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Google apps on the Nokia X: Good for Nokia and Microsoft?

Nokia X running Google Now

One of the big surprises at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in the previous week was Nokia’s official launch of its X series. The Nokia X, X+ and XL run a forked version of Android, which comes with the Android Open Source Project at the core, plus a Microsoft and Nokia services layer. This results in a user experience and ecosystem markedly different from the usual Android device.

Meant as a midrange smartphone, the Nokia X is said to be a gateway to higher-end Microsoft Windows Phone devices — the tiled Metro user interface and services, after all, are all from Microsoft. You would not find the official Gmail, Google Maps, Google Play Store or other parts of the Google Mobile Services (GMS) on the X. However, at the XDA Developers forum, a Spanish developer who goes by the handle Kashamalaga has recently found a way to install Google apps and services on the Nokia X. Surprisingly, Nokia was actually reportedly pleased about this development.

@KashaMalaga This is awesome! Very excited to see progress is being made – we actually really like @xdadevelopers— Nokia Developer Team (@nokiadeveloper) February 28, 2014

Update: The tweet seems to have been taken down, for some reason. Has Nokia perhaps changed its mind?

Nokia  does not offer any official reason why it is “excited” with this progress. However, from both a developer and business perspective, this actually has advantages. Here are some possible reasons why:

Nokia X has piqued developer interest. With its Android fork, Nokia is trying to attract app developers who are focused on building for the two top platforms today: iOS and Android. Nokia X actually requires developers to port their apps into the platform and include these into Nokia’s own app marketplace, especially if apps will require a different set of APIs (as opposed to Google’s, for example).

The ability of Nokia X to run Google services means that the device and its AOSP underpinnings is no different from other Android devices, and it should be easy enough to build apps for the platform, as well.

Nokia X is likely to be popular among the custom ROM community. Android users would usually build a cult following around a device, even if it’s not the most popular or most powerful around. If the Nokia X were found to be able to be customizable enough to replace the Microsoft services with GApps, then the community will find a way to turn the Nokia X into a full-fledged Android device. When Nokia was considering Android before its Windows Phone switch, this already generated some interest, especially among those who are fond of Nokia’s hardware.

All the buzz is good for Nokia — and Microsoft, too. Considering there are hundreds of different Android phone models out there, not all of these get enough interest to warrant an active community of developers and enthusiasts. With the Nokia X already getting this much attention even before it is officially out in the market, it’s guaranteed to be a popular model for custom ROMs and modding. And perhaps it’s an implicit wink to users who want Nokia’s hardware, but don’t necessarily want Microsoft services on their device. If it can be rooted and flashed with GApps, then why not?

It’s a win-win situation for Microsoft, Nokia and mobile users, and Nokia is clearly at an advantage here.

5 Comments

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  1. Amazing!!! This will definitely hit the mobile market because of it user friendly facilities. At least Nokia has been famous for providing user friendly interfaces, since the beginning, which was its added advantage.

  2. Good to hear that. But with all these android and google apps, can it make the old buzz in the market, the way it had created with Nokia 1100 series of phones? I hope it does.

  3. I can’t wait to see custom ROM for the Nokia X. To be honest, I think that’s the first step towards a pure Nokia Android smartphone, which I think would benefit not only Google, but Microsoft as well. As for taking down the tweet, I don’t think Nokia has changed its mind. We have to keep in mind that the company is now governed by the great Microsoft now, so anything pro Android is probably taboo. 😉

  4. It would be nice to see the Nokia X become popular among the custom ROM community, as mentioned by the author. I would buy one only to play around with different custom ROMs, test them properly, and then flash them on my daily driver, which is a Nexus 5.

  5. I would say this is good news. The whole purpose of having Android as an open source platform is to let the tech community take full advantage of the platform. Google has been making Android its own by merging a lot of its services with Android, so that it makes more sense. Companies like Amazon, Nokia, and CyanogenMod are truly taking Android a step ahead.

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