With Android taking up the lion’s share of the smartphone users’ consciousness, there’s always been speculation (hope?) amongst Nokia fans that the Finnish giant would, perhaps, be better off with Android (instead of the Windows) as its operating system.
Nokia complied. At the Mobile Web Congress in February 2014, the company launched its Nokia X range, comprising Nokia X, the Nokia X+ and the Nokia XL – the series that runs on Android.
The whole idea behind the Nokia X series was to bring a smart phone experience to developing markets, not to provide a lavish android experience, and there, it succeeded.
This is a series driven by AOSP, the Android Open Source Project. And there’s a twist. While the Nokia X series runs the underlying Android system (Jelly Bean), it doesn’t run Google apps. Instead, it customizes the experience by featuring analogous services from its own stable and that of Microsoft. For some reason, though, there’s no attempt to strut new products, and Skype is the only MS item pre-installed (but then, so is Blackberry messenger, which kills Skype’s exclusivity, in a way!) Of course, there’s an API to port apps from Google without hassle.
If you’re switching to Nokia X from another Android device, yes, you will notice the differences. Nokia Store, instead of Play Store, for example. But what with the former loading up fast with top apps (your favourites – from Cricbuzz to Zomato, are all here!), there’s a good chance you will be pleasantly surprised. In fact, there’s no dearth of the good stuff. The standard Android Mail App is right there (as are the notifications pull down, settings menu, and the text messaging application). The HERE maps are positively WOW. And MixRadio, letting you stream music and download mixes for playing in offline mode later, should make you smile. When in lock screen (power-saver) mode, the Glance Screen (an ‘import’ from the Lumia series) gives you a quick lowdown on notifications and time. And the intuitive Fastlane (simply swipe to the left or right) lets you check recent activities along a timeline (there are ways to hide information if too personal) – and by keeping a tab on your activities, makes finding your way around the device a breeze.
So what’s powering this epic shift from Windows to Android for the X? Deep within, a dual-core Snapdragon S4 Play processor with 1GHz, 512Mb of RAM and 4GB of internal storage (you can augment that with a microSD card.
If the first thing that catches your eye with the Nokia X is the truly catchy colours, the build will definitely be next. The squarish frame is solidly crafted from plastic. Reassuringly hard (yet with soft edges around the port cutouts), the ergonomic size and gentle curves means that the X sits snugly in your hand. Nokia has always triumphed in design, and here’s a noteworthy encore. At this price point, the quality of this very ably sculpted hardware certainly qualifies as something to cherish. The third thing you register is that, instead of the usual 3, there’s only one button on the front. Fourth? The camera: It’s not jutting out, resulting in a level finish. The volume rocker and power button grace is one the right. The micro-USB port is at the bottom, and the 3.5mm headphone jack on top. In keeping with the Nokia design tradition, the left side is free of buttons.
The screen experience (a 4-inch, 800X480 WVGA LCD display) on the X is, arguably, not as strong. And while it will respond to your touch great, the resolution is on the lower side. The home screen, reminiscent of the Windows Phone interface, is a customizable salad of apps and gadgets. You can drag the tiles around and even increase the size of the apps you use most often. Check for the menus at the base, surf the net with a custom-built web browser, and type reasonably fast on the keyboard (download the SwiftKey from Nokia Store, and the typing velocity picks up appreciably!)
Despite being 1500mAh, the Nokia X battery hold more juice than, say, a comparable Asha or Lumia (the 520, specifically) device. It may not run an entire busy day, but certainly won’t give you reason to crib, either.
What about calls? Well, while it gives you a dialler that’s pretty basic, the Nokia X scores with a speaker that kicks out a loud volume, call quality that is good and signal strength that’s excellent (it remains high most of the time, in turn enabling good data speed). And the Dual SIM helps save battery life, too!
The camera (no front facing, and no flash) on the X has a simple interface that comes with capture, zoom slider, and 3MP fixed focus (no special modes). Switch to video panorama easily by sweeping the phone through 360 degrees. An 854 x 480 resolution is what you get, but the result can leave several of its competitors in the shade.
The MicroSD lets you play back videos and music easily, with a simple 5-band equalizer, 3D slider and bass boost to tailor your listening. The pre-installed Astro file manager lets you browse to a video file. The Android formats on the X plays the video playbacks.
This is a phone that takes its time to complete tasks. Yes, it’s not the fastest out there, which can be a deal breaker with heavy gamers (though lighter stuff like, say, Angry Birds will work just fine). That, and the fact that you don’t really get to multi-task with apps, are the biggest drawback of this otherwise nifty performer.
So what about the other players in X pack?
Let’s turn our attention to the X+. For the uninitiated, the X+ can be deceptively similar to the X at first sight. Both are a handful and stout, and eloquent testimonies to Nokia’s legendary design capabilities. Most of the other features are common, as well. But the X+ does have a decidedly more vibrant, 4inch WVGA screen that responds instantly to the touch, making it a rather smart catch at this price point.
Which brings us to the big daddy of the series – the Nokia XL. At 5 inch, this is the largest display, and the chunkiest package, in the X series. The other differences with the X and X+ is the 768 MB RAM, and a 5MP (rear) and 2MP (front facing) camera. The rest of the features are similar to the X and X+. And how does it stack up? Again, at its price range, the XL is a big, big deal.