“Taking the Nokia X, the brand’s first Android-toting smartphone, through its paces”We’ve seen stranger things happen, but the Nokia X marks a massive shift in the iconic brand’s portfolio of offerings. The manufacturer’s decision to launch a family of devices running Android deserves much more than raising an eyebrow, throwing up big questions regarding how the new range fits amongst its Asha and Lumia offerings, and more significantly, how things will play out once its acquisition by Microsoft is complete. That said, such questions could only be swirling around in the minds of tech enthusiasts, reviewers and industry analysts. As far as the general user is concerned, the Nokia X is the first device that marries the Finnish brand’s hardware expertise with the Android platform and its vast ecosystem of apps. And that’s what matters when it comes to doling out the cash required. our coverage, have had a chance to go through our responses to some of the commonly-asked queries regarding the Nokia X, or have read about the device in general, you’d already know that the smartphone is a tad bit different when compared to other devices that run Android. Also, the specs it sports aren’t exactly worth writing home about. Care to find out how the Nokia X fares and whether it has what it takes to take on the entry-level ‘droids? Read on.
|Short on time? Take a look at our Nokia X review in pictures|
Typical Nokia buildNokia is widely believed to be one of the best when it comes to build quality, and most of its devices highlight this. The brand also started a trend of brightly-coloured variants – just take a look at any of the Asha and Lumia devices out there. The Nokia X continues in the same tradition – toting a sturdy build and offering a riot of bright hues to choose from. The 4-inch device is quite compact, and utilises matte-finished shells that hug the main unit, hiding a removable 1,500mAh battery, the pair of micro-SIM slots and a microSD card slot inside. You won’t find much on the rear apart from the 3-megapixel shooter, Nokia branding and a speaker, while the front totes the usual sensors and earpiece above the screen. However, the front shooter has gone AWOL, and the usual set of three Android keys have been replaced by a single back key below the screen. This isn’t backlit either. The said button basically takes you one screen back, or jump straight to the start screen directly. Placement or ports and controls is fairly standard too – with the 3.5mm headset socket on top, micro-USB at the bottom, and the volume buttons and power keys on the right. unboxing and hands-on already has all the info you need regarding the sales package, build and design, but suffice to say that the Nokia X is built like the proverbial tank and sticks to the typically solid construction we expect from the brand. The vivid hues of course, are a matter of personal choice – so if you find that the red, green and yellow shades hurt the eyes, you could settle for a more sedate black or white.
Display isn’t too bad, really
Let’s not talk about the camThe selfie phenomenon has clearly taken off in a big way, while Skyping has long been a preferred way for many to keep in touch with loved ones located in different geographical locations. The Nokia X however, isn’t designed for any of those activities since it lacks a front shooter. Another bummer is the 3-megapixel primary snapper that doesn’t support autofocus, and sports fixed focus instead. The max video capture resolution supported is limited to 480p. Now we know that a few corners may need to be cut to keep costs down, but the lack of autofocus seems like a big compromise.
Android? Where?This is the big one, isn’t it? We know that the Nokia X runs Android, but you won’t find any resemblance to any Android UI you have had a chance to use earlier. There are no multiple home screens, and instead, what you get is a single start screen with tile-like icons not too different from the Windows Phone UI. a new system update that has been made available via a 16MB OTA download, change the background colour for the icons of any of the downloaded apps. While in edit mode, you can also choose one of the two actions placed at the bottom of the screen to place the app into a folder or add widgets. A drop-down status bar is available, giving you access to connectivity toggles and phone settings. However, this status bar doesn’t display any notifications. That’s a privilege reserved for the FastLane screen. First seen on the Nokia Asha 501, the FastLane UI has been Nokia’s staple offering on the Asha platform, and now makes the jump to the X family. Accessible by swiping sideways from the start screen, FastLane aggregates all notifications and recently-accessed apps in chronological order. You can choose which apps get to display their notifications here. Some of the notifications, like SMS for example, are even actionable – letting you reply to a message or control music from here directly. The lock screen displays notifications too, and you can choose to clear them all in one go by flicking upwards, dismiss specific ones by flicking them to the left, or jump to the respective app by flicking one to the right. Overall, the UI is fairly intuitive and hardly requires a learning curve – vital for newbies and those migrating from feature phones. However, Android aficionados may find it limiting, but there’s really no way out, even if you install a third-party launcher like Nova Launcher. Doing this will give you the standard Android UI, complete with multiple home screens with support for widgets and a separate app drawer, but notifications will continue to be delivered to the FastLane screen. And since the latter is only available with the default launcher, installing a third-party one could work out to be counter-productive. Now the Nokia X may be running Android, but it’s actually a custom build that uses AOSP v 4.2.1 as its base. Nokia has actually stripped it off of all Google services, which means you don’t get to use services like Google Maps, Hangouts or the native Gmail app as you would on any conventional Android smartphone or tablet. The highly-useful Google Now functionality isn’t available too, and neither is the Google Play storefront. To download Android apps on the Nokia X, you need to make use of Nokia’s own Store, which offers a curated list of apps and games to download. You don’t need to sign in for this, but if you do so (using your Nokia account), you get to rate and comment on available apps. As far as app availability is concerned, the Nokia Store covers most of the basics such as Temple Run 2 and Truecaller. If you can’t find what you’re looking for though, the store points you to third-party app stores such as 1Mobile Market. These can be downloaded via the Nokia Store, and then can be used to search for and install apps. We got to install popular ones like WhatsApp and Instagram using this very method, and apart from the extra step involved, the process works well. Installing apps from third-party stores basically involves sideloading, so you’ll also need to allow the device to bypass the security restrictions by checking ‘Unknown sources’ under security settings. This also means that the manual sideloading process is supported too, and if you have an Android APK you’d like to sideload, just transfer it to the device in the usual way and install it using Astro File Manager that comes preinstalled. Suffice to say that the Nokia X usage differs quite a bit from a regular ‘droid, especially since it doesn’t support proper multitasking too. In case you’re interested in using the Nokia X as a more conventional Android device, complete with access to Google services and the Play Store, you can choose to root your device. It’s a simple process, and you’ll find tons of articles online on how to do it, but be aware that it would mean voiding warranty and involves a tiny, but very real possibility that you may end up bricking your phone if things go awry.
Performance issues exist, but smooth as far as basics are concernedWhen it comes to pure specs, let’s just say that the Nokia X is as exciting as a closed bar. There’s a dual-core Snapdragon S4 chip clocked at 1GHz, which is paired with 512MB of RAM. Out of the 4GB internal storage, you actually get about 2.3GB, divided into system storage and phone storage. USB OTG isn’t supported, but thankfully, you can add more storage by inserting a microSD card. Other connectivity options are fairly basic too – you get the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 and A-GPS. The Nokia X supports dual-SIMs and accepts a pair of micro-SIM cards. 3G is available only on the first slot, and since it’s a dual-standby handset, callers will get an ‘unreachable’ message if they try to call you on one of the numbers if the other one is in use. As far as battery life is concerned, the removable 1,500mAh pack provides enough juice to last you through the day, but may protest if your usage is heavy. This also reflects in our video loop test, which saw the Nokia X’s battery give up in about five hours of continuous playback.
VerdictThe fling between Nokia and Android may not have the blessings of the couple’s parents (that would be Microsoft and Google, respectively), to take a very crude analogy. However, the pair’s lovechild was always expected to be a killer gadget. The Nokia X, to some extent, doesn’t really live up to those expectations – the fixed focus snapper isn’t impressive, the performance and battery life are so-so, and the fact that it doesn’t give you the full Android experience sours the deal even further. And at the MRP of Rs 8,599, it doesn’t really come out as a value-for-money device. On the positive side, the build quality is very good, it’s got useful features like dual-SIM support and FM radio, and the UI is simple and intuitive. Comparing the Nokia X with its WP-toting sibling, the Lumia 520, the latter stands out as a more compelling device. It’s not only a a tad cheaper, it has better specs too. If we were to pit the Nokia X against a similarly-priced Android device, the XOLO Q800 X-edition for example, Nokia’s offering seems even less compelling.
- Nokia and Android playing together for the very first time
- Sturdy build and vivid hues
- Simple and intuitive interface
- Most Android apps supported, sideloading is an option too
- Nokia’s signature services, including Here Maps and MixRadio
- Middling specs
- No support for Google services
- No proper multitasking
- Front shooter missing in action
- 3MP fixed-focus shooter delivers so-so results
- A few performance hiccups