Rumors of Nokia making an Android smartphone had been churning for a long time. Finally, at Mobile World Congress in March, the Finnish company unveiled a new range of phones, the X, X+ and XL, aimed at those who can’t afford hundreds of dollars or pounds on a new mobile.
Running on a forked version of Android, the X range of devices lack Google Play services, which Nokia has ignored, choosing to feature Microsoft’s products instead. While this seems like a good idea on paper, Android doesn’t really stand up too well without the Google foundations — but more on that later.
Furthermore, as these are cheap smartphones meant for emerging markets (taking over from the previous Asha range of phones), Nokia has chosen to go with low-end specs, which impacts the performance and user experience.
Nokia is best known for the build quality of its smartphones, and the Nokia X isn’t any different. Despite a low retail price of around $140 (€89 in Europe and around £100 in the UK), the phone feels solid and well-made. The 128g device sits quite comfortably in one’s palm.
The phone sports a 4-inch display with a resolution of 800×480 pixels, and instead of the three menu buttons found on most Android devices, the Nokia X only has one, which lets you go back. To get back to the home screen, you press and hold it.
The rear cover is removable, swappable for different colors, and sports a matte finish. You’ll need to open up the back to access the dual-SIM card slots which is located next to the 1,500mAh battery.
As a low-cost smartphone, the Nokia X doesn’t come with the bells and whistles you’ll find on more expensive phones. What you get are the basics: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
The X comes with just 4GB of onboard storage, but don’t let that stop you — Nokia has chosen to include a microSD card slot. This gives you an additional 32GB of storage, should you need it.
Powered by the Nokia X platform, the operating system is what’s known as a “forked” version of Android. It’s based on Google’s code, but the interface is all Nokia — and it doesn’t come with any Google apps. (You can install them if you “root” the device, but that will void the warranty.) Instead, what you get is a mix and match of Nokia apps as well as some tweaks to allow Microsoft’s Bing search engine into the picture.
While this may sound like a fine idea in theory, Google has made its services a very large part of the Android ecosystem, and because of that, the Nokia X feels lacking. For a start, if you’ve already made purchases on the Google Play store on your old phone, these aren’t transferrable.
This is point is moot if you’re a new smartphone user, but you’re still missing out on the sheer number of available apps in the Google Play store. Popular messaging app WhatsApp wasn’t available on the Nokia Store, for example, so I had to download a third-party app store called 1MobileMarket and install it from there instead.
The lack of Google support also means you won’t readily be importing your contacts from your Gmail account. In my case I manually downloaded my address book as a vCard. The Nokia X didn’t recognise the country codes in front of the phone numbers, however, so incoming calls and messages won’t show contact details.
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