Nokia is to release three new Android phones in a much-anticipated move to diversify the range of products it offers. Distribution of the Nokia X series will be limited, with emerging markets being specifically targeted.
The 4-inch Nokia X will be the series’ base model, the Nokia X+ will offer an extra 256 MB RAM, whilst Nokia XL will feature a 5-inch display.
A key justification for Nokia’s Android phones is cost. As the company has been focussing exclusively on Windows Phone devices in recent times, Android has been left to dominate the budget smartphone market.
Windows Phone carries a licence fee and Microsoft also set stringent hardware requirements. This adds to the cost of Nokia’s smartphones, meaning that they are unable to compete at lower price points.
True cost of the Nokia X
On first reading, the pricing of the new phones appears very attractive. The Nokia X series has been promoted as starting from €89, which rises to €109 for the most expensive handset in the range.
There is only one problem. The prices that have been quoted do not include sales taxes, resulting in misleading comparisons being made.
Android Wafer has discovered that in some markets the retail pricing of Nokia’s new Android phones will be comparable to the costs of entry-level Windows Phone devices.
In France, for instance, the Nokia X will be priced at €119, with the Nokia XL costing €149 (the Nokia X+ won’t be released in France). By contrast, the Nokia Lumia 520 – which runs Windows Phone 8 – is widely available today from retailers such as Cdiscount, Amazon and MATERIEL.NET at around €119,89, with an additional €20 cashback available as well.
It’s not about the money, money, money
When it comes to the price tag, Nokia has not achieved anything that they have not already accomplished with Windows Phone. The company also remains without any products that can compete against the likes of Alcatel, Huawei and ZTE, who offer smartphones for less than half the price of the Nokia X or Nokia Lumia 520.
As Android Wafer reported recently, Microsoft is set to lower the cost of a Windows Phone licence and heavily reduce the OS’ hardware requirements. So the idea that the new Android phones were born because both Microsoft and Nokia realised that they would be unable to compete on price otherwise is clearly something of a red herring.
It is clear that the Nokia X is not simply the Android Open Source Project with a new launcher stuck on top. Nokia has undertaken a considerable amount of development work, including creating its own APIs to replace Google’s, in addition to building the basis for a new app ecosystem.
Will Microsoft scrap the Nokia X?
At one time, the Nokia X was clearly part of a sophisticated long-term strategy. If Microsoft were ever on-board with the plan, they are not any longer, having revealed a shift that will see Windows Phone heading into the space that the Nokia X is trying to occupy.
It is worth reminding ourselves that Microsoft is in the final stages of acquiring Nokia’s handset business. The Finnish company will therefore have needed to gain approval for the Nokia X’s release, if they did not want to risk jeopardising the takeover deal.
There remains a possibility that Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s handset business is on the verge of falling through. This could explain the reported on-again-off-again nature of the Nokia X project.
Android Wafer has not heard anything to suggest that there are difficulties completing the takeover, however. Given the number of people involved in the final stages of a large acquisition, it is likely that news would have leaked if an iceberg had been hit.
The most probable explanation as to why Microsoft would approve the Nokia X is relatively straightforward. It would be senseless to cause disharmony in a company you are about to acquire by meddling in projects that staff have worked hard on, particularly when said projects are of no threat.
Pricing of the Nokia X is not exactly compelling. Nokia also needs to prove that it can overcome the stumbling blocks that tripped up BlackBerry when they initially tried to attract Android developers to the BlackBerry PlayBook’s new QNX-based operating system, which at the time was offering widespread compatibility with existing Android 2.3 Gingerbread apps.
None of this is to say that the Nokia X is doomed to failure. A handset from the Finnish company was many people’s first experience of owning a mobile phone. Nokia is a brand that retains a lot of affection and still holds a certain allure.
The future of the Nokia X won’t be determined by any long-term strategy to avoid even the slightest dependence on Google. It will come down to something much more straightforward: sales.
If Nokia’s hard-earnt reputation proves sufficient to attract both customers and developers, the new Android phones won’t be abandoned by Microsoft. At the very least, they would offer an opportunity to tie consumers to the Microsoft cloud, using services like Skype and Outlook instead of Hangouts and Gmail.
Should the Nokia X fail to fly off the shelves, then little energy will be expended by Microsoft trying to ignite the platform. The phones will simply slip away quietly, following the path already taken by previous devices such as the MeeGo-powered Nokia N9.