Cantillon: Nokia’s X files released on Android

Resemblance to Windows Phone could be smart option for Nokia

Nokia’s chief executive Stephen Elop holds up the Nokia X at its unveiling at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, February 24th, 2014. Photograph: Gustau Nacarino/Reuters

Nokia’s chief executive Stephen Elop holds up the Nokia X at its unveiling at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, February 24th, 2014. Photograph: Gustau Nacarino/Reuters

 

You have to admire Nokia. After resisting the lure of Android and opting to downgrade its own Symbian operating system in favour of Windows Phone, Nokia has now decided to release an Android handset – just as Microsoft is buying the handset unit.

It’s a massive turnaround for the firm. You’d love to have been in the boardroom when that decision was discussed.

The Finnish phone firm added to the growing ranks of Android phones available in the market when chief executive Stephen Elop (above) showed off the X family of Android phones, X, X+ and XL, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yesterday, confirming the rumours that had been doing the rounds for some time.

But it’s Android that’s not really Android, in a way. If you look closely at the new phones, they bear more than a passing resemblance to Windows Phone. There are even tiles on the home screen, clearly influenced by the current Lumia look.

Nokia could either be making a timely point to its new owners or it could simply believe it will be a smart option for the firm. In any case, it appears Nokia’s strategy is not to replace Windows Phone, but to complement it – using Android as a low-cost way to hoover up some of the mobile mar- ket with phones that will cost under €100.

The main target will be low-cost emerging markets, with no US launch planned. That seems to clash with its current Asha budget phone range to a certain extent, but Elop told attendees at Mobile World Congress the plan was to offer four different options to consumers.

When Nokia decided to go with Windows Phone in 2010, it raised a few ques- tions. Microsoft was far behind its rivals in establishing itself in the mobile market and the wisdom of choosing the underdog was hard for some to see. There was talk of money incentives for taking on Windows Phone. Last year, Elop admitted in an interview the reason for the choice: Nokia believed, rightly, that one firm – Samsung – would dominate the Android handset market, leaving little room for other manufacturers to shine.

So why the sudden change of heart? It’s not yet clear, but it confirms what many people may have thought for some time: the Android juggernaut is difficult to escape.

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