BARCELONA, Spain – Nokia is targeting emerging markets with a low-cost smartphone that uses Google’s Android operating system rather than the Windows Phone software from Microsoft, the company about to buy Nokia’s phone business.
Nokia will ditch many of the Google services that come with Android, which Google lets phone makers customize at will. Instead, the new Nokia X phone announced Monday will emphasize Microsoft services such as Bing search, Skype communications and OneDrive file storage. Its home screen sports larger, resizable tiles resembling those on Windows phone.
Jussi Nevanlinna, Nokia’s vice president for product marketing, said the Finnish company is positioning the Nokia X as a bridge to high-end Windows smartphones under the Lumia brand.
He said Nokia is still committed to Windows and Microsoft, which is buying Nokia’s phone business and patent rights in a $7.3 billion deal expected to be completed next month.
“The Lumia continues to be our primary smartphone strategy,” Nevanlinna said. “We take that pinnacle experience and make it more affordable.”
Once the No. 1 maker of cellphones, Nokia has been struggling to keep up with the iPhone and devices running Android. Nokia said smartphone revenue fell 29 percent in the recent holiday quarter compared with the same period in 2012. And even as competition intensifies for high-end smartphones such as the Xperia Z series, Nokia has been hit by competition from cheaper mobile phones made by Chinese and other Asian companies.
The Nokia X phone will sell for $122 and won’t be available in the U.S., Canada, Korea and Japan in part to avoid competing with Lumia phones, which cost hundreds of dollars in the U.S. without subsidies from phone carriers.
Nokia officials said that although much of the development on the new phone came after Microsoft announced the deal in September, there was already talk before then as part of a long-standing partnership between the two.
At the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain, Nokia announced two even cheaper phones on Monday:
– The Nokia 220 is meant as a starter phone for $40. It will have Facebook, Twitter and some games already installed, but users won’t be able to add apps.
– The Asha 230 will offer more options for apps. The $62 phone is meant for people who are not yet ready for the Nokia X. It comes with a touch screen, but lacks the power and versatility found in smartphones.
For a first-time smartphone experience, Nokia Corp. is pushing the Nokia X. Because it uses Android, it will be able to run most Android apps. However, app developers may have to tweak some of their software because the phone doesn’t have key Google services.
For instance, location services will have to be designed for Nokia’s Here mapping software rather than Google Maps. In-app payments will have to be tweaked to allow billing through mobile carriers rather than credit cards, which many people in emerging markets lack.
Nevanlinna said Nokia is trying to lure those who might have been drawn to multitude of apps available on Android. The selection on Windows Phone devices is far more limited. Instead of having them hooked on Google services through Android, he said, Nokia could steer them to Microsoft services with a customized Android system.
Both the Asha and the Nokia X will have a feature called Fastlane. It remembers your favorite apps and services and offers quick access, along with recent notifications, on a single screen that is one swipe away from the home screen.
All three phones are expected to go on sale in early March.