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Nokia X Review: An Android Phone Masquerading as Windows

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Nokia’s first ever Android smartphone is a step in the right direction

Nokia has always had a place in most Filipino’s hearts, especially with yuppies who grew up with the Finnish brand. While it doesn’t seem that way now, there was a time where close to 80% of all mobile phones being sold in the Philippines were Nokia handsets. While the company has lost that title to numerous usurpers, many previous Nokia users still look back and fondly remember their old phones which simply refused to die, many of which are still working today. That’s the reason why many have waited with bated breath for the Nokia Xthe company’s first ever Android powered device – sort of. We say sort of because as many of you know, the Nokia X is an Android phone in name only, and has been thoroughly gutted by the Finnish company of anything that even remotely resembles Google’s services, replaced by either Nokia or Microsoft analogues in the hope that someday, you’d upgrade to a much more expensive Lumia device when you get tired of it, and want to upgrade to something better.

Nokia X specs

  • 1Ghz 8225 Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 4GB internal storage, expandable via microSD up to 32GB
  • 4 – inch capacitive LCD display, 800 x 480 pixels
  • 3-megapixel fixed focus camera
  • 3G, HSPA
  • Dual-SIM
  • WiFi, Bluetooth
  • 1500mAh battery
  • Php 5990

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Nokia still has what it takes to make beautiful, sturdy phones

The Nokia X is typical Nokia when it comes to design. The phone, at first glance, looks like it uses a unibody polycarbonate body. Of course that’s not true – the Nokia X’s polycarbonate shell quickly pops out, revealing the phone’s important bits on the back, which includes the 1500mAh battery, dual micro SIM slot and microSD slot should you decide that 4GB of internal storage simply isn’t going to cut it.

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Nokia’s always had the manufacturing chops to make great phones, especially polycarbonate ones, going back to the Meego powered device, the Nokia N9. The overall design of the Nokia X is beautiful, simple and elegant. The build quality is of course, flawless, as we’ve come to expect from a company that’s has been building phones for more than a decade – with the polycarbonate shell attached to the X, you’d easily mistake it for a unibody build.

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As far as button layout is concerned, there’s not a lot of deviance from normal Android devices – both the power/lock button and the volume rocker is on the right side of the device, while the 3.5mm jack and USB port are located on the top and bottom respectively. And since the Nokia has its own interpretation of Android, the X doesn’t have the three Android capacitive keys for navigation. Instead, it relies on a single back key for navigation that in practice, works quite well with the custom UI that Nokia made for the X.

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The display of the Nokia X is a 4-inch capacitive display that has good viewing angles and is bright enough during use. The low resolution of the display may disappoint some, especially considering the X’s price point. While the display isn’t an IPS deal, it still gave us good viewing angles all around during use, and is bright enough to be used under direct sunlight.

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Android on the inside, Windows on the outside

While the Nokia X is technically an Android smartphone, it’s been completely overhauled by Nokia to more closely resemble Windows Phone 8. The device calls the OS Nokia X 1.0, and is a hybrid of the OS and interface of Windows Phone and Nokia’s Asha line of budget devices. Instead of your typical Android home screen, you’re greeted by a simple, tile based interface. Everything that you install gets thrown in at the bottom of the tiled interface, and there’s no app drawer to store everything neatly, which could irk people who like their homescreens nice and tidy. Much like Windows Phone, you can rearrange the tiles depending on your whimsy, and can even enlarge some apps that you deem to be worthy of the extra pixel size. The Nokia X also has the Fastlane feature, which is also present in the Asha series of devices. Fastlane is basically a timeline of events in your phone – who texted you, sent you a Facebook message, email and so on and so forth. The lone capacitive key works well with Nokia’s software implementation as well – one press takes you back a screen, while a long press takes you back to the main home screen. Another Windows Phone feature that managed to land itself in the Nokia X is the Glance Screen. The Glance Screen shows up automatically when you lock your phone and don’t check it for a while. It tells you the time, as well as any other notifications (Twitter mentions, for example).

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In refurbishing Android for their use, Nokia has completely stripped it of every trace of Google’s influence, which means absolutely no Google services remain on the OS. Instead of Gmail, you get Outlook (though you can sync your Google account in the email function), instead of Google Search, you get Bing, instead of Maps, you get Nokia’s Here and so on and so forth. The device also cannot connect to the Google Play store – instead, you’re stuck with Nokia’s curated app store, although you can still sideload Android APKs in the device, as long as it doesn’t require access to any of Google’s other services.

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If Nokia’s curated app store doesn’t have anything that tickles your fancy, you’re also able to connect to four other app stores: 1mobile market, Aptoide, Mobango and SlideME Market. Another nice feature about the X that needs to be highlighted is its keyboard.

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The keyboard uses a Swype-like system that allows you to type quickly. We’re avid users of Swiftkey on Android and Nokia’s implementation of the swype type keyboard closely mirrors the experience that we get on Android. Good job Nokia.

One thing that you will not like about the Nokia X is the absolute chore you face trying to export your Google contacts into the device. In our case, we had to export ALL of our Google contacts in vcard format, put it in a microSD card and then put that in the X. It’s a big chore – and if you’re planning to use the Nokia X as a backup phone, you will have to do this every single time you get a new contact (or input the contact twice – once in your main phone and again on the X).

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Once nice thing about HERE navigation app for the Nokia X is that you can opt to download the map that you need (in our case, the Philippines) while connected via Wi-Fi which allows you to use it later on without a data connection.

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Entry level specs = sluggish performance

Unfortunately for the Nokia X, the entry level specifications of the device means that the overall user experience is less than ideal. The Nokia X responded sluggishly to our commands, sometimes opening apps around a half second (sometimes as long as a second) after we pressed on the corresponding icon. The sluggish performance of the X will come as a shock to people who are used to mid-end or high end smartphones before, though we will have to admit that we never really felt frustrated by the performance of the device. It’s AnTuTu score pales in comparison when compared to other devices in the same price point, but to be honest if you’re getting a Nokia X, we’re sure that you’re getting one because of different reasons, the performance of the device not among them. You can completely forget about gaming on the Nokia X aside from simple games (with some of them already pre-installed on the device) unless you really want to test just how far your patience will go.

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Good camera, despite its limitations

if you dismissed the Nokia X’s camera performance when you first looked at the spec sheet above, we wouldn’t blame you – we had the exact same reaction when we first saw it. But surprisingly enough, the Nokia X’s camera performs decently enough, even though that fixed focus camera doesn’t even have an LED flash.

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In places where there’s enough light, the X is able to capture great photos, with decent quality. Unfortunately, as the light recedes, so does the X’s camera performance.

Great battery life

One nice thing about entry level specs is that you can count on the battery life to be at least decent. With regular use (text, calls, internet browsing on 3G very light gaming) we managed to get around a day’s worth of battery life, with 10% left in the tank the next day.

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Verdict: A good first try for Nokia

The Nokia X is a pretty mixed bag. On one hand, it’s forked version of Android is pretty good. The intuitive swype keyboard, downloadable HERE maps and Fastlane are good software features adds additional functionality that’s more than welcome. On the other hand, the sluggish, entry level specs and its higher price tag compared to other entry level devices make it hard to recommend, especially for a country like ours that’s extremely price sensitive.

Then again, you can make the argument that the higher price you pay is simply because of better, more stringent manufacturing standards of the Finnish company and its reputation for making sturdy, high quality phones. In the end, it all depends on your needs and what is important to you, and if you’re intrigued by the Nokia X, you owe it to yourself to check the device out in stores first for yourself before committing to buying one.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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13 Comments

  1. Questions: Why Nokia instill on a windows type UI when its OS is android? So that people who bought this phone will be acquainted to windows UI and then eventually will upgrade to Lumia phones? Is this a strategy so their lumia phones will fair better on the market?

    Windows OS is on the same level with android when it comes to socialization and the likes but it has one big advantage over android: Productivity. Though there are a lot of productivity tools on Play store, no apps there can be at par with MS office that comes with high end lumia devices.

    I like nokia phones simply because ot its quality in all aspects and departments (not to mention they hold the throne of having the best camera phone). Very durable phones. I still have my Nokia 3315 and still works after more than 9 years. At GSMARENA, 1 of nokia phone model was put to test by running it over by a car twice. Surprisingly, the phone still works and suffered scrathes only. here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnk1UYBblq0 That’s the best about Nokia.

    As of present, I’m using android (CM Omega 2) and still going (after 8months when I bought it). What I like doing on my phone is to personalize my UI. I’ve been doing that since last year when I installed Buzz launcher. I created more than 200 homepacks and posted more than a hundred of it. And I want to use that on Nokia X. And also, I’m using my phone for other important activities. Sadly though, I heard that a sales lady is trying to install third party launchers and its not working. I will surely buy a nokia phone if they had eliminated the limitations (like mentioned) they put on their products.

    Nokia X can be rooted but I don’t like rooting my phone for it will void warranty

    Have a nice day… 🙂

    1. “Why Nokia instill on a windows type UI when its OS is android? So that people who bought this phone will be acquainted to windows UI and then eventually will upgrade to Lumia phones? Is this a strategy so their lumia phones will fair better on the market?”

      Simple. Nokia has publicly stated that the X line of devices will act as a feeder line for their more expensive Lumia series. The idea is to get people hooked on the look and feel of the OS (which closely resembles Windows Phone) and Windows services, in the hopes that they’ll upgrade to Lumia when they want something better (and faster).

      1. Hahaha… So it is a strategy. That will depend on the consumers. If ever Nokia outs a full android device, then they a very good chance of being on top once more. I love nokia phones but it is the OS that hinders me from buying (again). Symbian OS may not be the best OS but it is the ONLY real-time OS for mobile devices (Android and iOS are neither). My last Nokia phone before switching to android is N8. A great camera phone.

        Question: Are they still tied up with Microsoft? We know that Microsoft bought Nokia (or majority of the shares?).

      2. That makes sense but it’s a total waste of money. Honestly, I know Nokia did say that (I watched their MWC keynote) but it’s still pointless. The UI is ugly, it doesn’t really promote Windows Phone, and it can’t bridge the gap at all because the apps on Android aren’t compatible to Windows Phone.
        In my opinion, the X line is a total waste of money.
        If they really wanna promote Windows Phone, spend time on marketing their devices. That’s how Samsung overtook HTC as the dominant Android player.

    2. probably the saleslady doesnt know how to use nokia x.

      i downloaded through its own appstore mx launher and it installed and runs fluidly.

    3. I managed to install a modded Xperia launcher, and it works, at least on the Nokia X SDK. Perhaps she forgot to turn on the unknown sources option, or there’s some Nokia-specific quirks that kept the launchers from booting.

  2. Using Android to gain traction….very ingenious and clever idea!

    On a consumer level perspective, this phone is pretty worthless considering that you can get ”way more functional” Android phones in the market for half the price

  3. I’ll stick to my Windows Phone. Especially since the WP 8.1 update is coming with awesome new features.

  4. You should have downloaded the contacts transfer app from the Nokia store to transfer contacts from another phone through bluetooth. First thing I searched for when I got the phone.

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