The X Factor

Nokia’s version of Android is different. Here’s how...

Written by Nandagopal Rajan | Updated: April 6, 2014 1:30:22 am
Nokia’s version of Android is different. Nokia’s version of Android is different.

Price: Rs 8,449

What has the world come to? I switch on a new Nokia phone and the first thing I see is the BlackBerry Messenger. Yes, a Nokia phone running a version of Google’s operating system which some people in Finland thought was not worth a second glance. The Nokia X is the first of the Nokia phones to feature a modified operating system based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). But let us get one thing clear, this is not an Android phone. Here is why:

The design is not Android

The Nokia X looks and feels like a slightly large Asha 501. It has a thinner bezel and hence more real estate. It is also a bit heavier. It comes from the same design family as the rest of the Nokia phones these days and, hence, has a bright colour body. The rear flap also tries to protect the camera bump. But the big difference in comparison to Android phones is that there is just one back button under the screen, like in the Asha series. And this is not exactly a Home button. This has a considerable impact on the way you use this phone.

The OS is not Android

This phone OS does not look like any Android phone you have ever seen. Nokia has tried to bring in the Lumia design language into the phone and you have a tile-based interface that is many notches below what you find on the Lumia 525. So this Android phone actually looks more like a Windows phone. You can add apps to the homescreen and make some basic tweaks to the entire look and feel.

But it is not a bad interface. Nokia is using Fastlane from the Asha series to give a completely non-Android user experience on the phone. Everything you need is one swipe away and the phone is very fast when you swipe through the apps. One swipe left from an app and you are on the homescreen, a swipe to the right and you are in the Fastlane showing all the recent apps, including the one you switched from. It needs some getting used to, but it is effective. However, we noticed that with some apps, it was very hard to exit. We guess these are the made-for-Android apps.

There is no Google Play store

The best thing about Android, or iOS, is the access it gives to millions of apps. But there is no Google Play store on the Nokia X. There is a store that lets you download apps without even logging in. The store has lots of popular apps, though some of the bigwigs like Instagram are missing.

The last qualifier has been added because you might find apps that do what you are looking for. For instance, I could not find the official YouTube app, but there are a bunch of others that try and do the same thing. These are Android apps as they are choc-a-bloc full of ads, something that would never bother you in Windows apps, for instance. The phone is loaded with a lot of Nokia regulars like Here Maps and Mix Radio, which work well out of the box and are fully integrated with the system.

There is multi-tasking, but not as you know it

The experience with the apps and games are very similar to what you would get on pure Android. I would go one step ahead and say that this phone is much more stable than Android phones in the same price range. This phone has a 1GHz dual-core processor and a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4; that makes a difference in the overall performance. But there is no Android-like multi-tasking and it is not easy switching from one running app to the other. Here you do this by long-pressing the back button to go to the app running in the background.

Should you buy it?

Yes, if you are looking to buy your first smartphone. This phone gives you the assurance of a Nokia device coupled with the occasional indiscretion and flourish of the Android. But this is not for those who have been exposed to Android in other, more popular, forms. I am forced to say Nokia X is what you get when you mix Nokia’s caution and compulsion to Android and use it to create a phone.

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