Will the Nokia X be useful without Google’s services?

by: Gary SimsFebruary 24, 2014


MWC 2014 Coverage brought to you by: Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus for Android.

Nokia has just unveiled its new line-up of Android powered smartphones, the Nokia X, X+, and XL. One interesting thing which ties the three devices together, other than their rather similar hardware, is that none of them have any Google services. No Google Maps, no Gmail, no Google Play and quite possibly no YouTube app! Initial reactions on both Google+ and here on the Android Authority website suggests that early commenters aren’t happy with the lack of Google services. The question is, can Nokia make the X range useful without Google?

Clearly people who have invested into Google’s services aren’t going to be happy with Nokia’s new phones. For example, those commenting on Google+ about the Nokia X range are already using Google’s services and moving to the Nokia X would involve a certain amount of pain, so why bother when there are alternatives? The thing to remember is that Nokia aren’t trying to get people to convert from Google to Nokia/Microsoft with the X family. They might be trying that with the Lumia family and Windows Phone, but the X, X+ and XL are designed for people moving from feature phones and almost-smartphones like Nokia’s Asha range who haven’t necessarily invested into an eco-system. Just looking at the pricing and specifications of the X phones shows that Nokia aren’t trying to take on the Android mainstream.

But if a feature phone or Asha user does “upgrade” to a Nokia X, will the services that Nokia provide be useful? The short answer is yes. In terms of what you need, Nokia is delivering the goods. You get an advanced map service with Nokia Here Maps (with offline maps and turn-by-turn navigation), a large scale email service with Outlook.com and access to a whole host of Microsoft’s services including Skype and OneDrive.

For everything else there is the Nokia Store. We don’t know how big the Nokia store will be but to submit apps developers just need to take their existing Android packages and send them to Nokia. No rewrites, and no redevelopment costs. Developers just need to ensure that their apps work well on the limited (by today’s standards) hardware and they are set. This means that the Nokia Store could become a viable third way to distribute apps for Android (with Google Play and the Amazon App Store being the first two).


The Nokia store also provides two key features that will be important in the market where Nokia plans to sell these new phones. The first is “Try and Buy” which is basically a form of in-app purchase where you can try a demo version an app and then unlock the full app. The second is operator billing which is very important in certain parts of the world. When an app is bought the purchase isn’t charged to a separate bank card which has been set up in the app store, but rather the charge appears on the next bill or for Pre-Pay customers it is taken from the existing credit.

If you look at the initial release countries where the Nokia X will be available you won’t find the USA, Canada, the UK etc., but you will find most of Africa, six counties in Asia and 14 counties in the Middle East. The Nokia X will be coming to Europe but at the moment Nokia only list countries like Poland and Ukraine. Oddly Nokia will also be launching the Nokia X range in France, Italy and Spain.

By looking at the target countries we can see that Nokia is keen to sell the X, X+ and XL in “emerging markets.” That is a polite way to say in places where people have less disposable income. That is why the Nokia X costs just 89 Euros.

Taking into account the price, the specification and the target markets then the lack of Google services probably won’t be an issue for the potential buyers of these phones. The services that Nokia do provide will be more than adequate and maybe in some cases better than what Google has to offer.

What do you think? If you were recommending a cheap smartphone for someone who has never owned one would you recommend the Nokia X range? Please let us know in the comments below.

  • harrold

    Just gonna +1 this…

  • LeGyEs

    A great, cheap device for xda-developers to port KitKat :)

    • Guest123

      yeah, cause it’s going to be unlocked and so easy to. . . NO, it won’t be and it will be a waste of any developers’ time and effort.

  • Mike Bastable

    Agree. XDA will give this life (of sorts), however still years too late.

  • Husy
  • Guest

    I present to you the S5 guys…..

    • John-Phillip Saayman

      Doesn’t look like much

  • Mike

    Can’t read this due to the bloody stupid advert on the left for Bitdefender. How the hell do I get rid of it?

    • Trying reloading the page (F5) it should sort itself out.

      • Mike

        I’d like to have your babies.

        • MrMagoo

          Um…. uh…. what?

  • Cheap, suitable for hacks

  • Can someone tell me what were you thinking when putting this huge add on the left? I can’t read your texts anymore… http://www.evernote.com/shard/s319/sh/410e0634-ded6-4d40-839b-0d0c2b7b1bee/afc0fb7dd0a1006975d954f1e16b40ce

    • Please try reloading the page (F5), it should sort itself out.

  • On a Clear Day

    I have a number of tech savvy young friends who are now in America but originated either from West Africa or the Indian subcontinent. They and their friends back in their old homes use Android – one used the iPhone for awhile but then switched to a Note 2.

    Anyway, if Nokia were trying to win them and their friends back home, whom they are constantly in touch with, they would face an insurmountable battle to say the least – or a lot.

    Google’s services and the quality thereof and the way they are all tailored – as much as possible – to play nicely with each other in seamless fashion, provide a “value added” component to Android that I can’t imagine an “off brand” provider – even one backed by a company as big as Microsoft – being able to replicate.

    I predict the Nokia phones – like most Windows phone products – will fall into the category of also rans.

  • Valtheus

    Even now that Lenovo owns Motorola, i would suggest Moto G for a budget phone instead of these Windroid phones from Microsoft.

  • Aniruddh

    They should have spared the YouTube app at least…

  • Sammy Jasper

    Isn’t Bitdefender a mobile security? or Advertising agent? M confuse lol

  • Luqmaan Mathee

    Time to flash gapps

  • Gerard

    Operator/carrier billing is very important to me. Nokia, WP, and BB already have that feature here on my country, while Google is still left behind. I’m really positive Nokia X will have good success here in South East Asia.
    As developer, I’m tempted to port my app to Nokia Store soon.
    But as user, I won’t jump on Nokia android phone any sooner. Still questioning the sustainability of this platform. MS might axe this anytime if they feel it.
    For google service, I only use gmail & hangout, so it’s not a big issue.

  • Craig Trunzo

    Huge blunder IMO. If you are trying to break into the Android market and actually gain market share, don;t do it without Google services. Totally inept.

    With something like the Moto G out there for such a low price point, unless your phone is under $100, don’t even try to play the “Cheap” phone card and not have Google Services.

    • I think the point I make in the article is that they aren’t trying to “break into the Android market”

      • Craig Trunzo

        perhaps, but that is just as bad. Nokia put all its eggs in one basket (the wrong one) when it decided on Windows over Android. Now it’s realizing it’s mistake, and going to Android, except it’s not really Android.

        What’s the point? Are they TRYING to fail?

        • I don’t think Nokia is “going to Android” because it has realized it made a mistake with Windows. You don’t go to Android by releasing a dual-core 1Ghz phone for 89 Euros. Nokia sees the potential for low end smart phones in Africa and Asia etc and Android gives them an OS for free where Windows phones couldn’t go. It doesn’t expect people in the USA etc to buy this phone, they want you to buy a Lumia not an X.

          • Justin Curtright

            Then that is an even bigger blunder then. There has to be a “point” to any product. So you say is isn’t “trying to be an Android device”. Ok, fine. You also say “this is for emerging markets”. Ok, still with you. The problem? This is over four times the price of one the new announced FirefoxOS that is targeting the same demographic.

            So then the real questions come out, since this is not “real” Android and does not have Google integration (which everyone seems to think is a major sticking point), what advantage does it have in regards to software over FirefoxOS? What hardware advantage can it possibly have to justify the cost if both of these are basically feature phones with a nice browser? If it has no real edge in terms of software or hardware, costs four times as much, and tries to compete with similar products at a woefully missed pricepoint…what is the point of even having this device?

          • Justin,

            What advantage does the Nokia X have over a Firefox OS phone is a very good question. At the moment the advantage is that while the X isn’t trying to compete with the mainstream Android market it is still an Android phone and can run a large portion of the apps already published. So the Nokia X already has the apps whereas Firefox OS doesn’t. Second the X has Nokia’s and Microsoft’s services like Here Maps, MixRadio, OneDrive and so on. That means that today the Nokia X is much more advanced than FireFox OS in terms of services and apps. So your hypothesis that the X “as no real edge in terms of software or hardware” doesn’t fly, it has a massive edge over FireFox OS.

            If we measure a smartphone by its apps and services then Nokia X provides what you need. It has the Android apps and Nokia’s services. Not having Google isn’t a major sticking point. All the people who are moaning about lack of Google services are those who have already invested in the Google eco-system. And yes, they are right, I am not going to move to Google services to Microsoft/Nokia, no way.

            But not everyone has Google. Only last month I helped two friends set up their Android phones and neither had a gmail account, had never used G+. They had Yahoo! accounts and used Facebook, but no gmail. They could have easily used Nokia’s services with their new phone and it would have made no difference to them whatsoever.

            As for “costs four times as much” I think we are jumping the gun here. The so-called $25 phone from Spreadtrum isn’t in production (whereas the Nokia X is) and the 2 minutes I spend looking on the web just now didn’t say much about its specs. The current range of FireFox OS phones are priced in the same ball park as the Nokia X. In that sense, as you rightly mentioned, FireFox OS phones are actually the main competition for the Nokia X. I wouldn’t hold my breath for anything usable in a $25 smartphone and trying to compare such a device to the Nokia X is at the very least premature and when it comes out I think you will see unwarranted as it won’t match the specs of the X. Which is saying something as the X is already very low end!

          • Justin Curtright

            “So the Nokia X already has the apps whereas Firefox OS doesn’t.” This is such an amazingly uninformed statement being spread around that has an absolutely baffling level of propagation. FirefoxOS is built around a completely different fundamental design scheme. FirefoxOS does not use “apps”, the same way ChromeOS does not use “apps”. ChromeOS is still amazingly popular because it uses what is already available: the web. FirefoxOS leverages this same philosophy. Look at everything that can be done on the web without local “apps”: photo editing, document editing, email, music streaming, video streaming, SMS, messenging, VOIP, etc etc. Everything that “needs” to be done can be handled on something as simple as a ham-sandwich with a web browser.

            Also, since it is a forked version of Android it lacks access to the Google Play Store and therefore a huge chunk of content. So it really doesn’t “have the Android apps”, and even if it did, the specs on it are crap enough that you wouldn’t be able to run anything worthwhile anyways.

          • Justin, Of course Firefox OS has a different design philosophy than Android, no one said it didn’t. FireFox OS uses technologies like HTML5 and Javascript to write “apps”. There are APIs for local storage etc so although they aren’t written in Java they still need to be written. Here is direct quote from the Firefox OS developers page:

            “Head over to our Apps Center for all the information you could possibly need on building open web apps that can be installed on Firefox OS!”

            So yes Firefox OS has apps, apps that can be installed, but also yes they could be compared to be Chrome OS apps, and like Chrome OS they can be written to be “offline” and don’t require an active internet connection to work.

            In the “offline” sense, rather than the “hey I have a web browser” sense then Nokia X / Android will have loads more apps than Firefox OS . Any app that can be run from the web on Firefox OS can also probably be run on the Nokia X via a web browser.

            But I think I will stop there, clearly you have a very strong opinion about this, and that is fine, but when you start saying that my statements are uninformed (which they aren’t – I have actually written apps for Firefox OS) then I will just wish you all the best and move on.

  • LisaN

    are you kidding me! without Google services like YouTube, Gmail, Maps, what am i supposed to do with an android device?

  • endy

    Microsoft tried to leverage the Nokia brand and launch their WP under that banner. Problem is it’s too expensive and then Android beat them to the punch. Now they are still hoping that people in the 3rd world with Nokia brand loyalty will get the X just because of the brand. I’m not sure it’s that easy since so many of these earlier devotees have moved on to Samsung.

    At this point Microsoft HAS to get more users of its services or its done for in mobile. This is their best effort by leveraging their Nokia name. Even so, I don’t ever expect >10% global market share when it comes to mobile msft services… whether through WP/lumina or via this android fork.

    The interesting thing is how this will change some of the analysis done going forward. Heretofore we were counting OS’s or number of manufacturer’s devices… Now we will have to count number of users of the services regardless of the device or OS… Google still topples then all… Just look at how many Google services users use iPhones/ipads…those numbers are staggering.

    • endy

      In fact, Darcy, how about a count and a chart of Gmail users by mobile OS, and then maybe by oem? Wonder what those numbers show.

  • Alexander Deckard

    Nokia maps are pretty amazing. They did start with the maps before Google after all. But no gmail and youtube or Google!? That’s pretty much unthinkable, unless Nokia has a plan.

  • 1st ‪#‎NokiaAndroid‬ ‪#‎MusicPlayer‬ launched Roar Music Player Nokia Android APK…


  • Rohit Naik

    The Android phone which is not an Android PHone