Back in February this year at World Mobile Congress, Nokia put to rest all the rumors to rest and officially announced its foray into the Android world by launching the Nokia X series. Not one but 3 devices was showcased and but Nokia added a twist to the tale with its own forked version of Android which is way different than what Android users knew. Nokia X is a customized platform built on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). It’s very unlike your regular Android and has the look and feel of Asha and Windows OS. In March, Nokia X was launched in India and now Nokia is all set to launch Nokia XL and X+ here.
During a showcase event, I had a brief time with Nokia XL and here is a hands-on review of the bigger phone of the Nokia X series.
Nokia XL design and build
On a first glance, you might mistake Nokia XL to a low-end Lumia device. Almost a Lumia 625 look-alike, the device is made of plastic and comes in colorful panels.
With a 5-inch display the Nokia XL dwarfs the 4-inch X and X+ and is clearly aimed at the budget buyers who also want a bigger screen. In Europe, Nokia XL is priced at 109 Euro, so for a l0w-cost device its expected to have watered down specs. So the 5-inch IPS display comes with a modest 800×480 pixel resolution. To XL’s credit the display manages to be decent enough inspite of the 187 ppi pixel density. Though not very sharp, it is passable at this price segment.
Nokia has a reputation for good build phones and it is evident with XL too. It build and feel of the device is better than most of the low-cost Android devices. It feels sturdy and good on hands. In fact, you might even mistake the device to have a unibody though the back panel can be removed. We will talk about it a bit later.
At 10.9 mm it cannot boast of a slim figurine but it does not feel awkward holding it either and weighs 109 grams.
The phone comes in eye-candy colors and I always feel only Nokia gets the color used better on their devices.
Let’s talk of the colors and ports. There power and volume buttons are on the right and are color-matched with the body. A minute attention to design language like this is commendable for a low-cost device. The power/lock key is placed just below the volume rocker on the right side. The USB port is on the bottom and the audio jack on the top of the device, there is also a speaker grille on the lower bottom half of the rear and the camera is centered on upper half of the rear with a LED flash above it.
As I mentioned earlier, the body of Nokia XL could be mistaken for a unibody but it does come with a removable back panel. Even the inside has an attention to neatness. Along side the battery compartment, there are a dual SIM-inserts and a microSD card compartment all placed side by side neatly.
The 2000mAh battery is good for 13 hours of 3G talktime, or 26 days on standby as per the company.
Nokia XL – hardware specs
In terms of specs the Nokia XL comes with a 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, 768MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, 5MP rear camera and a 2MP front shooter. I would have liked a 1GB RAM. There is also a microSD card slot to pump the storage up to 32GB. The Nokia XL also has dual-SIM support.
Nokia XL Software
This is the most interesting part. We are talking about Android phone but looks and feel anything Android as known. As I mentioned earlier, Nokia X platform is a forked version of Android heavily tweaked and re-imagined without any trace of Google apps and with heavy Windows OS influence and loaded with Microsoft and Nokia apps.
The current OS version is called Nokia X software platform 1.0.1 and is based on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS. Stripping the Google identity, the OS is tightly integrated with Mircosoft’s services. There is also no Google Play Store and instead Nokia has its own curated Nokia X store. Nokia claims it is very easy to port Android apps to Nokia X store and it would take just 4 hours to do it. In case, a particular app you are searching is not available on Nokia X store, the search result would lead to Nokia acknowledged third-party app stores which hosts the particular apps. With an additional extra step, you can download the app and get it running on your device. One can also sideload APK files.
Swiping from right to left on the lockscreen takes you to the Homescreen on Nokia XL. You are greeted to a series of tiles similar to Windows phone.You can move around the tiles by holding and dragging, change the tile size or even change the color of tiles if you like to color-match particular genres of apps. All the apps are positioned on one vertical-scrolling row.
A swipe sideways on the Homescreen leads you to the Fastlane which is essentially an intelligent log that simplifies the way the phone is used and personalized. Its a running feed that logs all the latest activities on the device. So the apps you used, message notifications, call log, social interaction all are right there and right here including even the music controls you made. If you think its an hyper-flow of information, you can control and streamline what you would like to see on the lane. Further Fastlane is touted to be adapt to your usage as you keep using the device.
Carving its own identity and replacing many of the Google apps, we have Here Maps, Here Drive, free Mix Radio music streaming and Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage. Skype is also tightly integrated.
Nokia XL Camera
The less-than-ideal condition meant I could not take sample shots, so await our detailed review very soon. A 5-megapixel front with 1/4-inch sensor and flash and 2-megapixel rear camera should be satisfying the segment. There is no dedicated shutter button.
The software is loaded with many features like colour effects, face detection and controls for exposure, ISO, brightness, white balance, contrast and saturation.
Nokia XL is aimed at emerging markets like India and a 5-inch big display and expected competitive pricing means there might be good takers for the phone. Nokia X platform though at earlier stage is very interesting experiment and combined with Fastlane gives a good navigation and UX. Plus, the build quality is a key differentiator in the segment swarmed with plasticky-feel phones.