Will Verduzco · Feb 25, 2014 at 06:00 am

Nokia X: A Phone for Nobody?

It’s now been one day since the official unveiling of the Nokia X lineup at MWC in Barcelona. And while most of the details were already known far in advance, there were a few surprises the day of. For starters, we received not one, but three Android-powered Nokia devices. We also learned a bit more Nokia’s custom UI, including the Fastlane notification center and more specifics about various device specifications. But for the most part, the Nokia X family is almost exactly what we thought it would be—a low end device with a matching low end price tag. So now that we know all about the Nokia X and what it has to offer, let’s take a look at who the device is meant for, and whether it makes for a compelling purchase.

The Nokia X family is the company’s first foray into the Android platform. But rather than being Google’s Android that we know and love in the Nexus device lineup, or even the “Android” that we tolerate after being marred with various layers of OEM skins, the Nokia X family features something so far removed from Android that it only lives up to its name at its very core. Running atop Android 4.1.2, the heavily skinned device does offer Android application compatibility, but you’d be hard pressed to notice any traditionally Android UI paradigms or features. Instead, the end product is much more akin to Amazon’s Kindle Fire line, albeit with slightly more freedom by virtue of side-loading.

As a direct consequence of the heavy modifications and skinning, there is no “Google” to be found on the device. You don’t have access to Google Services like Maps and Hangouts, and you certainly don’t have access to the Google Play Store and its vast wealth of applications. Instead, you are given access to the Nokia Store for your application needs, as well as third party app stores, which can be installed via side-load. And what about Google Services? They’ve all been replaced with Nokia and Microsoft counterparts. But Microsoft’s offerings are probably decent as well, right? The answer is of little to no consequence because if you were after Microsoft services and were bound to the Microsoft ecosystem, you’d own a Windows Phone rather than a low-end Android phone that has some peripheral ties to Microsoft.

But at least it’s cheap. Ranging from €89 ($122) for the Nokia X to €109 ($150) for the Nokia XL, the Nokia X family is certainly friendly on the wallet. But let’s not forget about other budget options such as the highly regarded Moto G—a phone that features much higher end specifications and an interface that actually looks like Android for just $30 more than the XL.

Perhaps we’re being a tad bit harsh. I’m sure there’s somebody out there who is a die hard Microsoft services fanboy, who wants a device with access to the wealth of Android applications, and who happens to live on a shoestring budget. For this person, the Nokia X family is perfect. But for the rest of you, do yourself a favor and save up your pennies by eating Cup Noodles for a month, and get yourself a Moto G. Want another tidbit of advice? The “beef” flavor with “real beef” chunks (perhaps more accurately: cardboard-flavored cardboard) is particularly tasty. Oh, and don’t trust “Shrimp.”


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