile World Congress 2014

The big difference between now and a year ago of course is that Nokia is very close to be part of Microsoft - some have suggested Microsoft isn't very happy with the latest development at all. But why wouldn't Microsoft be pleased?

Nokia X will introduce many people to the Windows Phone interface. It's not exactly the same of course, but everybody will have noticed how similar it is. The idea might be that after getting acquainted with this OS, people might be tempted to buy a Lumia at a later point in their life. It will be easier at least.


In last year's post, I wrote "I know a lot of Nokia fans downright hate Android, and they would never ever buy a Nokia device again if the company would produce smartpones running on Android as well." But I wonder if that's still true the way Nokia is using Android in the Nokia X-series, since they're doing just about everything to avoid Google.

With the choice of this free OS, it's possible for Nokia to produce interesting smartphones at an even lower price point than the cheapest Lumia, since there are no licencing fees Nokia has to pay Microsoft. How would that be good for Microsoft?

Stephen Elop during Nokia Press Conference - 5 - Mobile ord Congress 2014

The Nokia X-series will introduce much more people to Microsoft's services, like OneDrive (including 10GB free cloud storage), Skype and Outlook.com. Each and everyone attracted to those services, will be a win for Microsoft. And there's a lot we already know from Nokia Lumia you'll find on the Nokia X as well, like the popular Nokia MixRadio and Here Maps (including off-line map usage and turn by turn navigation).

So in short: it will be a completely new OS, based on Android, but making people use Microsoft's services, getting them acquainted with the Windows Phone interface and luring them to buy a more expensive or even high-end Windows Phone when they're able to afford one.

That's something I don't think Microsoft can possibly object to. Moreover: this can't come as a surprise to Microsoft, since Nokia is offering a dedicated Skype application - and Skype is already in Microsoft's posession. I don't think Stephen Elop is in the position to surprise Microsoft with an unexpected move either. No, this is a very smart move, I'm sure.

And for Nokia it's of extreme importance to connect "the next billion" customers. The ones that can't afford a Lumia (yet), but for whom a feature phone like the Nokia 220 just isn't enough. Since the Nokia X-series, there really is a Nokia at every price point.

Nokia XL - first impressions.
Now I didn't get to work with the Nokia XL like I would if I needed to test the device. But I was quite impressed with what you get for a price of  €109 (ex VAT and subsidies) - and that's the most expensive of the current three in the X-series! It's design is by Stefan Pannenbecker, Head of Design at Nokia. So you will clearly recognize his design language. Here's a close up I shot from the yellow Nokia XL.

Nokia XL

The 5 inch screen looks good eough. The OS works fluent, though not as fast as you expect from a Lumia. Besides the Microsoft services I already mentioned, you'll get dedicated apps for BBM and Facebook, and of course you can download applications and games.

Not only from Nokia's own store but also from Android markets like Yandex and ApDroid. It can't be a surprise you won't find Google Play in the menu: it means you don't need a Gmail address to download applications.

In the camera menu, you will even find a few options some of us (including me) would also like to find in the Nokia Camera application, namely Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness...

Camera menu Nokia XL

The 5MP camera of the Nokia XL is no PureView device, I don't even think it has Carl Zeiss optics, but below you'll see one shot I made with it and I must say I'm pretty impressed with the result (I was allowed to send the file to my own Lumia 1020 using Bluetooth).

Captured during MWC 2014 with the Nokia XL

Last but not least, the Nokia X-series - like the Nokia 220 - boast a standby time of no less than four weeks (!).

As I was extremely lucky to get a reserved seat in the front row during the Nokia press conference (thank you @XavierNokia), I was able to get a few more shots with my Lumia 1020 I think are worth sharing. You'll see them below: first Stephen Elop with a shot from a Skype session and one of the games you can download on your Nokia X-device.

Stephen Elop during Nokia Press Conference -2 - Mobile World Congress 2014

And the last shot I'll share in this post from the Nokia press conference - Stephen Elop proudly showing the new Nokia line-up - from the very affordable models - like the €29 Nokia 220 that was announced during the event - up to the high-end flagships on Windows Phone, the Lumia 1020 and 1520.

It's quite a line-up indeed. Of course I couldn't resist asking whether Nokia will announce the next PureView device this year as well, but as expected, mr. Elop wouldn't answer that (and there wasn't a "one more thing" either :-)

Stephen Elop during Nokia Press Conference - 1 - Mobile World Congress 2014

I have "one more thing" for you though. Here's a scene I've actually never seen from the previous editions of the MWC:  Stephen Elop taking a short tour on the second (!) day of the Mobile World Congress. Maybe I just missed it, but not having seen any shots like these from the previous years, my guess is this was the first year he felt comfortable enough to enjoy the Nokia stand and meet his own people "under the tree".

Stephen Elop at Nokia Stand, Mobile World Congress 2014

There are a few more posts lined up from the Mobile World Congress, so I hope @selop will start joining the PureViewClub as well, like I'm asking all my readers :-)

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