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Microsoft tips Android phone, but hell remains unfrozen

Jun 24, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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Nokia has launched its first Android smartphone under the Microsoft regime. The 4.3-inch Nokia X2 runs a Nokia X Software Platform that’s based on Android.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia was expected to put the kibosh on Nokia’s experimental, Android-based Nokia X smartphone. Surprisingly, however, the newly Microsoft-owned Nokia has just announced a Nokia X2 upgrade, featuring dual SIM capability. Like the X, the X2 runs the Nokia X Software Platform, a heavily forked Android build that supports Android app compatibility.



Meet Microsoft’s first Android phone: the Nokia X2
(click images to enlarge)

Is Microsoft giving up on Windows Phone? Heavens to Betsy, no! In any event, it seems fitting Microsoft is finally fielding an Android device. After all, Microsoft has been profiting from Android for years. The company has raked in millions in royalties from Android vendors in cross-license agreements, including a patent deal with Samsung.

Now, Redmond is taking a more direct approach to Android profits. The Nokia X aimed to fill a gap between its Symbian-based Series 40 “Asha” feature phones and its high-powered Windows Phone-based Lumia phones. According to TechCrunch, Microsoft appears to be buying into Nokia’s experimental strategy of using its Android phones as a “Lumia feeder,” luring users in with Android compatibility. Redmond then hopes to seduce Nokia X2 owners with Microsoft’s value-added services, such as the preloaded Skype, OneDrive, and Outlook apps.

The 99-euro ($134) Nokia N2 is only a slight upgrade to the X, with a larger 4.3-inch display, but still limited to WVGA (800 × 480-pixel) resolution. It moves from a 1GHz, dual-core Snapdragon S4 system-on-chip to a faster 1.2GHz Snapdragon. RAM has been doubled to 1GB, and you still get 4GB of flash, with a microSD slot. The rear camera has moved up to 5 megapixels.

Does the Nokia X2 represent the start of a more open Microsoft? That remains to be seen. In between pressuring companies not to support Linux, Microsoft has flirted with open source at times, but never in a substantial way, and seemingly always toward turning a specific advantage.

Now that Steve Ballmer has left Redmond, and appears to be heading toward a position running the L.A. Clippers, there’s hope that new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will take a more open stance. Nadella has already helped to make Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform a winner, in part because the technology is more open to a variety of open source applications, frameworks, and languages than other Microsoft technologies. In fact, Azure will be available in a more open “Open Licensing” program starting in August.

Also promising is a Windows on the Internet of Things project. So far, there have been no open source promises, but the platform is being marketed toward “makers,” and the first development board is Intel’s Quark-based Galileo open source hacker SBC. Open or not, it suggests that Linux may once again have another Windows-derived rival in embedded devices. Only a decade ago, Linux trailed the combined power of Windows CE (now Windows Embedded) and the lapsed Windows Mobile, but Redmond let its embedded focus slide as it invested heavily in boosting the fortunes of Windows Phone and Windows 8.



Nokia X2 screens: home (left); task-selection (right)
(click images to enlarge)

As for the Nokia X2, it remains to be seen whether Microsoft’s Trojan Horse strategy will work. In the past, “almost Android” solutions have usually failed, such as BlackBerry’s addition of Android compatibility. Considering the Nokia X Software Platform is actually Android under a Windows Phone-like skinning, it will likely offer a better Android experience.

Still, as we’ve seen from the delayed launches of emerging mobile Linux platforms like Tizen, introducing a phone without full Android compatibility is daunting, to say the least. The only Android alternative moving forward with any significant backing is Firefox OS, which appears to have carved out a niche beneath Android’s low-end limit, but above feature phones. Despite the Nokia X2′s free month of Skype calls, the new Nokia phone may not be sufficiently affordable to beat a host of full-fledged Android budget phones.

Windows Phone, meanwhile, appears to be too successful to abandon, but without the momentum that would entice most app developers to move en masse beyond the usual Android and iOS builds. IDC, which has been more bullish on Windows Phone than most, recently projected that Windows Phone will achieve 3.5 percent global smartphone market share by the end of this year, and will only make it to 6.4 percent by 2018. That’s a 28.1 percent growth rate, the fastest projected platform growth during the period, and enough to help reduce Android’s share from 80.2 percent to 77.6 percent. It’s the fastest, that is, if you don’t count the 31.5 percent growth of “others” which is likely almost entirely comprised of alternative Linux platforms such as Firefox OS.

 
Summary of Nokia X2 features

Technical specs listed by Nokia for the Nokia X2 include:

  • Processor — Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 SoC (2x 1.2 GHz CPUs)
  • RAM — 1GB
  • Storage:
    • Internal — 4GB eMMC
    • Expansion — SD slot for up to 32GB
  • Display — 4.3-inch WVGA (800 x 400 pixel; 217 ppi) LCD
  • Cameras:
    • Rear — 5MP w/flash and auto focus
    • Front — suitable for Skype and selfies
  • Communications:
    • GSM 850/900/1800/1900
    • WCDMA 900/2100
    • HSPA+ 21mbps/5.76mbps
  • Other connectivity:
    • WiFi
    • Bluetooth 4.0
    • GPS/AGPS/GLONASS
    • USB — microUSB 2.0 port for data and charging
    • A/V — 3.5 mm A/V connector
  • Dimensions — 122 x 68 x 11mm
  • Weight — 150g
  • Power — 1800 mAh battery:
    • 3G — up to 13 hrs talk
    • 2G — up to 10 hrs talk;
    • Standby — up to 23 days
  • OS — customized Android with UI based on Nokia X Software Platform 2.0

 
Further information

More information on the Nokia X2 may be found at the Nokia X2 product page.
 

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PLEASE COMMENT BELOW

One Response to “Microsoft tips Android phone, but hell remains unfrozen”

  1. RonW says:

    Not bad, but not as good as my $99 no-name Android phone, which has 2 GB RAM, 8 GB FLASH and 800×600 screen resolution. Still, an interesting first “dip” in to the “dark side”.

    (BTW, Hell was frozen back in Jan and Feb.)

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