What the fork? Is Nokia X really an Android smartphone?

I have run into a few smartphone users who say that Nokia’s new smartphone range runs Android OS. But is that really true? The Nokia X smartphone runs Nokia X Smartphone Platform, a fork of Android Open Source (not Android OS).

Nokia X software platform

In software terms, a fork happens when developers take a copy of source code from an existing software and start independent development on it, creating a distinct/new/different piece of software from it. Note the last part: creating a distinct piece of software from it. Yes; there may be some similarities in the original software and the new creation, but they are two totally different things.

The Two Sides of Android OS

Let’s have a closer look at Android. There are two sides to Android OS as you know it – 1) Android Open Source (AOSP), which anyone can take, use and modify as they choose, and 2) Google’s proprietary services. Android OS as running on the phones you know is Android Open Source + Google services. In a few cases, it is just Android open source without the Google services.

What Nokia has done is take Android Open Source and walked away with it to embed Microsoft services into it, to create a distinct piece of software that looks, feels and acts differently from Android OS. This new distinct piece of software is called Nokia X software platform. Nokia X is Android Open Source + Nokia services + Microsoft services. No; the Nokia X is not an Android smartphone.

Here is a quick summary:

  • Android OS is Android Open Source + Google services
  • Nokia X is Android Open Source + Microsoft services

Yes; you can install and run most Android apps. No; you won’t find access to Google services in there. What you will be able to use are Microsoft and Nokia services. No; it does not work like Android OS, because it is not. If you approach it expecting it to act 100% like Android, you will be disappointed, and it will be your fault.

Amazon Forked Too

Remember Amazon’s Fire OS, also forked from Android? Fire OS devices are exclusively tied to Amazon’s software and content ecosystems. They do not offer any access to Google Play or provide any of Google’s proprietary apps or APIs, such as Google Maps or Google Cloud Messaging. Fire OS is not Android OS, but a branch away from it. What you have with Nokia X software platform is similar. This is tied to Microsoft, not Google.

On Nokia X software platform, there is no Google Sync, Google Maps, or Play Store. What you have are Outlook/Hotmail, HERE Maps, and Nokia Store. You can also install other 3rd party Android app stores however.

Do you get it? Repeat after me:

“An Android software fork is NOT Android OS. The Nokia X is not an Android smartphone”.

Did you get that? Repeat it till it sinks. There. I knew you would be excellent students.

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5 comments

  1. Hiya Mr Mo, I beg to differ on this point. I’d say Nokia X runs on Android but not as we know it on regular android devices. A in AOSP stands for Android and not Alternative-OS. Custom ROMS for android are also built from AOSP and every one who has installed one knows he has to get gapps (Google apps package) to use his Android phone at a level he’s familiar with, with all d Google services. so Nokia says no Google services but you get Microsoft/Nokia services, hence its no longer an Android phone? No way sir. Third party stores will offer apps that will run on Nokia X and regular android phones. while this analogy is 100% accurate its not so far off from saying different Linux distros are not the same OS type even though they are built from essentially identical kernels. Nokia X sir is Andy, some of us Nokia fans will like to remember that always.

  2. For more proof, see below excerpts from an android central post –

    “When Nokia was handing out Nokia X developer
    units, they had to know this was coming. Using
    the Framaroot app the Nokia X has been rooted,
    and with root comes the ability to add other apps
    to the system — including Google’s own closed-
    source apps.
    Now you can have your Google services on your
    Android phone, even if someone didn’t want you
    to have them in the first place. That’s because
    the application framework was left intact, so
    Nokia could let you install apps from Amazon and
    others. Apps are apps are apps.”

    Nokia X rooted and Google apps installed; Android is Android

  3. is it only presence or absence of gapps that’s the problem… the presence of a back key n not a home key is all the not Android a person needs… and the way the interface looks in pics

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