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

February 24, 2014
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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).

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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.

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