BARCELONA, SPAIN — The mobile industry was set ablaze yesterday with the arrival of a new family of Android-powered handsets from the soon-to-be-Microsoft-owned manufacturer Nokia.
Three new Nokia devices were previewed here at Mobile World Congress — the mid-sized Nokia X
( which we wrote about yesterday), the similar- sized X+, which has extra memory and storage, and a big-screened, beefier version of the X called the Nokia XL. We’ve assembled some hands-on photos of the Nokia XL above.
The Finnish company was quick to point out that its Android experiment is intended as a stepping stone to Microsoft cloud services and Windows- powered Lumia devices for for first-time
smartphone buyers, primarily in developing countries.
Maybe that’s a tall ask — the idea of a Microsoft- affiliated handset running Google’s mobile OS certainly had most onlookers here shrugging. But the X phones do stand a fighting chance for a few
reasons. First, they are relatively inexpensive, ranging between $135 to $150. Also, they’re attractive and should be a hit with consumers.
Chalk this up to Nokia’s excellent sense of industrial design. The company’s phones are chunky and rugged, they come with top-rate
cameras, and they are usually offered in fun and bright colors. And Nokia’s implementation of
Android isn’t pure Google; it’s heavily customized both visually and functionally.
With its 5-inch WVGA display, Noxia XL puts Nokia’s own customized version of Android on a nice, big screen. It also has the best cameras of the X line — 5 megapixels on the rear, and 2
megapixels on the front. If you weren’t paying close attention, it could be easily mistaken for a
Lumia 1320. Unless the display was unlocked, of course.
Nokia X family uses Android 4.1 as its bedrock while the OS (which is simply called “X”) links to Microsoft’s API for mapping and cloud services.
The result is that you won’t find any Google Play Store here, or Google Drive. Those apps have
been replaced by a Nokia App Store and Microsoft’s OneDrive. The phone will be able to
run all those regular Android apps that are released on the web version of the Play store —
you’ll just have to download an apk file.
Clearly inspired by Windows Phone’s tile-based UI, the XL’s interface is quick to get used to and easy to personalize: Just press and hold any icon to resize it or move it around the screen. Swiping from the right always lets you access your favorite and most recently used apps. Again, just by holding one finger on an element, you can toss it or change it.
Like the other Nokia X phones, the XL is not available in the U.S., but they will be on sale elsewhere in the world. The XL starts at €109
(about $150) and ships in March.