Nokia X review: first look
The Nokia X – alongside its siblings the X+ and XL – is perhaps the oddest product the Finnish mobile phone manufacturer has released in recent times. It’s Nokia’s very first Android handset, yet it arrives only a few months after the announcement that Microsoft had bought the company.
Corporate manoeuvrings aside, from the outset it looks as if the Nokia X has the makings of a successful budget handset. At a price of 89 euros before tax, it’s targeted at the bottom end of the market, and yet it doesn’t feel like a budget handset when you first get it in your hands.
It has an angular profile, with squared-off edges and a gently curved rear. It comes in a series of bright colours, as you’d expect of a modern Nokia smartphone, and the plastic finish has a pleasant, lightly rubbery feel. It’s minimalist in design, but a far cry from most low-cost Android devices that are plagued by shiny, creaky plastic chassis’.
Look a little closer, however, and the tell-tale signs of cost-cutting are present. The display is a small, 4in unit, with a low resolution of 480 x 800. Image quality seems pretty good, though; there’s plenty of contrast, and a handy dose of brightness too.
The camera – at three megapixels with no flash – doesn’t offer much either, and under the hood you get the bare minimum of mobile horsepower: a dual-core 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM, a paltry 4GB of storage which can be expanded to 32GB by way of the microSD slot.
Android in disguise
The big deal with the Nokia X, however, is that it runs Android 4.1. Not that you’d know it at first glance. In fact, from a distance, the X looks more akin to Nokia’s Windows Phone handsets. The homescreen is all square tiles – and live tiles at that, complete with snippets of information – and it scrolls vertically rather than horizontally.
As with Windows Phone devices, the tiles can be reordered, resized and dragged around the homescreen. A swipe from the left brings up Nokia’s Fast Lane interface, a feature borrowed from the firm’s Asha range of budget handsets, which presents a stream of activities, including app notifications and messages in a vertically scrolling list.
There’s also integration with Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service, and a selection of preloaded apps that will be familiar to Windows Phone fans, including Nokia’s Here Maps and Mix Radio, Microsoft Outlook and Skype.
It all looks pleasant enough. However, Nokia’s version of Android is a bit of an ugly duckling. It lacks the cohesion and slick feel of Nokia’s Windows Phone devices and, perhaps more critically, it lacks the flexibility of pure Android. The big catch is there’s no access to the apps, music or video services of Google Play; instead, owners will have to use Nokia’s own app store, which the firm claims is populated by more than 100,000 apps already. It will also be possible to install apps from third-party stores, such as the Amazon Appstore. Android afficionados will be pleased to discover that Nokia isn’t blocking the sideloading of apps either.
Overall, though, we have to say we’re not bowled over by the Nokia X. On the one hand it’s a very well-made device, the screen seems decent enough and it’s very cheap. It’s everything you’d expect of a modern Nokia phone.
On the other, its operating system lacks the charm of Windows Phone and the flexibility of a true Android handset. It’s a very strange smartphone indeed.