Nokia X Review: The OK, The Bad and The Ugly

Khamosh Pathak

Nokia X Homescreen

It’s here. A Nokia phone running Android. Before you go ahead and declare it the best will-they-won’t-they ending since Ross and Rachel’s in Friends, how about a reality check?

Yes, it’s a Nokia phone… but a low-end one. Yes, it’s running Android… but it’s a one and a half year old version with no Google apps; so, an Android phone, but not in its full glory.

All things considered, the Nokia X does bring many interesting things to the table, but is it for you?

Let’s find out.

Note: We did do a brief (compared to this article) write-up on Nokia X when it was introduced, so if you are short on time and want to get an overview of its features and availability, this is the post you should checkout.

The Hardware

Let’s start with the specs. Nokia X is powered by a 1 GHZ dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 512 MB RAM, Aderno 203 GPU and a 1500 mHa removable battery. You also get 4 GB of internal memory (2.3 GB accessible) expandable up to 32 GB via an SD card.

Nokia X Back

Nokia X inherits much of its traits from its Windows Phone sibling, Lumia 520 — exterior body made up of a single shell of polycarbonate and a square-shaped body and edgy rounded corners that don’t really sit well in the palm of your hands. On the front, there’s only a single back button (and there is no front-facing camera).

On the right side, you will find the usual volume rocker and the wake/sleep key. There are no buttons on the left side. A micro USB port sits in the middle of the bottom while the back plate features a 3 MP camera right in the middle of the device and the speaker grill sits in the lower right-hand corner.

nokia_x_side

Everyone I showed the X to was impressed with the built quality and design of the phone.

The four inch IPS display with an 800×480 resolution and 233 PPI is not the most stellar of the screens out there. But just as the Lumia’s display, it’s not bad either. The colors are bright and there is little to no pixelation.

The Nokia X Software Platform 1.0 (The OS)

Nokia X Software Platform 1.0 is really what it’s called. But for the sake of convenience, let’s refer to it as the Nokia X OS. The Nokia X OS is built on Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and runs Android Jellybean 4.1.2 underneath. Nokia has painted a fresh coat on the OS, just like Samsung’s Touchwiz, but has taken it to a whole new level.

The OS in Nokia X does not look anything like Android. It does, in fact, look very much like the OS of a Windows Phone. Nokia, as we know, was acquired by Microsoft, but somehow this Android phone made its way to the public.

FastlaneHomescreen tiles

The homescreen clearly takes cues from Windows Phone. It is made up of square colorful live tiles on a vertical scrolling screen. Also, there is no app drawer. All of your installed apps, widgets and folders will show up on the homescreen in the order you sort them out. You can make the tiles larger or smaller. Over time, when you install more than a dozen apps, this becomes confusing. In this situation, folders come in handy.

The UI and navigation changes that Nokia has made to the perfectly fine Android OS are confusing.

please waitMenu Nokia X

The Fastlane interface from Asha series has been brought into Nokia X. The now legendary notification panel (which made its way to iOS devices with iOS 5) is sorely missed here. Fastlane is a weird mix of notifications and multitasking (recent) menu. It shows you a list of your most recent notifications and the most recent app you accessed in one stream.

If you dig into the settings, there is a way to convert Fastlane into an exclusive notification panel. Go into Settings and in the General section, tap Fastlane. From here uncheck the Apps option. (Alternatively, you can turn off the notifications and use it as a multitasking menu, but then why would you?)

The Navigation

Nokia X is rewriting navigation controls as well. Unlike the Back, Home and Recent buttons on other Android devices, here there’s only one Back button. The Nokia X OS has done away with the multitasking menu; so, there was no need for the recent button. The back and home buttons have been merged into one.

Tap once to go back; tap and hold to go straight to home.

In some apps (especially the stock apps), you’ll find the menu button at the bottom for more options — pull it up to reveal in-app options. Yes, it’s confusing.

Get A Microsoft Account

Much of what you do on this phone is going to be linked to either a Microsoft or Nokia account. It’s better that you log in with a Microsoft/Outlook/Live account which will then be your Nokia account. There is an option to log in with Facebook, but that’s putting too much trust on a social network which recently shut down it’s failing email service.

Nokia & Microsoft Apps

Nokia is promoting its apps in a big way. Nokia X runs on Android, but there are no Google apps here. And without rooting, even side-loading them won’t work as they need Play Services app to run properly.

Nokia X Mix Radio

Here is a summary of apps that you will find in Nokia X:

  • Nokia’s Here Maps replaces Google Maps
  • Bing takes over search duty
  • Nokia Store does the job of Play Store
  • MixRadio is Nokia’s take on streaming music service with a sizeable music collection from all over the globe

Nokia’s apps might not be as advanced as Google’s, but they do get the job done.

Camera

Nokia X’s camera is average at best. There’s a 3 MP shooter at the back with no flash. The photo quality is strictly average and without the flash, low light performance is non-existent.

If you are buying a phone for a camera, this is not for you. The front-facing camera is absent as well.

Performance and Usability

Let’s talk about the actual useful stuff. How does the Nokia X perform in real life? Is it easy to use?

Nokia X Internet
The inbuilt browser stutters when scrolling through a webpage.

With a dual-core processor and 512 MB RAM, the X is not going to win any race, but it’s not bad either. I’ve been using it on and off for about a week now and not once did it spurge me to pull my hair out in frustration. Yes, launching Facebook and Twitter sometimes take longer than usual, but that’s normal for a device in this price range.

Performance wise, the Nokia X is not going to win in any race (or benchmark tests). But the casual games run just fine.

When it comes to gaming, Nokia X does well with casual games. All your favorite time-killers like Subway Surfers, Temple Run etc. will run just fine. Just don’t try and run anything that’s even remotely complicated; FPS and racing games are a no-no.

The Curse And Boon Of Android

Nokia X Homescreen

    It has got Android, but no Google!

In these last couple of years we’ve come to take Google for granted. We assume an Android phone will always have the quintessential Google apps. Even some of the best apps on the iPhone are from Google. So, the fact that none of the services from Google work on the Nokia X is unsettling — not even Hangouts (yet). Hopefully, Google will release its apps on the Nokia Store, but if we go by history (Kindle Fire OS), it might not happen.

The Nokia X leaves a Google shaped hole in your heart.

On the upside, it does have Android, which means that you have access to hundreds of thousands of apps written for Android (and customized for the Nokia X). However, as there is no Play Store, you will have to hunt for most of the apps (you might be used to). Some apps might not be available yet, but all the big names like Skype, BBM, Flipboard, Instagram are easy to find on the Nokia Store or the 1Mobile Market, which comes bundled.

If you can’t live without Google in your life, Nokia X is probably not the best fit for you. On the other hand, if you are starting with a blank slate of cloud data, taking up Nokia X means using Microsoft’s services (including search).

Battery Life

The 1500 mAh battery does not provide the best battery life. Many people tend to identify Nokia phones with long battery life and I’m sure that this misconception will carry on with the X series. But the fact is that this is not Symbian OS, it’s Android. So, the battery life for the X is going to be just like any other budget Android smartphone. A day of mid-heavy use and 4-5 hours of screen on time at best.

Pros

  • Great hardware design and built quality for the price
  • Android Jelly Bean instead of Windows OS on a Nokia device
  • Acceptable performance for a Rs 8,599/ € 89 smartphone

Cons

  • No access to any Google services
  • Poor camera quality and no flash
  • Nokia X UI is too heavily skinned and might be confusing for Android veterans
  • Slow at launching heavy apps

Verdict

Android plus Nokia reads perfect on paper. But reality is a cruel thing, where, sadly, it disappoints on many aspects. The slow performance, the absence of Google apps, a missing front-facing camera and a UI that’s too close to Windows Phone without being nearly as productive turns the Nokia X into a slow dud.

Front Nokia X

This phone is launched at the price of Rs 8599 in India, which you can find online for about 8k, but it is still asking a lot for what’s basically an entry level phone. Local competitors like Karbonn, Lava and Xolo offer you better specs to boot, but they cannot live up to Nokia’s built quality or the brand name.

Buying a Rs 8,000-phone in India is a risky affair. The budget phones, made from cheap materials, are hardly reliable and when things go bad (and they will go bad), you’ll be left running to and fro to the service center with no avail.

Performance issues aside, the X is still a Nokia phone and with that comes peace of mind. And you can’t put a price on that.

So Who Is it for?

By now, you know what Nokia X is and more importantly what it isn’t. You might scoff it away as a half-hearted attempt by a failing company to rake in some profits before it folds into Microsoft. But that’s very short-sighted. The fact that Nokia X exists against all odds (and those were some tough odds) means that it has a place in this world. That and the fact that it got 10 million pre-orders in just one week.

So, it’s for someone. But who?

For people who consider their mobile phones as a means to an end, not their life itself.

It’s clearly not for a power user who constantly wants to do as many tasks as he can on his mobile phone. It’s a great first smartphone for someone new to this world.

It will do a good job at connecting your parents, aunts and uncles to the rest of the world with apps like WhatsApp and Facebook pre-installed. It might not be right for you, but with the Nokia reliability and Android app infrastructure, it might just be the right thing for someone you know.

But what about me?

Do you want to buy a sub-10k phone? You can either go for the Nokia X, embrace the legacy of the Nokia hardware and gain some peace of mind, but compromise on performance or you can go for one of the local alternatives, gain better hardware and vanilla Android, but compromise on quality.

This decision is ultimately yours. And if you can stretch the budget, go for the Moto G available at $179/Rs 12,500. It’s the best you can get for that price. I can’t say the same for the Nokia X.

Your Review

What do you think of the Nokia X? Have you tried it? Are you planning to buy one? Why? Let us know all about it in the comments below.

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#hardware#Nokia

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