As a concept, the Nokia X is something we’ve long been waiting for. It was a crying shame that such an established brand like Nokia had their hands tied when it came to choosing a winning OS for their smartphones. It’s no secret that Windows Phone had been weighing the Finnish giant down for quite sometime. While all those teething issues might be a thing of the past soon with Windows Phone 8.1 and Universal Windows apps, their budget segment has been completely chaotic.
For the longest time, Nokia has tried to keep their S40 OS alive with constant refreshes in the sub-Rs 5,000 segment. After that, they tried out Asha and when that didn’t work out, they launched their Asha touch platform, which strangely had yet another store for apps. This severe fragmentation in just one price segment was a little worrying. There was a huge gap as well between the Asha series and Windows Phone devices and the new X line-up aims to bridge that.
After a much needed price drop, does the Nokia X offer enough substance to be recommended over better spec’d phones from XOLO and Karbonn? Let’s find out.
Design and Build
The Nokia X resembles the Asha 501 a lot in terms of its design language and aesthetics. The outer shell is more squared off rather than rounded and to be honest, it feels a lot cheaper than its current pricing. The build is solid though and you can toss the phone around without any fear of damaging the screen.
The usual array of ports finds their way around the phone. The cover is removable and can be swapped for other colours should you feel the need to personalise it further. There’s only a single capacitive button on the front for going back a step or the homescreen, if you long press it. The 4-inch display upfront is generously big with a decent WVGA resolution. The IPS panel however isn’t the most responsive when it comes to touch and at times, behaves like a resistive screen. It’s also prone to fingerprints which makes maintaining it a chore.
There’s no front facing camera but you do get a 3.1MP fixed-focus rear camera sans LED flash. The battery is removable and under the hood, you’ll find the two SIM slots and a miccroSD card slot.
The Nokia X is not going to blow you away with its design and would probably be lost in the crowd were it not for the bright colours. It’s built well like any other Nokia and the customisation options will sit well with its target audience.
The Nokia X is powered by the Nokia X Platform 1.0. This custom interface is designed on top of Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2, similar to what Amazon did with the Kindle Fire HD. There aren’t any Google Play services for obvious reasons but a quick search on the web will teach you how to circumvent this. Yes, the Nokia X can be easily rooted and you can turn into a stock Android phone with most of the Google services working.
The Nokia X platform however is more of a mash up between the Asha platform and Windows Phone (WP), at least cosmetically. There are just two home screens like WP. The main screen lists out all the apps that are currently installed in a tiled manner. You can even resize them, move them around and change the colour. The tiles aren’t animated though like WP and won’t show your unread messages. The second screen is Nokia’s Fastlane, which we first saw in the Asha 501. This is similar to the recent apps feature in Android except that it documents each and every single action you perform, not just opened apps. Some of these are actionable, in the sense you can jump into the messaging app directly through Fastlane to reply to a message.
What about speed? Well, there’s a noticeable lag no matter what you do with the phone but it’s tolerable to an extent. Simply browsing through the store or Fastlane is manageable but the lag acts as constant reminder that this is strictly a budget phone and you can only use that many apps comfortably, even though most of them will install. The Nokia X accepts APKs naturally and the Nokia Store has most of the popular apps from the Play Store that are guaranteed to work on the X. In case you don’t find it here, you can always refer to the One Mobile market app (pre-installed) however, there’s no guarantee it will work the way it’s supposed to.
The point is Android apps work out-of-the-box, which means there’s no need wait for the developer to port the app over to Nokia’s platform like before. Trouble is, the app experience leaves a lot to be desired. The main culprit here is the specifications. Nokia could get away with low specs on the Windows Phone platform but I’m afraid that doesn’t fly well with Jelly Bean. The X is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon Play SoC. The MSM8225 chipset packs in a dual-core Cortex-A5 CPU running at 1.2GHz and Adreno 203 graphics. You also get just 512MB of RAM to play with so there’s little let for apps once the OS has its share.
The results speak for themselves. Certain games like Temple Run 2 do run smoothly and basic apps like Facebook and Twitter work well. It’s just that the loading times and interactions within the app tend to get sluggish and laggy after a while. We’ve seen this issue with most Android devices with low RAM and slow CPUs, which used to be pretty much every droid under Rs 10,000. The low screen sensitivity only makes things worse in case of the X.
Nokia has pre-loaded the X with a bunch of apps. You get BBM, WeChat, Astro file manager, Opera and One Mobile Market. Being a hybrid of Android and Microsoft, you also get to enjoy apps like HERE Maps and MixRadio.
The music and video player feature all the basic functions one would typically expect. The music player features equaliser presets and there’s a lock screen widget too. Weirdly, if you keep the music playing in the background, there’s no way to get to it from Fastlane or the notification bar. You get 4GB of onboard storage out of which 1.2GB is available for apps while 1.17GB is available for other media. The loud speaker is really loud for alerts, even at the minimum volume.
Video playback is limited to 480p due to system constraints. Thankfully, videos look pretty good due to the IPS display. Colours are warm and punchy and SD video playback is fairly smooth.
The Nokia X supports 3G along with quad-band GSM support. There’s also Wi-Fi ‘n’, Bluetooth v3.0 and GPS. The Nokia keyboard seems to be based on Swype. Gestures work very well thankfully as it’s a bit tricky to type accurately due to the average screen sensitivity. The keyboard works well with the stock messaging app but with apps like WhatsApp, it gets very laggy. Call quality is good and we didn’t face any issues here.
The 3.1MP fixed focus camera gives you options to tweak the contrast and brightness. There’s even an option for noise reduction. Quality of stills is below average due to the small sensor size and lack of auto-focus. Besides still, you can have a video mode and panorama. The camera is highly disappointing as we expected lot better.
The 1500mAh battery manages to deliver healthy battery life. During our weeks usage, we easily managed to get past a little more than a full day’s worth of usage. In our battery tests, we clocked in 8-hours with 25 percent to spare.
Verdict and Price in India
With an updated price of Rs 7,729, the Nokia X is worth the extra money if you’re coming from a Nokia Asha. It offers a lot more functionality and the best part is there’s no need to wait in the hope that your favourite app will ported over since Android APKs just work. The Nokia’s X’s biggest competition right now is the Samsung Galaxy S Duos 2 and the Sony Xperia E1 Dual. These two offer a similar feature set and are also priced similarly.
While you can root the Nokia X and install Google Play services, we don’t understand why one would go through all this trouble rather than simply buying an Android phone. If you’re that dependant on Google apps then the Nokia X is not for you. You’re better off with something from Samsung and Sony or if you need a bit more power, you can also try out the myriad of local brands.
We recommend the Nokia X if you’re adamant on the brand and were considering the Asha series. Some of our biggest issues with the phone is the almost unusable camera and the display, which has poor sensitivity most of the time. If not, then we recommend you put in a bit more money and buy the Lumia 525. The phone will be getting all the goodies of Windows Phone 8.1 as well very soon. We wouldn’t recommend the X if you’re looking for a good Android experience.
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Jan 27, 2015