The irony of Nokia introducing low-end Android smartphones upon being absorbed into Microsoft is obvious.
Had the company put out Android devices earlier, it might not have sold to Redmond. By the same token, now that Nokia has introduced Android phones, how enthusiastically will Microsoft embrace and promote them?
Earlier today, the company announced a new line of Android-based handsets at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona.
The Nokia X series may or may not technically be “forked” but they don’t look like traditional Android phones. They’ve got a Windows Phone-like tiles UI. In fact this tiles interface may be more functional in some respects than that on proper Windows Phones.
There’s an interesting hybrid approach here. Beyond the Windows Phone look, Nokia X phones promote Microsoft services, such as OneDrive, Skype and Outlook. The company is also advertising that Nokia X devices run Android apps but chiefly via the Nokia app store.
There are three phones in this initial group: Nokia X, X+ and XL. They range in cost from €89 to €109 ($122 to $149). Accordingly they’re extremely affordable.
They will soon become available in Asia-Pacific, Europe, India, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. I suspect they’ll be popular but will be competing intensely with low-cost Chinese-made Android handsets from companies such as ZTE and Huawei.
The larger and riskier question is: can Nokia X devices help sell Lumia devices later? They’re being positioned as an “on-ramp to Lumia [Windows Phones] and Microsoft services…” It could emerge as a devilishly successfully strategy.
It’s also possible however that they’ll help promote higher-end Android phones from others such as Samsung and LG.
Postscript: Yesterday, Microsoft held a Windows Phone “momentum” press conference in Barcelona in which the company touted market-share gains and new manufacturing partners including Foxconn, Lenovo, LG and ZTE among other, lesser-known companies.