BARCELONA—Of all the announcements happening here at Mobile World Congress, Nokia’s foray to the “dark side” is perhaps the most enticing. After all, this is a company that has pledged its allegiance time and time again to the Windows Phone ecosystem, but is now taking its chances on a green robot birthed by Google.
On Monday Nokia introduced the X, X+, and XL, three low-end devices meant to help Microsoft “reach people it has never talked to around the world,” according to Stephen Elop, executive vice president of devices and services at Nokia. He added that the real philosophy behind these three particular Android-based devices is to take people “to Microsoft’s cloud, not Google’s cloud.”
The software on all the devices is based entirely on the Android Open Source Project, and Nokia has specially tweaked it to look like the Windows Phone interface—it even utilizes its own version of Live Tiles. The candy bar-style X and X+ feature a 4-inch WVGA screen, though the X+ has more RAM. Both look somewhat similar to Nokia’s affordable ASHA line of phones, and they also boast their own suite of apps, including Skype, OneDrive, and Outlook.com.
The Nokia XL is a bit bigger than its two siblings. It sports a 5-inch WVGA display, a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, though it utilizes the same software and suite of apps.
Nokia's foray into the Android ecosystem is particular interesting considering that it’s almost sealed the deal on its merger with Microsoft. “What they do, some things we may be excited about—and some things we are not as excited about,” said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's vice president of Windows Phone, during the Microsoft press conference at MWC. He was likely referring to this particular family of devices.
However, it’s in both companies’ interests to try on Android for size, especially when taking into consideration Microsoft’s renewed focus on selling mass quantities of devices.
Nokia plans to introduce the X, X+, and XL to “growth markets” early next quarter. The X will sell for 89 Euros, the X+ for 99 Euros, and the XL for 109 Euros.