Tuesday, February 25, 2014, 08:27
Nokia calls on Android O/S in reversal of fortune bid

Nokia calls on Android O/S in reversal of fortune bid
Nokia’s Chief Executive Stephen Elop holds up the Nokia X at its unveiling at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday. (Gustau Nacarino / Reuters)

Finnish mobile phone vendor Nokia Oyj introduced its first Android-based smartphone to the Chinese market on Monday in the face of analysts expressing cautious optimism over whether the company can regain share in the country’s fiercely competitive smartphone market.

It marks the first time Nokia has accepted Google Inc’s Android mobile operating system and abandoned its strategy of 100 percent dedication to the Microsoft Corp Windows Phone platform for its smart devices, which started in 2011. The company launched three lower-end Android smartphones, called Nokia X, Nokia X+ and Nokia XL, at the Mobile World Congress 2014 held in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday.

“The Nokia Android phones are aimed at the developing markets,” Stephen Elop, head of devices at Nokia, said in Barcelona. Nokia X will sell for 89 euros($122), X+ for 99 euros and XL for 109 euros. The Nokia X will go on sale immediately and roll out in most emerging markets. The other two handsets are expected to hit the market starting early in the second quarter.

Unlike traditional Android smartphones, Nokia’s devices do not have Google Play Store, or other map and search engine services provided by Google. Instead, they have a tile-based user interface inspired by Nokia’s Lumia Windows phone family, a Nokia Store for app downloads and some Microsoft services such as Skype, OneDrive and outlook.com.

Because China has long been Nokia’s biggest single country market, the company is sparing no time in delivering its Android phones to the nation’s potential customers. It partnered with JD.com, China’s biggest independent business-to-customer e-commerce platform, to sell the Nokia X in the Chinese market on Monday.

“The in-depth cooperation with JingDong brings the Nokia X to the China market in a timely manner. This reflects our deep strategic collaboration with our local channel partner,” said Erik Bertman, the general manager of Nokia China.

It is because of a perceived weakness in the Windows Phone operating system compared with the other two major mobile platforms — Android and Apple Inc’s iOS — that prompted Nokia to compromise, said Sandy Shen, a telecoms analyst with Gartner Inc. “If Nokia wants to secure its position as a mainstream mobile phone brand, it has to develop handsets running on the Android platform,” Shen pointed out.

Microsoft’s efforts to get more handset makers to offer Windows phones have so far failed to shake the dominance of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, which account for 96 percent of the smartphone market, according to public figures. Of the more than 1 billion smartphones shipped in 2013, only 3.3 percent ran Windows, according to market-research firm IDC.

Although Nokia manufactured about 90 percent of the world’s Windows phones, the company lost ground in the global smartphone market, Shen said.“But I doubt Nokia will significantly change its market status in China by only launching Android phones.”

Yang Haifeng, a Beijing-based telecom analyst, said whether Nokia’s Android phones will become popular on the Chinese mainland depends on customers’ attitude toward its user interface. “Generally speaking, Chinese people have become used to the traditional Android user interface. If Nokia changes its style, will most people accept it?” Yang asked.