How Nokia Was Lost in Android: X-Smartphones

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By Miro Stoichev

Speaking of Nokia’s disastrous decision to use Windows Phone and the unrealized potential of its Android handsets.

The first Android smartphone from Nokia, the Nokia X, goes on sale on February 24, 2014. Stephen Elop announces the lineup’s cancellation on July 17, 2014. What was the first Android smartphone lineup from Nokia, and why did it end up being discontinued in less than a year? Let’s investigate this further.

Why did Nokia decide on Windows Phone?

Why did Nokia decide on Windows Phone

In 2010, the business was doing well and was stable, but its market share was declining as a result of the iPhone’s increasing influence and the quick development of Android smartphones. At the time, Nokia was selling Symbian smartphones, whose development was impeded by the breakup of the developer consortium. Apart from Symbian, the company was also developing MeeGo, an operating system based on Linux that could run on a variety of devices.

Sadly, Stephen Elop’s actions derailed all of the plans for the slow switch from Symbian to MeeGo and the continued development of this incredibly promising OS.

Stephen was appointed executive director by Nokia management in 2010, with the responsibility of formulating a change strategy and fortifying the company’s position. It was a deadly error, as it would later turn out—he was a “Microsoft man” who reduced Nokia’s smartphone market share from 29% in 2010 to a pitiful 3% in just two years.

Stephen Elop compared Nokia’s current position in the smartphone market to that of a man standing on the edge of a burning oil platform in an address titled “Burning Platform” that was published at the beginning of 2011. He essentially destroyed Symbian’s future with this letter, and it also severely hurt Nokia’s sales on the platform. When talking about the platform choice, he made the decision to drop MeeGo a little easier by highlighting how difficult it would be to quickly bring a large number of devices running the new OS to market. Although switching from Android to Windows Phone was more difficult, the company’s new CEO made strong arguments, pointing out that Samsung dominated the Android smartphone market and that the company was unable to independently produce smartphones that could compete. Microsoft responded by offering to work with others to develop devices, and there are rumors that the company paid $1 billion to use Windows Phone.

Following the completion of the transaction, the Finnish behemoth experienced widespread layoffs that affected over 8,000 workers. The engineers who worked on the creation of MeeGo and Symbian were let go, and all prototypes and developments were destroyed. The majority of Nokia’s mobile division was dissolved because Microsoft was actively involved in the Windows Phone Lumia’s development.

Why did Nokia choose to use Android?

Why did Nokia choose to use Android

Notwithstanding Nokia’s enormous losses, Elop succeeded in his mission; in 2013, the Finns nearly monopolized the Windows Phone market, controlling 92% of it. Nevertheless, Microsoft only held a meager 3.6% of the market for operating systems. The business came to the conclusion that it was impossible to wring more profit out of Windows Phone and started searching for new markets in which to grow. Nokia could no longer afford to ignore the competitors’ revenues and the quick development of Android devices.

With its new lineup of low-cost Android smartphones that have a clean interface and vibrant design, Nokia is attempting to bridge the gap between Windows Phone and the typical Asha touchscreen phones.

Although the real reasons for making such a bold choice are unknown, there were a few requirements:

Despite Nokia’s near-monopoly in the Windows Phone OS market, Windows Phone smartphones did not generate revenue; regular Asha phones were selling well and generated a modest but steady profit.

Furthermore, the company had been in a severe crisis since 2011 when the Nokia X lineup was revealed, and it was simply too expensive for them to create and market a full-fledged lineup of Android smartphones, with a flagship model at the top.

When creating a new lineup, the company first placed its bets on developing markets such as India and Pakistan (phones were not even sold in the United States, Korea, or Japan), where consumers need access to a vast array of free applications—of which Android is the only mobile operating system to rival in variety. Google services were not included in the Nokia X Platform at the same time, which was an odd and illogical decision. If you recall the new lineup’s positioning, everything makes sense. Elop has been pushing Windows for years, despite any losses, and there was a lot of commotion when rumors of an Android smartphone surfaced. A smartphone with full Google services could rival more costly models, and the Nokia X was already competing with the younger Lumia.

The company intended to build a bridge from users of traditional Asha-level phones to its Windows Phone-based smartphones by offering the Nokia X at a suggested price of 89 euros.

The initial Nokia X launch was a wild introduction for an unfinished product

Using different smartphones The bright, interchangeable panels made of premium polycarbonate, the single navigation button, and—as was already mentioned—the firmware set the Nokia X apart from other smartphones in a positive way.

The Nokia Glance Screen shell and the redesigned pure Android (AOSP 4.1.2) served as the foundation for the Nokia X Platform firmware. The company was able to reduce royalties and advance its own application ecosystem by not offering Google services. Due to the firmware’s significant differences from competitors’ more conventional versions, Nokia released a developer-only application to verify compatibility with the Nokia X platform. However, first-time users frequently experienced issues with the way the applications operated.

Additionally, the usability of the shell was questionable because there was no separate menu for applications; instead, all of the applications were located on the main screen as a ribbon of tiles that slowed down when scrolling. The lack of many settings, widgets, and even the menu of open apps made matters worse. Instead, Asha phones’ recent activity was compiled into a ribbon that could be accessed by swiping left on the home screen, which was called Fastlane.

In spite of phenomenal sales (the smartphone became the best seller in Russia, Pakistan, Kenya, and India), the Nokia X was criticized for its blatantly subpar hardware and rudimentary firmware. This was an example of a “first pancake gone wrong.”

A good smartphone and “burning platform” is the Nokia X2

Stephen Elop announced the closure of the Nokia X line and a widespread employee layoff shortly after Microsoft completed its acquisition of Nokia’s mobile division. The second generation of Nokia X devices was on the verge of being shelved despite their successful announcement. In the end, the updated lineup’s Nokia X2 and a few other models were sold in a few nations.

Following the first generation’s lackluster launch, engineers had to work quickly to iron out hardware and software flaws, which resulted in the second generation of the Nokia X being a quality work on mistakes. Unlike the first generation X, which had extremely low-quality components and undeveloped firmware, the second generation had a Snapdragon 200 processor, which was a budget platform at the time, 1 GB of RAM, a 5-megapixel camera, and a slightly larger battery. The “Home” button was added beneath the display in response to the repeated complaints about the inconvenient navigation with just one button. The firmware was also updated, with the Nokia X Platform 2.0 operating system being based on Android 4.3. Notably, the original generation of smartphones was never updated to the second iteration. Nokia’s firmware was a raw product with many issues, but it was transformed into a very useable shell with the firmware’s introduction of a Windows Phone-style application menu, the ability to open a list of running programs, a finalized Fastlane, and many other minor fixes and innovations.

A peek at the Nokia X2 in 2023: How it feels today

I used the Nokia X2 as a backup smartphone for three weeks, primarily for this article, and I tried to determine whether Nokia would still be around on Android.

Though I have some reservations, I thought the firmware and the smartphone itself were pretty great. It stands out from other smartphones both when it was released and even now thanks to its vivid design and translucent interchangeable panels (I went with the orange one).

Despite my love for Windows Phone design and my extensive experience with various shells and devices, I was able to use the smartphone throughout the experiment with ease and almost without experiencing any discomfort, even if we ignore the significant issues and flaws in the initial versions. I found the firmware to be very user-friendly and intuitive, combining some of my favorite features from Android with the simplicity of the Windows Phone UI. The speed of operation is something I’d like to highlight. Despite its age and initially low battery capacity of 1,800 mA⋉h, it was possible to use the browser and older versions of applications quite comfortably due to the lack of hefty animations and Google services. It could even last until the evening on a single charge.

Did it have potential?

It’s important to note right away that, if there was a future, it belonged to Microsoft. The X2 was released following the formal merger of Nokia’s mobile division with Microsoft, and Microsoft Mobile is listed as the smartphone’s manufacturer rather than Nokia. When I was picking out a smartphone back in 2014, I even took a look at the Nokia XL. However, I was completely turned off by everything about it, including the bad display, lack of Google services, and fact that it was out of date by a few years. Simultaneously, the cost of the X-line in my city was relatively high, and I purchased a mid-range LG L90 for nearly the same amount of money. The second generation of the Nokia X family proved to be incredibly high-quality low-cost phones, whereas the first generation proved to be rather rudimentary. It appeared that the market for smartphones with unique designs and shells would only get stronger in the coming year. However, Microsoft canceled the project because it did not want to support a rival operating system to its somewhat popular one.

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