Proof that Windows Phone is finding it nigh on impossible to work on low-cost smartphone hardware emerged on Monday when Nokia unveiled a new family of devices based on Android.
We use the term 'based on Android' because Nokia has used Android source code to create a user interface that is akin to Windows Phone and connects to Microsoft's cloud services, rather than a fully-fledged version of the Android operating system that connects to Google's cloud services. It does mean though that end users get access to select Android apps.
Stephen Elop, executive vice president of Nokia's Devices and Services division, introduced three devices that run on the new platform, the Nokia X, which constitutes the base model, the slightly higher-spec X+, and the XL, which is a five-inch phablet. The handsets are priced at €89, €99 and €109 respectively. The X is available now, while the X+ and XL will go on sale early in the second quarter. All three are pitched at what Nokia calls growth markets.
"These are…beautifully designed smartphones that run Android apps and Microsoft services," said Elop.
"The X family serves the fast-growing affordable smartphone segment…[and] they become a feeder system for [high-end] Lumia" smartphones, he explained.
Citing figures from Strategy Analytics, Elop said growth in the sub $100 smartphone market is expected to outpace the growth of the broader smartphone market by a factor of four.
By connecting to Microsoft's online services like its Outlook email and OneDrive cloud storage services, Nokia X devices "help Microsoft reach out to people they've never talked to before," Elop said.
Nonetheless he reiterated that "Windows Phone remains Nokia's primary smartphone platform."
Elop stepped down as Nokia CEO in September after the company agreed to sell its handset assets to his former employer Microsoft for €5.44 billion. He is due to transfer back to Microsoft when the deal completes.
Also on Monday, Nokia took the wraps off two new very low-cost handsets: the €29 Nokia 220, aimed at first-time Internet users, and the €45 Nokia Asha 230, which Elop said is Nokia's most "affordable Asha touch [screen] device ever".
In addition, Elop announced that BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) will soon be available on Lumia Windows Phone handsets.