Xtra Large: Nokia XL Dual SIM review

Nokia XL in hand 2 tilt

The Nokia XL is the third device in the Nokia X Platform family. It is the largest of them too. Think XL for extra large. Have a look at the quick specs sheet:

  • DualSIM, micro-SIM
  • 5-inch 800 x 480 pixel display
  • GPRS/EDGE/3G/HSDPA/HSUPA
  • Dual-core 1 GHz Snapdragon™ S4 processor
  • 768 MB RAM
  • 4 GB internal storage plus micro-SD card slot
  • Nokia X software platform 1.1
  • GPS, HERE Maps
  • Stereo FM radio
  • 5 MP autofocus camera with LED flash
  • 2 MP front-facing camera
  • 2000 mAh battery

The XL is a large phone. With a 5-inch display, that is the lower border of phablet territory. Here is what it looks like sandwiched between the 5.5-inch phablets, TECNO R7 and HTC Desire 816:

TECNO R7, Nokia XL, HTC Desire 816 - 400

Nokia X Software Platform

The Nokia XL came out of the box running Nokia X software platform version: 1.1.2.20, which is the latest version available fot the platform.

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. The Nokia is a different flavour and serving of Android.

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. Instead, notifications are provided in FastLane. Swiping right or left from the home screen 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. Personally, I do not like how new message notifications in Fastlane display the content of the messages in full view.

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.

Multitasking

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. When you return to the Nokia X home screen from any app, that app is not shut down. Instead, it stays running in the background. So you can multitask by returning to the home screen and swiping to Fastlane to pick any of your recently used apps.

Text Input

Nokia XL typing
As with the X, in use, the XL looks and feels like a merger of Nokia’s Asha UI and Microsoft’s Tiles. In terms of text input, the Nokia keyboard is superb for typing and even has a Swype-style system built-in. The Nokia XL’s 5-inch display makes for very comfortable typing.

Email, Contacts/Calendar Sync

The Nokia X Software Platform does not provide access to Google Sync, Google+, or other Google services. Yes; 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 by default (there are 3rd party apps as workaround though). 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 XL in hand side
Nokia says that the majority of Android apps run on the X platform without need for any modification. Scores of them come pre-installed on the XL. There are also curated apps in the Nokia Store, and you can get more Android apps from 3rd party app stores. Microsoft has done a good job integrating some of these 3rd party stores with their own store, such that if you search for an app that is unavailable in the store, you are presented with search results from other 3rd party stores and you can tap to launch them. Very nicely done.

Performance

The Nokia XL runs well for its class, which means that moving through the user interface is okay but not sluggish. I had been afraid that having the same processor as the smaller X, 50% more RAM and a bigger display might result in a more sluggish experience, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the XL performs better in some ways. For example, there was a lag present on the older Nokia X when returning to the home screen. It is completely gone on the Nokia XL. That is a big improvement, as I found that lag on the X rather irritating.

Data Consumption

Nokia’s Xpress Browser is here, but it is 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. Aside that, Microsoft/Nokia has done some optimisation of many of the apps in the Store and that should translate to some data and cost savings.

Media

The 5 megapixel camera on the Nokia XL is quite good and produces some really surprising shots. If you play around with the settings, you will end up with some memorable photographs. It has an LED flash too, so close-up shots in the dark are covered. Here is an indoor close-up shot, no flash:
Nokia XL BVLGARI shot

And a crop of that shot:
Nokia XL BVLGARI shot crop

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. Of course, the 5-inch display again makes for a better video viewing experience than on the X.

Music playback on the Nokia XL is quite good, both via the supplied headset and via the built-in loudspeaker.

Battery Life

Nokia XL battery
With an active WiFi connection powering two email accounts, BBM, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WordPress management, some photographs and one or two phone calls daily, the Nokia XL saw me through each day and I never had to scramble for a charger. If you are on a 3G connection, this performance will drop slightly, but unless you are a very demanding user, I doubt that it will die out on you.

Miscellaneous

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, you 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. The XL also appears to have significant better call quality than the X.

Conclusions

The Nokia XL is not just a bigger version of the X. It is better in at least three ways: better performance, better camera, and better call quality. If you are looking for a good mid-range smartphone with a good camera and don’t find Google services a must-have, it should be on your shortlist for consideration.

The Nokia X costs about N30,000 in the market.

4 comments

    1. @Jay Baba abeg, don’t encourage him with that his Chinese knock-off of a watch. Look, they didn’t even spell “Bulgari” right!

  1. I hate this phone. Just big for nothing. The only thing good about this phone as far as I am concern, is the battery, and nothing more. I installed both 1 mobile market and mobogene. The WhatsApp I installed from both market installed successfully, registered my number then I got the error message “this phone is not supported”

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