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The moment most Nokia fans have been waiting for has finally arrived. Nokia now has a family of Android devices. The new Nokia X, which was launched this week at Fairmont Makati, was well received by both the members of the media and even our blog readers. It’s different a couple of years ago when the thought of Nokia giving in to Google’s Android was clearly far from truth.

Nokia has been trying to regain its position as the undisputed leader in hardware manufacturing. The limelight was stolen by other giants, but Nokia never abandoned its cause and resolve to get it back. With Nokia X, Nokia is able to strengthen its position to create smartphones for everyone: Asha, X, Lumia are positioned for the low-income market to the high-income market respectively.

Unboxing the first Nokia Android phone

Opening the retail box of Nokia X is like a beginning of an incredible journey. It’s part of a history that no one thought would eventually happen. If you’re familiar with Nokia retail boxes, Nokia X’s box doesn’t look special. It’s ordinary, but the device inside makes the difference.

The box does now show any logo of Android or Google, because Nokia doesn’t “owe” anything from Google because the device uses AOSP (Android Open Source Project) and does not have any Google-proprietary apps and services. Let’s talk about its OS later.

Anyway, here are some photos of what’s inside the retail box:

Nokia X has the signature Nokia shell, a polycarbonate removable shell the protects the phone’s innards. I like the green one I got, but I hope that Nokia would offer replacement shells soon. The device has considerable heft, which isn’t exactly a bad thing as it gives the impression that it isn’t flimsy.

Nokia X 14

The volume rockers and sleep/wake button can be found on the right hand side of the device. There is no camera shutter button. The left side of the device is devoid of buttons. You can find the 3.5mm headphone jack on the top side, while the microUSB port is at the bottom.

You will find the speakers and 3mp camera at the back of the device. On top of its 4″ capacitive screen, you will see the earpiece and light sensor. Just below its screen is the back capacitive button. It also doubles as a home button when you touch and hold the button.

Nokia X 22

First Blood Boot

I heard a familiar sound at first boot. It’s Nokia, and you’re probably humming the tone in your head while reading this. Done? Anyway, initial setup is pretty straight forward: setup language, device activation (that by the way requires internet) and you’re done. If you’re an Android user, you will really be surprised to notice that it the device wouldn’t request to key in your Google account. It’s an Android phone sans Google. Android with a tile UI, and does not use Google services and apps.

Bloatware, anyone?

The device isn’t devoid of bloatwares. There is a plethora of game icons at the homescreen, which is also the app tray. If you’re looking for the familiar Android UI, you will never find it on the Nokia X. You have to sideload (or install from another third party application store) a replacement home application to do this.

A bittersweet UI and UX

This device is Android with Nokia DNA running on its user interface. This is obvious especially when you look at its homescreen. The latter has a lot of potential, but there’s a lot of things to be done to improve the overall experience. As it does not have an app tray, recently or new apps installed are automatically placed at the bottom of the home screen. There is no easy way to move it to the top but doing the top-hold-move combination, which I find a grueling act. Spoiler: there’s a shortcut – Fastlane.

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Fastlane is your best access to recently download and opened applications and tasks. This is very useful, and reduces the task of remembering the apps you’ve recently opened. Fastlane may easily be accessed by swiping to the right or left from the home screen.

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If you have been totally relying to Google apps and services, you will probably curse Nokia for making it quite hard to transfer your contacts and calendars from Google to the Nokia X. The absence of Google services on Nokia X is the culprit; and mind you, Nokia will require you to have a Nokia/Microsoft account in order to get your contact and calendar entries on the device. When you do this, whatever contact and calendar entries you synced to your Nokia account will not automatically be synced to your Google account. Forget what I said though if you save your contacts on your SIM. Such old technology. Much way of the future.

Sideloading and Third-Party Application Stores

There are 2 ways to transfer APKs or install apps that are not in the Nokia Store to the Nokia X:

How to sideload APK to Nokia X
  • Go to Settings > Security > Allow Unknown Sources under Device Administration
  • Connect your device to PC/Mac.
  • Create a folder called ‘APK’ in the device, and transfer APK files in it
  • Download/user Astro File Manager to install the apps inside the APK folder.
How to Install Apps that are not in the Nokia Store
  • Go to Store
  • Search ‘Aptoide’ and Install it.
  • Open the application and search for the app you want like Instagram
  • Follow instructions from Aptoide.
  • Enjoy… but be aware that not all apps will work

If you don’t do the instructions above, you’re left off with the Nokia Store, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. The apps in Nokia’s store are highly optimized for the Nokia X’s ecosystem. This is the reason why Nokia had to invite software developers to optimize their apps prior to the launch of the device.

And one more thing, the Nokia Store also allows you to purchase apps using your load. That’s another way to get your apps legally. But be informed that you’re buying these apps from Nokia Store, not from Google Play Store.

Performance

It has the need for speed…. literally. Unfortunately, its need to speed is something that can not be remedied. The SoC in the Nokia X is about 2 years old (Qualcomm MSM8225); and with dual-core processor and 512mb ram, this isn’t exactly something that you can use to play games like Modern Combat 4.

Surprisingly though, I managed to install and play Asphalt 8 on this device with little gameplay issues thanks to its Adreno 203 GPU. I will be posting a gameplay video using this device soon.

If you’re into benchmark result, the device got a dim score of 7,661 on Antutu.

The Android-flavored Nokia only has 1,500mAh. Our initial battery test only proves that it’s okay for moderate usage. As mentioned above, this review does not yet cover GSM and 3G tests. We will update it as soon as we’re done testing it. Battery tests only indicate usage without SIM inserted.

Camera

The Nokia X’s camera isn’t its cup of tea. But it does not mean that it takes bad photos. There is no flash and autofocus too, so be sure to take photos with ample light source. Take a look at the photos below for your reference.

Verdict

As Nokia’s entry-level Android, the Nokia X is a device worthy of praise. It’s Nokia’s brave attempt to embrace Android, and a way to flaunt Nokia’s phone manufacturing strength. The strict implementation to not include Google services isn’t simply a branding strategy, but a preservation of the Nokia experience the Finnish company always wanted its customers to have and hold. Nokia X is their first ticket to regain Nokia’s glory and success. Camera and speed aren’t exactly impressive, but that’s expected for a low-end Android device. Price isn’t exactly an issue because Nokia. Yes, because Nokia – it’s built to last.

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Author

Giancarlo Viterbo is a Filipino Technology Journalist, blogger and Editor of GadgetPilipinas.net, He is also a Geek, Dad and a Husband. He knows a lot about washing the dishes, doing some errands and following instructions from his boss on his day job. Follow him on twitter: @gianviterbo and @gadgetpilipinas.

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