If you are looking for a review of an Android smartphone, this is not one. However, if you are looking for an alternative to Android but which lets you install Android apps, then the Nokia X might just be what the doctor ordered.
- DualSIM, micro-SIM
- 4-inch 800 x 480 pixel display
- Dual-core 1 GHz Snapdragon™ S4 processor
- 512 MB RAM
- 4 GB internal storage plus micro-SD card slot
- Nokia X software platform 1.1
- GPS, HERE Maps
- Stereo FM radio
- 3 MP fixed focus camera; no flash
- 1500 mAh battery
Nokia X Software Platform
The Nokia X came out of the box running Nokia X software platform version: 10.0.3. Once connected to the internet, I was notified of an available system update 11.1.1. It was a mere 16MB in size and was executed over-the-air (OTA).
In use, the X looks and feels like a merger of Nokia’s Asha UI and Microsoft’s Tiles. There is a drop-down menu, providing quick access to a number of services and settings. It does not provide notifications like Android OS does. On the X, notifications are provided in FastLane, and I will touch on that later in the review. You can resize and move each tile. All installed apps show up as tiles on the home screen. There is no apps menu. You launch every app from the home and return to the home to switch to another app. You can change the colour of 3rd party apps, but not for pre-installed ones.
Swiping right or left from the home takes you to Fastlane – Nokia’s own notification board. You can customise FastLane to show you anything – apps just installed or uninstalled, incoming messages, tweets sent or failed to send, calendar items, screenshots taken, etc. It is quite extensive. You can turn off certain notifications, if you don’t need them.
There is only one key on the front of the X – the back key. Pressing it takes you a step back from wherever you are. Pressing and holding it returns you to the desktop.
In terms of text input, the Nokia keyboard is superb for typing. It is certainly much better than Android’s default keyboard. Even better, it has a Swype-style system built-in.
The entire user interface from home to SMS, browser, gallery, dialler, music player, drop-down menu, all the way deep down to settings, has been skinned to mostly resemble what obtains on the Asha range. It is a very extensive job done.
Email, Contacts/Calendar Sync
As has already been mentioned, Google Sync, Google+, or other Google services are not present. Note that you can setup your Gmail account on it and use Gmail strictly for email without any issues but because Google services are not supported, you will be unable to sync contacts and calendar. If you set up your Hotmail or Outlook account, however, synchronisation of email, contacts and calendars is available with that. You can also import/export contacts via Bluetooth, from/to SIM, or from/to storage media.
Attaching a range of files as attachments to outgoing email is no problem.
3rd Party Applications
Nokia says that the majority of Android apps run on the X without need for any modification. Scores of them come pre-installed on the X. There are also curated apps in the Nokia Store, and you can get more Android apps from 3rd party app stores. I gave SlideMe a spin. I downloaded and installed the app on the X. From there, I was able to install Instagram and Dropbox.
Twitter version 4.1.1 came with the phone. It had the old Twitter UI. I updated to version 5.2.1 via SlideMe and it worked but then began to lag after a while. Uninstalling it and then re-installing the version 4.1.1 that came with the phone made everything okay again.
I tried out another 3rd party app store, 1Mobile Market. This store has a look, feel and functionality similar to Play Store. Right after installation, 1Mobile Market automatically detected 12 updates to apps on the X. BBM was one of those updates. The pre-installed BBM app does not have Channels. However, once I downloaded and installed the update, I had the latest version with Channels running, and it has run smoothly till now.
1Mobile Market has since become my preferred 3rd party Android app store, and I have downloaded several apps form there. At the moment, I have 35 downloaded apps installed on the X. These include Instagram, Dropbox, WordPress, BBM, SoundCloud, LinkedIn, Shazam, Skype, and more.
No-one expects superb performance from a budget smartphone. The phone runs well for its class, which means that moving through the user interface is not zippy. However, it is reasonably fast, perhaps a bit better than what I have experienced on competing phones. However, I notice that a definite lag shows up – and it has to do with Nokia’s own custom launcher, N Launcher.
Returning from an app to the custom Nokia home/launcher results in a pause – with a “Please wait” message – in the UI. Suspecting that it is Nokia’s launcher that puts the strain on the resources of the phone, I installed a couple of 3rd party launchers – Smart Launcher and Madina Launcher. Using either produced snappier performance when switching from an app to the desktop.
Smart Launcher, in particular, turned out to be the fastest of the three – N, Madina, and Smart, and so I have set it as my default launcher. Nokia certainly needs to optimise their launcher further.
Nokia’s Xpress Browser is here, but now called Nokia Browser. Like Opera Mini, the browser optimizes web pages and compresses data to shorten page loading times and reduce data transmission charges for the user.
The Nokia X looks to be a good example of a developed world smartphone for the emerging market. The apps that Nokia has provided are of smaller footprints than obtains in Play Store. Of course, like I have done, you can update some of them to obtain extra functionality, but in some cases (as with twitter), you get sub par performance.
The 3 megapixel camera is standard fare at this price range and has no flash. While it is good in its class, nobody buying a budget smartphone should be expecting spectacular camera results.
Stereo FM Radio requires a wired headset connection to work. It lets you scan and save up to 10 stations. Playback can be done via the loudspeaker.The radio app also has a button to close it when you are done listening.
Video playback is fine as well, with support for 3GP and MP4 file formats.
Music playback on the Nokia X is quite good, both via the supplied headset and via the built-in loudspeaker.
There is WiFi, WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth, Bluetooth tethering, and USB tethering. A data counter is built in, so you can monitor both network and WiFi data usage.
Being dual SIM, for both calls and SMS, yu can fix a default SIM or opt to have the phone always ask you for which SIM to use when dialling or sending an SMS.
If you are locked to Google and have no intention of leaving, the Nokia X is bad news for you. But the feature phone users that Nokia is targeting with the X are not necessarily hooked on Google services for mobile yet. They can adopt Hotmail/Outlook for contacts, calendar and email, and moving on to Windows Phone later wouldn’t be an issue. If you are tired of Google and want to cross over to Outlook, you will find that the Nokia X is just what the doctor ordered.
Nokia’s execution of this is the only way Microsoft could have given its support to project X. And hopefully, this means that the X range won’t get shut down by Redmond after the Nokia acquisition is concluded.
Clearly, the Nokia X is not a device for Android/Google die-hard fans. As I have clarified earlier, the X is not an Android phone. But then, Nokia did say that the X range is targeted at bridging the gap between feature phones and their Lumia series as part of their strategy to convert first time smartphone owners to Microsoft services and Windows Phone. Viewed from that angle, the Nokia X makes perfect sense and is brilliant strategy.
The Nokia X costs as much as N21,000 in the market, but you can get it for just N18,000 in MOBILITY’s bargain deal.