NEW DELHI: At an event in Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Nokia announced three smartphones powered by Android, a mobile operating system created by Google. The company has launched the phones — Nokia X,Nokia X+ and Nokia XL — just weeks before it is scheduled to close sale of its phone business to Microsoft.
Google and Microsoft are competitors in the smartphone market. This has led to speculation that Nokia X phones may not survive for long. Nokia X phones are developed keeping emerging markets like India in mind. In most of these markets, Android dominates — in India, the market share is around 90% — and Nokia hopes to woo consumers with the Android tag attached to its phones.
These phones have modest hardware specifications and are likely to be priced between Rs 9,000 and Rs 12,000 in India. The Nokia X is likely to be available in India next month, while the other two phones will be available in Q2, 2014.
Nokia is using the open source version of Android, which is free to modify and doesn’t require permission from Google. It is not using Google services like the Google Play store, GMail and YouTube that require permission from Google.
Nokia has replaced parts of Android with its own services like Here maps and will ship the phones with its own app store. It also connects to a number of Microsoft services like Skype. “The Nokia X takes people to the Microsoft cloud and not the Google cloud. This is very deliberate because with Nokia X family, Microsoft will be able to reach people it has never talked to before around the world,” said Nokia CEO Stephen Elop.
Elop is expected to rejoin Microsoft after the American company completes its acquisition of Nokia’s phone business by the end of this quarter.
Nokia faced calls to make Android phones from analysts earlier but it steadfastly refused. Instead the company entered in a partnership with Microsoft to exclusively make Windows Phones in 2011. In 2010, Anssi Vanjoki, who was heading Nokia’s smartphone division at that time, compared using Android to “peeing in pants” for temporary warmth. Last year, Nokia’s head for media relations Douglas Dawson told TOI that the company was fully committed to Windows Phone and had no plans to create an Android phone.
But analysts say that Nokia has been forced to opt for Android by market realities. “Nokia might be a little late in launching Android devices but this move makes a lot of sense especially in markets like India. There is lot of growth in sub-Rs 10,000 smartphone market and with Nokia X range of phones, the Finnish company is hoping to cash in on the Android popularity in the emerging markets,” said Manasi Yadav, senior market analyst with IDC.