Nokia underscored its commitment to emerging markets by releasing three new devices using the Android operating platform at the recent Mobile World Congress.
The Nokia X, Nokia X+ and Nokia XL smartphones aim to bring Internet and cloud services to the next billion combined with Nokia's slick industrial design and renowned high quality. An initial inspection during MWC confirms the devices have a high quality feel and an attractive user interface.
In an Android first, the user interface is tile-based, similar to Nokia's Lumia devices, which run Windows phone o/s. All come with Fastlane, a screen which, Nokia claims, lets users switch between apps more smoothly. Users also gain access to quality-tested apps from Nokia Store, more than a dozen third-party app stores and by sideloading. Out of the box, they can enjoy signature Nokia experiences including maps and integrated turn-by-turn navigation, and Nokia MixRadio for music streaming and downloadable playlists. All devices are also pre-loaded with a variety of third-party apps and games. The Nokia X family also offers an affordable introduction to popular Microsoft services, including cloud storage using OneDrive.
According to the company, the Nokia X, X+ and XL are priced to capture the fast-growing affordable smartphone market. The Nokia X, comes with a 4" capacitive display and 3MP camera. The Nokia X+ is optimised for multimedia enthusiasts, who can enjoy even more games, music, photos and video thanks to more memory and storage. Both the Nokia X and Nokia X+ will be available in bright green, bright red, cyan, yellow, black and white.
The third family member, the Nokia XL, boasts a 5" display with 2MP front-facing camera - ideal for video calls - and a 5MP rear-facing, autofocus camera with flash. The Nokia XL will be available in bright green, orange, cyan, yellow, black and white. The entire Nokia X family is powered by the Qualcomm® Snapdragon(TM) dual core processor and supports Dual SIM, letting users switch SIM cards to get better tariffs.
The Nokia X is on sale now, starting at c.US$125.00 and rolling-out in Asia-Pacific, Europe, India, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. The Nokia X+ and Nokia XL are expected to roll out in these markets starting early second quarter 2014, priced at US$140.00 and US$150.00, respectively. At these prices Nokia X phones are still planted firmly at the high end of the market and are likely to appeal to more prosperous markets in Asia and Central and Eastern Europe than to poorer areas of Africa or Latin America.
Nokia wants to continue serving these areas with beefed up Asha feature phones, 2 new models of which were also announced during MWC. However, with the smartphone market now starting to grow and demand for data services in Africa and elsewhere increasing, it's not certain whether this strategy will work. Several rival handset vendors are producing Android based smartphones which they claim can match Nokia for quality and feel and access to services, while undercutting them on price.
Whether the potential access to Microsoft services such as Skype, that Nokia wants its X devices to act as an 'on-ramp' for, is enough to offset the higher prices remains to be seen.