Perhaps the biggest announcement from this year’s Mobile Web Congress in Barcelona is Nokia’s release of Android driven devices with its X-Series. Not forgetting that the mobile division of the company was acquired recently by Microsoft, the OEM has gone ahead to show some love to Google’s Android with very attractive price points.
Of course, this has lead a good amount of discussion in the ecosystem. So we reached out to a number of ‘mobile’ people to share their take on the Nokia X for the African market, developer, ecosystem, and everything in between.
For Africans, it’s all about affordability and status
It is really interesting that the ingenuity in the African mobile phone marketplace is not the phones or operating systems in themselves but the price points at which they come. Have a $115 windows phone and it is what users will flock to. The lines between various operating systems have been blurred, especially since the apps people use are typically developed to be available across platforms. The 1st determining factor for most African is affordability and status. Any OEM that hits those two points will win BIG.
Tecno has always had the affordability side down pat, they have also been able to alter brand perception to give their handsets an elevated status and selling out in stores. BlackBerry has the status side but the affordability is not their main stay. Nokia has been playing in all spaces and happens to have blurred the lines between devices in the market, giving users the look and feel of a Windows Phone device both in an Asha and now in the Nokia X. The price points really are very competitive and it will be difficult for other devices to beat them both in affordability and status.
It is no longer about Java, Android or Windows Phone and now about Nokia Asha, Nokia X or Nokia Lumia. The trend here, which is easily spotted is that the conversation has now come back to Nokia. The operating systems never used to be the major defining factor years ago, the OEM’s were the face of the mobile phone, their uneasiness with being but behind the curtain stemmed from their slow pace of innovation.
It will be interesting to see how quickly other OEMs can come up with multiple product offerings that also blur the lines between devices operating systems and puts the spotlight back on them.
– Ajibola Aiyedogbon (@Ajibz), Mobile App Developer
Winning at the bottom is now the bottom-line
The launch of the Nokia X smartphone today and the X Software Platform certainly shakes things up in the mobile industry. In Africa, this will stimulate competition in the low-end smartphone sector. Nokia is known for solid and well designed hardware. Google-centric geeks and techies may harp about the lack of Google services, but the people on the street who trust the Nokia brand – artisans, traders and the like – do not know the difference and do not care. For each Google app missing, there is a Microsoft alternative that gets the job done, so regular users miss nothing. Nokia’s Ashas have sold well. If the Nokia X performs as advertised, I expect it to do well in the market too.
The announcement of the other two X devices that are scheduled for second quarter of 2014 also suggests that Nokia is serious about this strategy. It is certain that other OEMs will have to step up their game or lose ground to Nokia in the low-end smartphone market.
More apps with Android than Asha and Lumia
Nokia was very famous in the past among Nigerians and Africans in general. Africans see Nokia as a credible brand. The share of mind Nokia has in the African market has fallen so much. That space is being taken by other phone makers like Samsung, Tecno, ZTe, Huawei and other not so popular Android phones.
Nokia jumped ship to Microsoft Windows Phone operating system when everyone thought they were gong to adopt Google’s Android. They struggled to gain mind share in African countries and even in North America. While pushing the Nokia Asha platform, Nokia’s share of mind kept dwindling.
The Nokia X Software platform is a proof that Nokia knows that the Nokia Asha platform isn’t helping it grow as it wants to. The introduction of the Nokia X, X+ and XL is also a pointer that Nokia has failed to to grab a large chunk of the market with its phones running on Windows Phone and Nokia Asha platform. Applications are not being created for Nokia Asha and Nokia Lumia phones as it is being created for the Android platforms. It will take just under 8 hours for any android developer to integrate his app with Nokia platform if he’s interested in using Nokia’s in-app payment and notification; otherwise, a consumer can simply install apk files of Android apps or just install third party Android stores like Yandex and Getjar.
Nokia as it is now is still transitioning to Microsoft. Full transition would happen around April this year. I’m still not very clear what’s going to become of the Nokia X platform when Microsoft takes full control. But according to what Dan Rowinski writing for ReadWrite said: ‘Essentially, Nokia is looking to connect the next billion people to the cloud.’
If Microsoft continues with the Nokia X once the acquisition of Nokia’s mobile unit is complete, it’ll be a win for the consumers in this part of the world that still sees Nokia as a credible brand, giving them more choice of apps like BlackBerry’s Messenger.
– Jesse Oguns (@JesseOguns), Mobile Pundit
Trusted brand at low price point wins market
My first thoughts upon hearing the announcement was “Why leave it so late?”. For Africa, a market they dominated for the longest time Nokia is going to play catch up. Samsung and Tecno have captured a large percentage of the market with low-end Android phones; Nokia is a trusted brand, with a great price point with the Nokia X, they’ll slowly reclaim the market share. Further competition with Samsung, etc will only leave one winner; the Consumers.
For designers and developers; Nokia may have just added to your worry because the Nokia X is not Android as we know it. So designing/developing a unified experience across android’s already fragmented ecosystem is going to be a challenge.
– Udeze Kene (@udezekene), UI/UX Designer
Wait. Nokia X isn’t really an Android phone
Maybe the techies have overlooked it but, the Nokia X isn’t really an Android phone. If you find yourself whining about the memory, performance, software version, absence of Google services and the like, without having ever used it, the Nokia X is not targeted at you. It doesn’t matter what techies think anyway, the targeted users – smartphone first-timers in growth markets like Africa – will still buy in droves, as they have the Asha range. Africans trust the Nokia brand name.
So dear techies, until we get our hands on the Nokia X and can come to informed conclusions, it’s best we quit whining. In the meantime, here are some questions I’d love answers to:
- Nokia assures 75 percent of Android apps will run on the Nokia X without modification. That remains to be seen. Nevertheless, how many Top Developers has Nokia gotten to commit to the Nokia X?
- If Nokia X is the gateway to the supposedly better Windows Phone platform, why is the best-selling Windows Phone, the Lumia 520, cheaper than all of the Nokia Xs?
- Is Microsoft not confident enough in (soon-to-be-released) Windows Phone 8.1’s performance on low-end hardware?
- Do Nokia and Microsoft really have anything to lose embracing Android fully by venturing into the high end?
Something interestingly related to the third question; Windows Phone 8.1 will run on existing Qualcomm-based Android hardware. The Nokia X is built on – surprise – identical hardware platform as the Lumia 520. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
– Muyiwa Matuluko (@MuyoSan), Tech Blogger
[Image Credit: Journaldugeek]