Nokia X Android smartphone hands-on review
The Nokia X and Nokia X+ are two of the firm's new Android-based budget smartphones, leaving its trend of launching Lumia devices with Windows Phone OS. It's a bold move considering the Finnish firm is in the process of being taken over by Microsoft. Nevertheless, the Nokia X phones have arrived and there are certainly interesting. See also: The 6 best budget smartphones.
If the smartphone market was starting to seem a little boring with Apple and Samsung dominating things, then Nokia has definitely just shook things up a bit. Stephen Elop, Nokia's CEO, says the Nokia X range is aimed at 'growth economies'. To this end, the Nokia X is priced at an outstandingly low €89 so it will be cheaper than the Motorola Moto G, for example.
Nokia X: Design and hardware
We'll start with hardware and the Nokia X looks very similar to the firm's range of Asha budget devices. They phone is square, a little chunky and very colourful. There are six colours to choose from: black, white, yellow, green, orange, cyan so you can take your pick. As is almost customary for Nokia, the tones are very bright and loud.
The device is a little brick-like in its shape and feel. 10.4mm and 129g isn't the best but it's hardly the end of the world either. We're talking about a phone which is as cheap as chips.
A 4in screen with a 480 x 800 resolution is basic and what you might expect from a device this cheap. However, it is an IPS panel which is more unusual for a budget smartphone and provides great viewing angles. Colour saturation and contrast are both good and typical for Nokia. The display is also nice and responsive to the touch.
We're also happy to report the Nokia X has a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chip. This dual-core processor, along with 512MB of RAM, seems to result in smooth performance – at least during our hands-on time with the device.
If you're wondering why we haven't mentioned the Nokia X+ yet, it's because it's barely any different to the Nokia X. With just 768MB of RAM instead of 512, it hardly warrants its own product name. It will cost €99.
Both models have just 4GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot which can accept up to 32GB cards. They are also dual-SIM as standard which may or may not be useful to you. A 3Mp rear camera and 1500mAh battery are two things which we'll have to test out properly once we have a review unit.
Nokia X: Video demo
Nokia X: Android software
Onto software, and the more interesting element of the Nokia X smartphones. As we've mentioned, the devices are running on Android but you wouldn't know it just by looking. Nokia has customised Google's mobile operating system heavily in a similar way to Amazon with its Kindle Fire tablets. It's simply called Nokia X software platform on the spec sheet.
As we expected, the interface looks like Windows Phone, with tiles taking up the home screen which scrolls vertically. Nokia even says that it's 'inspired by Lumia family and as such you can move around and resize the tiles to your liking. You can also group apps into a folder and use widgets.
Fastlane is a swipe away from the homescreen and gives you quick access to your favourite apps. Meanwhile, the familiar Android drop down notifications bar allows you to pick up messages and other notifications while giving you quick settings like Wi-Fi. This is another area where Windows Phone is currently still way behind.
Android support means apps, the main downside to the Windows Phone 8 platform. However, you can't just hit the Google Play store for your content. Instead, you'll have to visit Nokia's own store or third-party alternatives like Yandex. Nokia pre-loads its own apps include Here maps and MixRadio plus others such as Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, Viber and Skype.
There's only one button below the screen and that's back so if you want the menu, you have to slide upwards from the bottom to access it. We're not sure why Nokia didn't just put a menu button below the screen.
Nokia says that all this means the Nokia X delivers 'the best of all worlds' but that's something we're still pondering. The Android system has been so distorted to look like Windows Phone we're not sure who this is going to appeal to. Surely only Windows Phone fans who are frustrated at a lack of apps and are happy to have a budget device in terms of hardware.
The Nokia X itself is relatively nice but it's certainly a confusing proposition for consumers – a Nokia smartphone with Android which looks like Windows Phone. Nokia will want to feed users up to Lumia devices as an upgrade but getting people to start with the Nokia X might be a hard task.