Despite Nokia's sworn allegiance to Microsoft and Windows Phone, the company may be working on a low-end Android phone for emerging markets.
Images of Nokia's Android handset, codenamed Normandy, first appeared in November, and at the time it seemed like either a hedge or a bargaining chip for Nokia. After all, Nokia is the main producer of Windows Phones, and as the New York Times reported in September, a potential switch to Android might have made Microsoft more eager to acquire the Finnish phone maker.
But now, The Verge and All Things D are reporting that Nokia plans to go ahead with the launch, even with Microsoft's Nokia acquisition pending. And Microsoft might even be willing to let it happen.
It's not as crazy as it sounds. Nokia doesn't only produce Windows Phones. The company also has a low-end handset line called Asha, but it's based on aging software and it's not a great platform for apps. Normandy, which reportedly also has the codename AoL (for Asha on Linux), would be a successor.
Android, kind of
Instead of running stock Android, Nokia's Normandy could run a highly modified version, similar to how Amazon has re-purposed Android for its Kindle Fire tablets. This would allow Nokia to create a unique look and feel for the device, while still being able to support Android apps. The phone could even serve as a vessel for Microsoft services such as Bing and Skype, placating Nokia's new overlords.
The only hitch is that Microsoft wants Windows Phone itself to become a bigger low-end player. Nokia's Lumia 520, currently the cheapest Windows Phone, can be had for as little as $70 off-contract. The question is whether Microsoft can push Windows Phone even cheaper in emerging markets. If not, Normandy might be necessary to fill the void, especially in light of Google's low-end push in Android 4.4.
With that in mind, there's no chance Nokia's Android ambitions would expand beyond the cheapest of smartphones, especially after Microsoft's acquisition goes through. Assuming the Nokia Normandy is real, U.S. smartphone users will likely never see it up close.