There’s a new post up this morning from the Wall Street Journal saying that an Android based phone from Nokia is to be released later this month(likely to be at MWC) that will not be running the Windows Phone 8 Mobile Operating System but a heavily skinned version of Android.
So, what is it?
Well, before Nokia entered into a deal to receive a large amount of money from Microsoft to produce Windows Phone devices, Nokia was actually looking around at different mobile platforms to replace their aging and decidedly touch un-friendly Symbian OS. At the time, Android was considered and from the looks of some rumours which have been steadily flowing since last year, the potential for an Android phone built by Nokia weren’t killed entirely by their association with Microsoft.
As usual, most of the rumours surrounding the Nokia Normandy or Nokia X as it’s now being called have come from @evleaks. There’s a lot of history starting from the first mention of Normandy in a list of Nokia code names that was tweeted in November last year :
To a slightly mysteriously worded followup tweet a few days later :
A first look at what could possibly be the Nokia Normandy came at the end of November, with the question of whether the Normandy was actually an Asha phone – perhaps giving a hint that the Normandy could be a lower end offering.
In December the Nokia Normandy got a Codename – nothing big, because at the time, even Jason noted ‘Isn’t everything N-something at Nokia?’
An early Christmas present from the 24th of December showed a possible lineup of brightly coloured devices that could be released on the Nokia Normandy line :
A first look at the software on the Nokia Normandy shows a very brightly coloured interface
While WMPowerUser got their hands on some About Screen screenshots and an AnTuTu Benchmark score. The About Screen showed that Normandy would be running Android 4.4.1 – or 4.4.2 when finally relased – and the AnTuTu benchmarks gave a hint of what to expect hardware wise – namely a 5 MP camera, 854 x 480 display on a 4″ deisplay.
Heading into the New Year, the Nokia Normandy story continued to grow, with engineering samples appearing which gave a look at a purported Nokia Normandy in a test box, as used by countless OEMs around the world when testing internals:
As well as a first look at the interface on Nokia Normandy :
— Yan Zhu (@picturepan2) January 13, 2014
A full line-up of rendered colourful Nokia Normandy phones was next :
Nokia Normandies, 2014 pic.twitter.com/L6IAlEfKjG
— @evleaks (@evleaksES) January 13, 2014
Before some actually quite high resolution renders of the Nokia Normandy interface were shown off, showing a decidedly tile like Windows Phone like interface :
Late January saw the name of the Normandy apparently switched to the Nokia X :
And now, the specs :
Evan Blass, the man behind EVLeaks seems pretty certain on the spec, perhaps tied to a leak the previous day from a Vietnamese online Mobile Phone retailer which mirror the reported specs.
So that’s the timeline, until today, which saw the release of the aforementioned Wall Street Journal article which speculates that the Normandy/Nokia X will be announced at the Nokia event at Mobile World Congress on the 24th of this month.
Will They/Won’t They?
At this stage the decision to release a Nokia phone running Android still lies with Nokia. The purchase of Nokia by Microsoft which was announced last year in September is still not complete but could actually be endorsed by the Redmond based software giant and here’s why.
Microsoft already makes a large array of apps and services for Android from productivity based Apps like Outlook, SkyDrive, Lync messaging Apps, Bing Search App, Office 365 Admin app through to Games like Kinect Star Wars, Kinectimals and Wordament. They even have connectivity software for their successful consoles in their Xbox360 and Xbox One Smart Glass Apps; So Microsoft certainly is quite well entrenched in Android and the Nokia X/Normandy is a great way to start getting Android users comfortable with the Windows Phone interface as well as attempting to tempt users over to their services.
Look at it, the interface that has so far leaked is as Windows Phone like as any skin or launcher that Microsoft could hope for. If users have full access to Android Apps, whether by actually getting access to Google Play or simply by side-loading Apps or even if Microsoft ends up doing a deal with Amazon to access their fairly rich App store, all the while becoming more familiar with Live Tiles and Microsoft services – you just know it’ll run Bing search by default – then Microsoft could see a fairly dramatic increase in user-base the next time customers are due for a phone upgrade.
It’s also financially viable for them to do it. Nokia has been churning out mid-low range hardware for years, they quite frankly rank up there with Samsung at getting low end phones out the door and thanks to an almost Lumia like body design and almost identical specs, it’s fairly reasonable to assume that the Nokia Normandy could merely be a modified Lumia 520, which has been selling for as low as $100 in some markets.
There’s also the prestige. Nokia and indeed Microsoft haven’t been setting markets aflame with the Lumia – despite the attractive hardware – or Windows Phone. Linking the Nokia brand to Android a significantly more prominent Mobile OS would raise their proile in the mobile community.
They already have a history of doing this
When Nokia actually decided to use Windows Phone as their platform going forward, Nokia was forced to dump an existing product that their designers had been working on to replace Symbian – Meego.
When the relationship with Microsoft solidified, Stephen Elop basically gave the Meego team a shot at getting their OS onto the world stage at least once and so Nokia released the N9. There was a lack of Apps – not going to be a problem with an Android phone – it was relatively fast, had a – at the time – fairly unique gesture based navigation style, but it was lauded by tech journalists as a pretty big win, but, it was not to be and the N9 has faded from minds if not from the hearts of people who have used it.
The Meego OS has now morphed into Sailfish OS, based on the Mer open source version of the OS. It’s being developed by ex-Nokia staff and by all appearances seems to be doing well technically, but is just another of the many OS’s that are vying for a place in the Mobile OS landscape, joining the likes of Ubuntu Touch, Firefox OS and even now the formerly great Blackberry OS.
But an Android based Nokia phone is different because despite what Microsoft wants, Android is definitely not going anywhere and there are people out there who want and will lay down cash for a Nokia phone running Android.
I’ll buy the hell out of a Nokia X phone
Yep, you heard me, I will buy at least one, if not more of the Nokia X when/if it’s released, I’ll import it or do whatever it takes to get one – why? Because deep down I’m a Nokia Fanboy and was hugely disappointed when Stephen Elop decided on Windows Phone as the saviour of the Finnish company I’ve loved since my first mobile phone – a Nokia 2100 Analogue.
The design and build quality of Nokia handsets has not lessened in the years since I owned and used my last Nokia phone – an 8210. When I held the Nokia Lumia 925 to review the handset and Windows Phone last year, I was transported back to that feeling you get when holding a Nokia phone. It really is that good.
But there’s also a technical reason – ROMs. You just know that with the amount of Android enthusiasts out there who cut their teeth on Nokia handsets, will want to get their hands on a Nokia X and put as stock a version of Android on the device as possible. A Nokia X running Cyanogen Mod or Paranoid Android or Carbon – Yes Please.
If Microsoft can get a phone in the market place, that will actually make them some money in the short term, as well as get users used to a Windows Phone like interface, and possibly gain them actual Windows Phone users in the long term, this is a winning prospect for them with almost no downside apart from a potential short term drop in new users for Windows Phone.