With the launch of newer smartphones in the market, it’s imperative that there will be a large number of users migrating from rival platforms. And Sony is mindful of this fact as it has launched the Xperia Transfer Mobile app on Microsoft’s Windows Phone app store, allowing new owners of Xperia devices to transfer contacts, messages, calendar info, media and other content from the old Windows Phone handset.
Sony already provides this solution for users of BlackBerry smartphones and iPhones, so it was only a matter of time before Windows Phone users received the same treatment. Customers usually have concerns about switching to another platform with the fear of losing data and content. But apps like these make the decision to switch a lot easier and hassle free.
To successfully transfer contents from a Windows Phone, users will need the Xperia Transfer cable to connect the Windows Phone and the Xperia device directly. This can be purchased separately and is essential in the transfer of data to your new Xperia device.
You can download the Xperia Transfer Mobile app from the Windows Phone store today.
There have been innumerable comparisons between Siri and Google Now in the past. But with the recent arrival of Cortana for Windows Phone, the game has changed somewhat. And with iOS receiving a major refresh with iOS 8, it’s only fair to assume that things have changed substantially.
And the folks at Stone Temple Consulting have now tested the three voice assistants in a massive voice questions test where over 3,000 queries were asked to see which one comes out on top. And unsurprisingly, Google Now commands has excelled by a long margin with Siri coming in at a distant second and Cortana rounding off the third spot. The nature of the questions asked were diverse, ranging from “what did the fox say” to “how tall is the Mount Everest”.
You can check the brief excerpt of the results in the video below. The full results have been published on Stone Temple Consulting’s homepage. Google Now was unveiled after Siri, but has still managed to take the crown as the best mobile voice assistant going around. Cortana is still new to the scene and has some catching up to do, although it’s pretty decent for a relatively new voice assistant.
Defying logic, common sense and, perhaps least important, tech traditions, Nokia took the wraps off an X follow-up aptly named X2 just five months after the first-gen was introduced. Even nuttier, the upgraded Android-based handheld is up for grabs in “in select countries globally”, which means it started selling less than 100 days on the heels of its predecessor.
Clearly, the whole timeline is all messed up. But the X2 ain’t the problem. The X was, and whoever green-lit the humble 4 incher has some explaining to do. If he’s not out looking for a new job as we speak.
Anyhoo, congrats Nokia, Microsoft, Nokiasoft, Microkia or whatever you’re called these days for owning up to your monumental blunders and going the extra mile to fix them. I pity the fools that bought the debut X and they have every right to be pissed, but the rest of us should warmly welcome yet another solid low-cost title challenger.
Here’s everything that makes the X2 a much, much better slab than the X and the handful of features and specifications the two still have in common:
Nokia X2 vs Nokia X – what’s different
Sometimes, when comparing, say, 5 and 5.5-inch smartphones, you may hear me claim size can be both a gift and a burden. But when descending in the claustrophobic abyss of smaller than 4.5-inch handhelds, there’s no question about it: the bigger, the better.
Even in cases, such as the one we’re dealing with here, when size comes at the downside of resolution. So yeah, X2’s screen pixel density is lower, at 217 ppi (vs 233), but the 0.3 inches of extra real estate make all the difference in the world.
Beefier processor and twice the RAM
Now you’re talking, Nokia. I mean, no, the X2 is no powerhouse, yet it’s light years ahead of the X raw speed-wise, thanks to a dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 200 chip and 1 GB RAM. Dual-core 1 GHz Snapdragon S4 Play and 512 MB of random-access memory? Talk about partying like it’s 2010. Good thing that’s now behind us.
Improved rear camera, LED Flash and front snapper
Look, 5 megapixels might not sound like a whole lot in the age of the OIS phones and PureView monsters, but paired with Flash it’s positively dreamy for €99. Especially when compared to X’s sub-par 3.15 MP, non-Flash shooter. Also dreamy, the VGA front cam. Yes, it’s VGA, but it’s there.
They say with great power, comes great responsibility. Like the responsibility of keeping the lights on for hours and hours despite beefing up performance. And by the looks of it, the X2 doesn’t disappoint in autonomy either, packing a 1,800 mAh battery (vs 1,500 for the first-gen X), perfectly capable of handling about 10-12 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge.
Software optimizations and tweaks
Reportedly based on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean this time around instead of 4.1, X2’s X software platform 2.0 (you need a better name, Nokia) has as much in common with stock Android as this writer has with Brad Pitt.
Basically a Windows Phone clone with support for (some) Android apps, the 2.0 X platform alters quite a few of version 1.0’s functions, boosting multitasking and adding layers and layers of functionality on an OS that still feels experimental.
A detailed overview of everything that’s transformed is available at this link here, and in case you haven’t heard, let me be the bearer of bad news: the first-gen X, X+ and XL will never be updated to 2.0 on account of hardware limitations. Sorry.
It’s true, for the most part, the X and X2 look the same on the outside. But grab that magnifying glass and you’ll notice a host of changes. The X2 sports the bigger screen and is hence taller (121.7 mm vs 115.5) and wider (68.3 mm vs 63). But for some reason, it’s also chunkier (11.1 mm vs 10.4). Not good.
Also not good, the ginormous weight gap, not entirely warranted by the larger screen and bigger battery. For crying out loud, the X2 is a brick, at 150 grams, 22 grams or so north of the X. On the bright side, Nokia vows for the new guy’s robustness and durability. And the playful paint jobs (glossy green, orange, yellow, white) should help ease the pain of fashionistas.
Nokia X2 vs Nokia X – what’s not different
I know, I know, I can’t be asking a €99 device to accommodate 16 gigs of data sans a microSD card. But maybe it’d have been smart of Nokia to build at least a version with 8 GB of internal storage space. A pricier model, obviously, and one to retain the precious microSD support. As things stand, both the X and X2 only offer 4 GB of memory.
Technically, the first-gen X’s recommended retail value is €89, so €10 less. But surely, you’re not going to skimp on the equivalent of 14 bucks when considering a purchase.
Microsoft apps and services and no Google Play
Between you and me, the sole reason the Nokia X and X2 exist is as part of an MS ploy to sway Android enthusiasts to Google alternatives like OneNote, OneDrive, Skype, Outlook, Here Maps and so on and so forth. So no, don’t even dream of seeing a Nokia offer access to the Play Store anytime soon. Make that ever.
Acknowledging the X series could cannibalize entry-level Lumia sales or simply not be enough to challenge Motorola’s Moto G and E, Microsoft is reluctant to take it to the big stage. You know, the States, Western Europe, all the big, rich markets. Of course, they haven’t spelled that out for us yet, but they’ve announced availability “in select countries globally”, and the hints are glaring. Asia, parts of Europe (particularly the poor parts), maybe Latin America, that’s where the X2 will be up for grabs, and that’s final.
It was a bit of a shocker when Nokia announced its own Android fork at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this February. The Finnish company had long been rumored to have an Android device in the works, although with its upcoming acquisition by Microsoft, the chances of Nokia actually launching an Android product were thought to be slim. However, Nokia seems to have found the sweet spot with Nokia X, which has Android Open Source Project (AOSP) underpinnings, but with the Google Mobile Services part not included.
Nokia X is likely to attract users from markets where Nokia still has a dominant presence, at least in feature phones. As for Android fans, the Nokia X is likely to pique the interest of those who are curious enough about having a device that offers a mix of Android and Microsoft. Nokia is hoping that the platform will be a gateway to Microsoft services, although for me, my personal interest comes from whether the device can be tweaked or hacked to give the user a pure Android experience.
Nokia has released the Nokia X in some countries, notably in Malaysia, India and the Philippines, among others, where it retails close to the announced EUR 89 (US$ 122) at MWC. Nokia lent us a red Nokia X variant, and I would like to share my initial impressions.
“Damn Great Hardware”
A review of a Nokia device will not be complete without praising Nokia for its “damn great hardware” and how its products often come with a certain design elegance and build quality. Even as Nokia has been fast overtaken by other brands in the smartphone scene in terms of market success, the build quality of its devices is always worth a mention. The same treatment has been given the Nokia X.
Holding the phone in your hand, you would notice the heft and solid build — no creaks and squeaks here. Even the construction of the back cover makes the phone sturdy. Instead of simply being a removable lid, the entire cover serves as the phone’s bumper, covering the entire rear, top, sides and bottom of the phone — it’s even made out of a rubberized surface to prevent slips. Yes, the chassis is made out of plastic, but there’s nothing flimsy about the Nokia X, unlike certain plastic-made flagship devices from other brands.
The buttons are well-placed — all lined up at the right side of the phone, with the volume keys at the top and the power/lock buton about one thirds into the middle of the device — all easily accessible from your right thumb or left fore- and middle-finger, depending on which hand you use. With its flat edges, the Nokia X can actually stand unsupported on its side, bottom or top on a flat surface.
Inside the back cover, we can find two micro-SIM slots and a microSD slot, which should provide for adequate expansion options. The 1,500 mAh battery is removable.
Build quality aside, however, the same may not be said for Nokia’s choice of specs and components. 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of ROM, a 1 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and a 4-inch 800×480 pixel screen are not exactly stellar specifications. The phone does not even have a flash to augment its 3-megapixel rear camera. And given that the phone is supposedly targeted at a generation growing up with the term “selfie” in their every day vocabulary, it’s a wonder why Nokia chose not to include a front-facing camera on the X series.
Android Apps (most of ’em, anyway)
Being incompatible with Google Mobile Services, Nokia X does not come with the Google Play Store. There’s actually little incentive for Nokia to ship Play Store with the Nokia X because this will strip the company of its control over monetization and app approvals. Rather, Nokia ships the device with its own Nokia X store, where both converted and non-converted Android apps are distributed.
Nokia has actually shipped the device with some apps and games, although unlike other Android device manufacturers that ship bloatware as part of the system apps, Nokia’s inclusions can be easily uninstalled.
According to Nokia, 75 percent of Android apps are already compatible with the Nokia X, but those that rely on incompatible APIs (namely Google’s in-app payment API, notification API and location API) will need to be converted. The company even offers a drag-and-drop tool that helps developers determine if their apps are compatible simply by uploading their .APK packages.
For someone used to the Google Play Store, however, the Nokia X Store will come with a learning curve. The choices are, at this time, still limited. You can still side-load apps downloaded from other sources, though. It actually helps if you already have another Android device — you can simply use an APK Extractor app and move your APKs over to the Nokia X via Bluetooth or other file transfer method.
Logging into the Nokia X Store is a breeze, though. You can either sign up for a Nokia account. Or, if you’re already a Facebook user, you can simply tap the Facebook icon at login, and you can gain access through your OpenID via your Facebook account.
As earlier mentioned, the Nokia X is a bit lacking when it comes to specifications, and this trickles down to its multimedia capabilities. The rear and only camera takes 3 megapixel shots, and comes with fixed focus. Sorry, no chance to get a good macro shot or interesting depth-of-field effects here.
And because there is no front-facing camera, users won’t be able to enjoy video-conferencing with Skype or any similar app. It’s quite concerning, given that both Apple and Google have heavily marketed their video-chatting apps FaceTime and Hangouts, respectively. Microsoft-owned Skype could have likewise expected a big boost, if the Nokia X came with a front-facing camera.
Still, the Nokia X comes with a built-in FM radio and a music player app, which should be enough for anyone looking to while the time during their daily commute listening to radio or MP3 files.
Nokia X heavily borrows from Microsoft’s own Metro tiled interface in its home screen. While the system doesn’t make fuller use of live tiles like with Windows Phone, the concept is clearly there, with tiles that automatically display the number of unread messages and missed calls, or the date today, as well as recent items in the gallery.
The design differs much from the usual widgets-and-icons interface amongst Android devices. There’s no app drawer, because everything resides as a tile on the home page, although you can customize this with folders. Users can easily install another Android launcher, however, and actually have a choice amongst the more popular out there, including Nova Launcher, ADW and Go Launcher.
Being a dual-SIM device, users can receive calls and SMS messages on either number, and the Nokia X will provide an indicator where the message or call was received with. But it’s the sending and calling part that makes it interesting. Most other dual-SIM implementations of Android require special apps that support multiple SIM cards, or the user will have to dig deep into the mobile network settings to decide.
Nokia’s interface for switching SIM cards is as easy as swiping down to bring up the toggle ribbon. Simply tap on either SIM icons to switch to that one for your subsequent calls and SMSes. This system simplifies the dual-SIM process for users — you have quick access to your choice of active numbers.
Nokia has also introduced its “Fastlane” concept to this Android fork as its way of providing access to notifications and app switching. Fastlane arranges notifications and opened apps in a reverse-chronological order, which presents all the updates, apps and interactions you have made in a single, scrolling view. This can be accessed either by tapping on the single “back” capacitive button on the phone, or by simply swiping left or right from the home screen view.
This re-envisioning of unified notifications is not necessarily original, although I can credit Nokia for putting in a new twist to app switching.
It’s only been a few days since I started using the Nokia X as my daily driver, and therefore it’s too early to give a judgement on how it fares, especially compared with its contemporaries. At this point, the main argument would be whether the Nokia X is a good buy given its limitations.
I would expect a $122 phone to offer a little bit more than basic entry-level functionalities. The phone should enable the user to connect and communicate. The Nokia X does just that. The lack of a front camera severely restricts richer communication (particularly video-conferencing), however. Given this, it might be a challenge to compete against other brand offerings, such as the $130 Xiaomi RedMi Note, or even the Moto G, which sells for $179 unlocked and off-contract.
Also, for someone used to having all sorts of Google apps and services on my device, living without Maps, Gmail and Play Store has been a big adjustment. I think, however, that Nokia should at least enable users to install some Google apps that might be essential to their communication needs. Even iOS has dedicated apps for Gmail and Google Maps, for instance. Even if Nokia X allowed access to Gmail through its email app, it’s just not the same.
Still, $122 gets you a sturdy, well-designed device that offers decent performance on the entry-level. It’s great as a first smartphone or as a device you can entrust younger users with, without having to worry that the phone will break apart. For enthusiasts, it also offers the promise of flexibility — the Nokia X has actually been rooted and loaded with Google Play and Google services. It’s not likely to outsell Samsung devices, but it will be a good for smartphone buyers to have the Nokia X — and its upcoming siblings, the X+ and XL — as options.
Dual OS or dual-boot devices have been debated in lengths before. While it’s practical for the user to have a device which will boot into Windows or Android whenever they want, the people who provide the software don’t quite see it that way.
Some days ago, a Huawei official made it public that the company plans to launch a dual-boot Android/Windows Phone handset by Q2 of 2014. But now the company has backtracked from those claims, clearly due to pressure from either Google or Microsoft. A company spokeswoman has categorically claimed that the company has changed its plans since the official made those claims last week.
Google was never happy with this concept to begin with as we’ve seen several dual booting tablets go missing mysteriously. The recently launched ASUS Transformer Book Duet will probably see the same fate. Huawei claims that it will continue launching Windows Phone handsets for Microsoft until there’s ample demand. The manufacturer is already committed to Google as all its new flagships run Google. So this appears to be a classic case of trying to keep both Microsoft and Google happy, which is probably what the company needs to do to survive in the mobile industry.
Huawei is no stranger to the Windows Phone environment as the company has been selling smartphones running on Microsoft’s mobile platform. The company is also known for its several Android smartphone models and in fact IDC’s report last January ranks Huawei as third overall worldwide in terms of shipment volume.
Now the company wants to combine both the Windows Phone environment and the Android system into one device. This dual boot device is expected to be released in the US by the second quarter of this year.
Shao Yang, Huawei’s Chief Marketing Officer, said that the company is still committed to making Windows Phone devices however they think that it becomes more interesting if it were offered alongside Android by coming up with a dual OS device.
Despite placing its full support on Windows Phone Yang said that Microsoft’s mobile operating system will still continue to play second fiddle to Android. “Compared with Android, the priority of Windows Phone is much lower but is still one of our choices of OS. We are definitely using a multi OS strategy.”
In an interview with TrustedReviews Yang said that “With Windows Phone, one direction for us – and one that we are now following – is dual OS. Dual OS as in Android and Windows together.”
“If it is Windows only, maybe people will not find it as easy a decision to buy the phone. If they have the Android and Windows together, you can change it as you wish and it is much easier for people to choose Windows Phone.”
“We think the dual OS can be a new choice for the consumer. It will be on sale in the US in Q2.”
A dual boot device has the possibility of offering customers the best of both worlds. The question right now is how it is going to be implemented. Right now we have devices running on just one operating system and it even has some bugs present, what more when the device is designed to run on two operating systems. For this to be successful Huawei’s engineers must make sure that the dual boot device functions well on both the Windows Phone and the Android environment.
One stumbling block to the idea of a dual boot smartphone is that Google may not approve of it. Just lately it was rumored that the launch of the Asus Transformer Book Duet TD300 has been postponed following pressure from Google. This device that runs on Android and Windows was first revealed at CES 2014 and is scheduled for release this March. Another deivce, the Samsung Ativ Q, which is a touchscreen notebook that dual boots between Android and Windows was also quietly discontinued before it even went on sale.
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.
Nokia has launched its Nokia X line, which runs a forked version of Android that features Microsoft services and APIs. Could this be a good “Plan B” for Nokia and Microsoft?
It’s official: Nokia has announced its Nokia X series, which comes in three variants: the X, X+ and XL. Nokia X is basically Android without the GMS part. Nokia has “forked” Android by using the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) as the platform’s base, then adding a services framework that will run Microsoft’s and Nokia’s own APIs, for location, in-app purchases and notifications API.
Some say this fork has been several years in waiting, given that Nokia did consider switching to Android as its main platform before Stephen Elop and Co. announced the shift to Windows Phone in 2011. Interestingly enough, the launch of Nokia X comes at a time when Microsoft is finalizing the acquisition of Nokia’s mobile services division. Quite soon, Nokia will be integrated into Microsoft. Should it matter that Nokia is running Android at the core of its mid-range smartphone series?
More Microsoft than Google
The big deal with Nokia X is that it is essentially Microsoft instead of Google. “The Nokia X takes people to Microsoft’s cloud, not to Google’s cloud,” said Stephen Elop, former CEO of Nokia, and now head of the company’s mobile services division. He said that Nokia X presents an “essentially different but complementary opportunity to introduce a new family that strengthens our affordable [devices] family.”
Nokia X will be a “feeder” device to Windows Phone. It is priced competitively against entry-level Android devices by major brands, starting at $122 for the base X model. This is is a step above the Nokia Asha series, but still cheaper than the entry-level Lumia.
Nokia X does not come with the familiar widgets-and-icons interface of the typical Android launcher, but will come in Metro-style tiled layout. Microsoft’s cloud also includes Outlook, OneDrive, Skype and Office 365, instead of the usual Gmail, Google Drive and Hangouts, for example.
Why Android is Good for Microsoft and Nokia
Given this, users should find it easy to upgrade from the Nokia X to a higher-end Lumia device — the interface is highly similar to Windows Phone. Additionally, integration with Microsoft services makes the migration path easier from Nokia to Windows Phone. Elop said the phone will not be marketed as an Android device, but rather as “an affordable phone”. It just so happens that the phone runs Android.
At least this is the assumption. Microsoft and Nokia are banking on users being dependent on its own services rather than competing services by Google. Therefore, this presents an opportunity for growth rather than competition.
If anything, Nokia’s adoption of Android means that Microsoft is willing to be neutral when it comes to dealing with device makers, even if these are partners or even subsidiaries. Take the case of Google and Motorola, for example. When Google acquired Motorola, this caused tension between the search company and the various manufacturers that ran Android — primarily Samsung. Google was seen to be extending favoritism. From the perspective of the subsidiary, meanwhile, it would want better support and faster updates for its own devices, lest it feel alienated by its owner. (With Google selling Motorola to Lenovo, it’s now all good with Samsung.)
Either way, the platform owner also owning a mobile device maker does come with these tensions. Nokia’s adoption of Android would be seen as a way for Microsoft to still have some platform-neutrality, if only in terms of the core operating system running on Nokia’s devices. With the Nokia X, the likelihood of other manufacturers calling out Microsoft for favoritism could be minimized. Meanwhile, Nokia won’t need to be coddled by Microsoft — they can simply shift focus on their own Android fork efforts if Windows Phone becomes too limiting for the mobile division’s needs.
It’s all about the ecosystem
Now here’s where the idea of “Plan B” comes. Microsoft is a distant third ecosystem compared with iOS and Android, commanding only about 3.5 percent of market share in smartphones. The competition in attracting developers can be as tough as attracting users. Why ask developers to build for yet another platform when developing for both iOS and Android consumes quite a lot of effort in itself.
This might seem counter-intuitive, especially given Microsoft’s push to unify its development platform for mobile (Windows Phone) and desktop (Windows 8). However, Android’s development platform is now seen as standard by other platforms as well, including BlackBerry, Samsung’s Tizen and newcomer Sailfish OS, among others. Support for the “hundreds of thousands” of Android apps out there might be as important as running the ecosystem and managing the services layer that comes with it.
Even Elop admits that Windows Phone is seen as lacking in terms of apps, even if popular apps have found their way to the platform. Will this be a good way to combat the stigma of a supposedly small ecosystem?
It’s the best of both worlds for Microsoft and Nokia. I wonder if more devices running a Microsoft-focused Android fork — or at least Windows Phone running Android apps — will be the norm in the future.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with competition. In fact, we all welcome it, regardless of personal preferences. Android geeks, Apple fanatics, Windows Phone aficionados, surviving BlackBerry supporters, we may argue all the time and each feel like we’re in possession of the universal truth, which we want bestowed on our clueless “enemies”.
But when all is said and done, you need little more than common sense to realize Android would be nothing without iOS. And vice versa. Windows Phone, BlackBerry? They look pretty pointless right now, but one dominated the mobile world for years in a row, forcing Android and iOS to evolve, progress and thrive, while the other seemed a big threat back in the day, also keeping the two top dogs on their toes.
Only today’s nearly saturated smartphone market appears incapable of at least sustaining the idea of competition. Three years and a half after debuting in the form of Windows Phone 7, the platform is still, well, a baby. BlackBerry? They’re on the verge of kicking off yet another comeback, albeit their market share circles invisibility.
Tizen? A stillborn project, according to many. Firefox OS, Sailfish? Let’s face it, aside from people whose job is to keep tabs even on obvious tech flops, no one’s ever heard of them. Bottom line, like it or not, it’s a two-way fight for supremacy, and so it shall remain for years to come. Need more proof? Well, let’s see
Why we think Windows Phone is dead
The report that actually sparked the idea in my mind to do the piece you’re reading, and that also confirmed to me once and for all WP has no future, is this Recode story. Yes, I realize it’s unsubstantiated gossip… for now.
There’s a silver lining for Microsoft as well, since rumor has it no Windows Phones will be on display at next week’s Mobile World Congress because they’ll be saved for intros during April’s MS Build Developer Conference.
Yeah, right. Also, HTC’s M8 (or “All New One”) is to trump Samsung’s Galaxy S5 once it goes official at last. And unicorns poop rainbows. Jokes aside, no, MS did not put off fresh hardware announcements due to a grander “scheme”. They simply have nothing to showcase. At least not at the same event as the GS5.
Think about it, who of their partners is still supporting Windows Phone? Samsung? They weren’t committed in the first place, and the ATIV S was just something to test the waters for possible further investments. Needless to say it bombed at the box-office, so don’t expect any sequels.
In short, we think, nay we know Tizen is dead because everyone says so. Sure, all our mothers taught us not to trust strangers, yet in this business, there’s rarely smoke without fire. And boy, has there been a lot of smoke concerning Tizen’s precocious demise.
What’s interesting is, at one point, Samsung stopped trying to convince us there was something to Tizen. And yes, some advanced prototypes, maybe even a “Zeke” handheld ready to see daylight, will probably visit Barcelona next week.
There’s also some rumble as to a Tizen-running Galaxy Gear smartwatch, though I personally doubt Samsung is that crazy and clueless. Unless they want to bury their wearables too.
Either way, with or without Zeke, with or without Tizen Gear, this is going nowhere. Several hardware makers and carriers pulled the plug already, whereas Sammy likely used the platform to strong-arm Google into selling Motorola and nixing the Nexus family as we know it. Don’t believe they have that power? Oh, you are so naïve.
Who else could matter?
Short answer: nobody. Long answer: nobody in the BlackBerry – Firefox OS – Sailfish group. Not today, not tomorrow, not one or two years from now. Maybe in five or ten years, if Android or iOS drop the ball. But at that point, BB will no longer exist, Mozilla will have gone back to developing decent browsers people use when Chrome crashes, and Jolla… who the heck is Jolla anyway?
Now, we could argue and debate whether the duopoly is good or bad for the mobile industry’s forward movement in the “post-PC era”. But let’s throw objectivity and gravity aside for a moment, and enjoy our favorite operating system’s moments of glory.
This comes right at the heels of what is supposedly a confirmation from insider sources that Nokia is forking Android. Nokia is being acquired by Microsoft, and the Finnish company had been Microsoft’s main partner in producing and marketing Windows Phone through its Lumia line. But with mounting challenges from inexpensive Android-powered smartphones in the low-end of the market, the company likely plans to strengthen it position in this segment by launching its own Android devices.
Nokia is likely to fork Android — meaning it will run the open-source aspect of the platform, but not Google’s mobile services framework — giving it better control over the app and content ecosystem (and the revenue stream that comes with it). We earlier argued that Nokia could follow Amazon’s model with the Kindle Fire line. Nokia could run its own mail, navigation, gaming and other services, plus its own app marketplace. There’s no saying whether it would be as successful as Amazon and its Appstore, but the wider availability of Android apps might be an advantage over the existing S40 apps on the Ovi store that the Asha line currently supports.
How about the developer community?
For Microsoft to support Android apps on Windows Phone — does it make any sense at all to run your main competitor’s applications on your own main mobile platform?
This could have some serious implications on the developer community and the viability of Windows Phone as a platform. Sure, Windows Phone development does have its advantages, but it also comes with a few drawbacks. For developers, supporting a third ecosystem after iOS and Android does take a toll on resources. If Microsoft started running Android apps on Windows Phone, this might discourage developers from building native apps, because their own Android apps will run on Windows Phones anyway.
Still, running Android apps on Windows Phone could be a boon for Microsoft because the company would no longer have to worry about the lack of quantity (and perhaps quality) in terms of apps on Windows Phone. There are potential risks, but it’s a tradeoff that Redmond might be willing to consider.
There is actually a precedent here. BlackBerry, which has, for so long, held out on opening its services to other platforms, has started supporting Android. First, it launched its BBM service on both iOS and Android late last year. Now BlackBerry is starting to support installing Android APKs in its latest OS update. In fact, the BlackBerry OS now supposedly runs a stripped-down version of Android.
Similarly, Microsoft could support Android apps through several means: virtualization, an added app layer over Windows Phone, or through app store conversion of APKs, just like how BlackBerry used to require conversion of APKs into BARs.
Android apps: soon the standard for mobile platforms?
Suddenly, I feel nostalgic about all these platform considerations. It reminds me of the time when IBM and Microsoft fought over the PC market in the 1980s and 1990s. While IBM wanted to enforce tighter control with its proprietary OS/2, Microsoft’s DOS and Windows was still dominant in terms of market share, even though OS/2 was supposedly technically superior. OS/2 ended up supporting DOS and Windows (through virtualization), and the rest was history.
If anything, Android apps might soon be the standard for distributing software over smartphone and other mobile platforms. We now see third-party platform makers support APKs, including those from Finnish firm Jolla and Chinese Baidu Yi, among others.
Here’s a bold prediction: apart from iOS, most other smartphone platforms will soon support Android apps, in some way.
A new rumor has hinted at what seems like the unlikely possibility of Microsoft allowing Android applications to run on its Windows Phone mobile platform. It is claimed to be just an idea at this moment, so it’s still a long way from coming to fruition. If these reports turn out to be true, it won’t be the first time a major OS will have adopted the vast library of apps from a rival platform, as BlackBerry took this very route with the BlackBerry 10 OS.
However, given the sort of rivalry Microsoft shares with its Android competitors, we actually might not see this plan materializing. The Verge claims that Microsoft might not directly get involved in this process and might allow a third party ‘enabler‘ to do this for them.
This could also have serious repercussions for the Windows Phone developers as there will be no more motivation left for them to work with the platform if they can just as easily get an Android app ported onto Windows Phone. However, Windows Phone users would welcome this move as the platform doesn’t quite enjoy the quantity (or quality) of apps enjoyed by Android users. So it would certainly be a welcome addition from the users’ perspective.
Mobile World Congress (MWC) is coming in the next few weeks, and manufacturers are expected to make their product announcements either during the event itself or at media conferences done on the side. Samsung, for one, is expected to launch either its flagship S5 or a mid-range series. So are LG, HTC and practically everyone but Apple. But one of the anticipated announcements would involve Nokia’s invitation to “meet us under the tree.”
Observers say this could be about Nokia’s rumored Normandy, a smartphone supposedly based on Android or an Android fork, which it has been developing under wraps. Normandy has been leaked by Twitter user @evleaks, reportedly a reputable source of information in this industry. Recent leaks would suggest that the Normandy phone is likely to be a low-end device, targeted at an entry-level market. In short, it could either augment or replace Nokia’s Asha line.
Even the “meet us under the tree” invitation is worded quite interestingly. What could it mean? Could it mean Nokia is branching-out into other platforms (Android, perhaps)? Is Nokia “sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g” with another brand or platform maker? Or could it be an Apple tree? There are many references that one can make out. Of course, we will know for sure by February 24th.
For now, we wonder whether it makes sense for Nokia to launch an Android device in the first place, given the company’s commitment to Windows Phone, as well as the ongoing acquisition by Microsoft, which is expected to be finalized anytime this year.
Targeting the low end
While Normandy was initially thought of as a mid-range device, recent leaks suggest it has entry-level specifications, and would therefore be targeted at a mass-market or in emerging markets. Nokia’s Windows Phone sales been weak in the past few years, which has badly affected Windows Phone’s momentum. Still, Windows Phone had primarily been targeted at a mid-range to premium audience. A big chunk of Nokia’s business still involves feature-phones that are still quite popular in emerging markets.
Nokia has tried to attract this market into buying inexpensive touchscreen devices based on the Asha platform, but the existence of cheap Android devices from lesser-known manufacturers (or, worse, knockoff makers) is a difficult challenge to overcome.
Therefore, a well-built device priced at the low end of the smartphone spectrum (perhaps in the $100 to $200 range, unlocked) would be a formidable contender against no-name devices. Nokia could compete here with its excellent build quality. The company could leverage existing partnerships with carriers and an extensive distributor reach, as well.
Likewise, support for Android apps and Google Play would not only mean better applications for users, but also easier access the developer community.
Should Microsoft be worried?
Microsoft has missed out on the rise of smartphones and failed to regain traction since the iPhone first launched and when Android began dominating. However, the company is holding firm to its strategy in being both a software developer and hardware maker, particularly with the Surface.
Windows Phone has been gaining headway in the recent months, and this involves mostly the lower-end range of the market. Chances are, Normandy will replace Asha as Nokia’s low-end platform. If Nokia were to use a platform other than Windows Phone at the low end, it might become a threat to Windows Phone.
Business-wise, Microsoft is not likely to worry, since it does make good business out of licensing deals with Android manufacturers, thereby netting the company even a bigger amount per device from royalty fees from Android devices than even Google, which owns the platform. And once Microsoft finalizes the Nokia acquisition and starts churning out hardware, it would also earn some margin from device sales, regardless of what platform the phones are running on.
However, were Android were to cannibalize its own low-end offerings, would it be worth it at all for Microsoft to even consider selling devices that run on Android or a fork thereof?
Nokia was once king of the hill in the smartphone business — at least in the heyday of the Symbian platform. Who wouldn’t remember forget the Communicator series, which was once the only option when you wanted to be able to do serious work and serious communication capabilities on your mobile phone? But now, even low-end devices can be serious communicators, as long as they have apps for email, chat and even video-conferencing in the low-end of the price spectrum.
It’s an exciting time for mobile users and manufacturers alike. Nokia was right to jump off the “burning platform” when it decided to focus efforts outside of Symbian. But apparently, Windows Phone was not the only choice of alternative platforms. Android is open and available, and manufacturers left and right are forking it and using it on their devices. Why can’t Nokia do the same?
Be honest, how many of you bought into the whole Nokia-made Android-running handheld story when it first surfaced? Not many, eh? And I bet there are still skeptics out and about who reckon either we’re looking at one of the most elaborate hoaxes in the history of mobile tech, or the launch will be canceled in the eleventh hour.
Well, I can’t claim to have a lot of sources “on the inside” or anything, but let me assure you the Nokia Normandy is very much real. I don’t know that, as I haven’t seen the thing with my own eyes, but every rational bone in my body says you can’t fabricate that many photos and so much “intelligence” without someone calling your bluff.
Will it ultimately see daylight? Ah, yes, now you’re asking the right questions, though I’m afraid Nokia officials are the only ones with the answer in their back pockets. Possibly, not even them, as rumor has it the plan at the moment is indeed to roll the “X” out as soon as next month, but between now and then Microsoft could try to hijack the release.
Why? Let’s not get into the politics of it and just call it fear on Redmond’s part. Fear of diversification, primarily. But that’s not the reason we’re here. Instead, we want to round up all the Normandy gossip floating around. Here goes:
Nokia Normandy – branding rumors
From day one, the phone was known as the “Normandy”. But from day one, it was obvious its final market name would have a different ring to it. The thing is the official moniker is still a tough nut to crack.
@EvLeaks suggested a mysterious, cool-sounding Nokia X nickname not long ago, but, despite the leak master’s proven track record, two arguments make it implausible. 1. It’s far too similar to the Moto X, and 2. It’s too unalike Lumia and Asha.
True, the device itself may not resemble Lumias and Ashas much, however a very different branding would mean fully acknowledging that. Which is unlikely when the whole point of the “Normandy” is to blur the lines between Android, Windows and Asha, and subsequently draw as many people as possible to the “dark side”.
Release date and pricing speculation
More than how severe Nokia ultimately intends to fork Android, more than the hardware, design and name, Normandy’s make-or-break elements will be timing and pricing. Also, availability, but I doubt its spread will be limited in any way to certain regions or countries.
So should we mark our calendars for February 24? Book flights to Barcelona and accomodation in Catalunya? Probably, as the Mobile World Congress seems the perfect venue for a glitzy yet not overly showy introduction. Besides, Nokia gave last month’s CES the cold shoulder and it can’t afford to do the same with the year’s second glamorous tech expo.
As for the financial aspect of the equation, pinpointing exact figures is difficult when, for all intents and purposes, we have nothing similar to compare the Normandy to. Let’s say somewhere between Ashas and Motorola’s Moto G. Soooo $120, possibly $150. Sub-$100 would be the dream though.
Design and build quality
Since a picture is worth a thousand words and half a dozen Normandy pics have so far surfaced online, it’s probably best to let them speak for themselves. Remember, they presumably depict pre-release, test prototypes, so some last-minute adjustments are definitely in the cards.
Nothing major however, so in the end, the 4-incher shall still look like a blocky, slightly more elegant, larger Asha 501.
Nokia Normandy – software rumors
What if Android (4.4 KitKat), Windows Phone 8 and the Asha software platform would one day decide to put their differences aside, fall in love and bear children? I’ll bet you 1,000 smackeroos that was the pitch of the guy who came up with the idea of this user interface.
But is it the best of both all three worlds, or, on the contrary, a freakish Frankensteinian mutant? Frankly, I couldn’t care less. What are we, 10 year-old school girls to get hung up on the UI’s cute factor? At the end of the day, it all boils down to this: Google Play or GTFO.
Skin, tweak, fork, customize all you want, Nokia, just don’t touch the Play Store. Preferably, also pre-load the Normandy with as many as Google’s other services as possible. You know, Gmail, Gmaps and so on. Oh, how I hope that Vietnamese online retailer got the list of features right.
Nokia Normandy – hardware roundup
Usually, I’d start my rumor recaps with the hardware part. Or at least get to it towards the middle of the post. Not this time. This time, I left it for the very end because it doesn’t make much of a difference. We all know the Normandy isn’t going to be a powerhouse, so whether it packs a 1 GHz or 1.2 GHz chip, it just doesn’t matter.
Alright, it matters a little. But make no mistake, if Nokia plays the rest of its cards right (design, software, pricing, availability), it’ll sell a million of these things in the first week regardless of “specs”.
Now, for all you spec war-crazed fellows out there, here’s what to expect from the Nokia XNormandy Asha Android whatever:
4-inch FWVGA (854 x 480 pixels resolution) TFT display
Dual-core 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 SoC
Adreno 302 GPU
512 MB RAM
4 GB on-board storage space
MicroSD support for memory expansion with an additional 32 GB
All things considered, could Nokia interest you in an Asha clone with pre-loaded Android and the above listed hardware? How does the software need to look and how much are you willing to cough up for the “Normandy”? Sound off below.
When news first broke that the Chinese government was working alongside the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISCAS) on an Android-competing mobile operating system based on Ubuntu, to be candid, no one really knew what to make of it.
On the one hand, there are plenty of Android and iOS rivals, forks and clones out and about (think Tizen, Firefox OS and Sailfish), but they’re all light years and millions of dollars spent on development and marketing away from becoming a genuine menace. Not to mention the promising (on paper) projects initiated of late and abandoned before getting a shot at fame.
Or BlackBerry OS and Windows Phone, the costly challenger wannabes that never lived to their “true” potential and hype.
Then again, we should probably know better than to just discard an initiative by the Chinese government. Let’s put that into perspective. We’re talking about the powers to be in the world’s most populous country and the biggest mobile market, with roughly 1.2 billion subscribers spread out between the nation’s three leading carriers.
For comparison, active Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile users in the US sum up to about 320 million. Sounds threatening enough? If not, then let’s also mention HTC was rumored to be involved in the development of China Operating System (COS) from day one.
The Taiwanese never confirmed that, but they didn’t do a very convincing job of denying it either, so make of that what you will. Or better yet, make of this what you will: after the official introduction of COS last week,the first device built around the platform has popped up, preparing to roll out with China Mobile, the leading wireless service provider in the Middle Kingdom.
Only the handheld is not an absolute novelty, but rather a carbon copy of HTC’s Butterfly S. With the same exact hardware as the Android version launched last year (5-inch 1,080p screen, quad-core Snapdragon 600 CPU, 2 GB RAM and whatnot), and an extremely subtle software makeover.
So subtle in fact one would probably not have noticed it were it not for the COS logos on the phone’s box. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Those bastards! They said they weren’t going to rip off or fork Android and they did just that.
To make matters worse, COS will apparently be closed source, so we’ll never be able to prove they mimicked took a leaf out of Google’s playbook. But hey, all’s fair in love, war and mobile war, right?
Besides, it’s not that COS resembles stock Android so much. It’s more of a duplicate of HTC’s Sense-skinned Android. And if the One makers are fine with it, why should we mind?
The bigger question is what will Big G think of HTC’s “betrayal”? And was the OEM’s gamble worth it? Finally, could COS be truly a force to be reckoned with? At least on the Asian continent? Guess only time will tell. Which shouldn’t stop you from speculating. The comments section is all yours.