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BREAKING NEWS: Nokia launches a trio of Android platform phones

Monday, February 24, 2014

In Barcelona today, Nokia once again laid out its plans to capture the next billion smartphone users. The new approach: Nokia X, a third line of smartphones to slot between the low-end Asha and the high-end Lumia range. The Nokia X range will run the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) operating system, but without Google's stack on top of it. Instead, it'll have a Nokia store, Microsoft services, and a custom front end.
The company announced three Nokia X handsets, the X, X+, and XL. They all have a 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, an 800×480 screen, 4GB internal storage, and microSD expansion. The X has 512MB RAM; the X+ and XL both have 768MB. The X and X+ both have a four-inch screen and a 3MP camera. The XL bumps the screen to five inches and the camera to 5MP. They will all be available in a bunch of colors and will all support dual SIMs.
The point of these phones is, of course, the software. As former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop described the phones, they will take people to "Microsoft's cloud, not Google's." Instead of using Google's Play services and APIs on top of an unspecified version of AOSP, the X range will offer a set of Nokia and Microsoft services instead. Mapping, for example, will come from Nokia HERE. Search will be provided by Bing. Microsoft apps such as Skype and e-mail will be preinstalled.
While apps that use only AOSP should run on the X phones directly, any apps that, for example, integrate with location or store services will need porting, a process that Stephen Elop said should take a few hours.
Nokia will have its own store with features that include try-before-you-buy and billing via your mobile carrier. It will also support some other non-Google storefronts. For example, in Russia the Yandex store and services are a major player. Yandex will be installable from the Nokia store to give access to apps written for the Yandex APIs.
The X phones won't look much like Android to use, thanks to a custom shell that's more or less a fusion of bits of the Windows Phone user interface with various elements taken from Asha. It includes Nokia's Glance, to show information on the lock screen, along with a tile-esque main screen and app launcher. There's also a feature called "Fast Lane," taken from the Asha interface, that shows recent activity and apps.
Elop positioned the phones as a gateway to more expensive—and more innovative—Lumia handsets. He said that the price of Lumia handsets would continue to come down and that X would be positioned below Lumia, with only a little overlap between the lowest Lumia devices and highest X phones.
The Nokia X goes on sale immediately for €89 ($122). The X+ and XL will go on sale next quarter, priced at €99 ($136) and €109 ($149) respectively. They'll be promoted primarily in emerging markets.
Aiming lower still, Nokia also launched a new Asha smartphone, the 230. Priced at just €45, this is the cheapest Asha phone yet, while still offering a full touch experience on its 2.8-inch 320×240 screen.
The company also announced a new featurephone, the €29 Nokia 220. This was described as the cheapest data-enabled, Internet-enabled phone the company had ever produced, with Facebook and Twitter support built-in.

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