Overview and Design
For a long time, Android fans who reminisce the heydays of Nokia have constantly hoped for the company to adopt the Android OS that might have made Nokia a more desirable choice of smartphone to get. After all, they've made pretty good devices with the Lumia 625, 925, 1020, 1520 and many others. The only aspect holding them back is really their app ecosystem, which while it's steadily improving, leaves much to be desired about. So you can see why a change in OS might have stirred things up for the better - at least according to those who love Nokia devices but prefer a different platform to get the most out of their device.
Of course, when Microsoft acquired Nokia's Device and Services division last September, all such hopes quickly vaporized. Despite this major milestone that signifies total commitment to the Windows Phone ecosystem, Microsoft surprised everyone at MWC 2014 by announcing not one, but a trio of devices running on an OS based off the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) earlier this year in February. Branded as the Nokia X, X+, and the XL, they come with a small catch: the Android OS is a fork of their own called the Nokia X software platform with almost every Google related service removed and replaced with Microsoft's equivalent.
We've covered the basics you need to know about the Nokia X devices and Nokia X software platform here and here, so in this article, we'll be diving right into the device by evaluating the Nokia XL with more details of the Nokia X software in the following pages.
For the techies who've been following these developments closely, you'll realize that Nokia announced a newer Nokia X2 device at the tail end of June, and subsequently sent the entire Nokia X series to the grave in favor of low cost Lumia devices. So then, why are we reviewing the Nokia XL? For one, it was only launched in the local market just over a month back and secondly, it' still available for purchase. Thirdly, we would like to figure out how this low cost phone stands up against other recent budget phones that are increasingly gaining traction. And lastly, this is probably our last chance to check out a different take of the Android OS implemented by Nokia/Microsoft.
So let's get started!
Nokia’s Android, or more accurately referred to as the Nokia X 1.0 series, is marketed as an entry-level smartphone, targeted at the emerging markets. It was meant to be a step-up replacement device to basic feature phones at an affordable entry point to get the masses familiar and interested in using the device/interface so that these users would eventually buy into Nokia Lumia Windows Phone devices when they crave for more power and features. Amongst the three in this series, the Nokia XL is the most 'premium' of them, with relatively better processing hardware, as well as having bigger screen.
The Nokia XL is of a 5-inch form factor and resembles very close to that of its Lumia cousins as far as the exterior appearances are concerned. Most recent Nokia phones are available in many different colors, and the XL is no exception; it comes in lime green, white, black, orange, and yellow. As show, our review set is in orange. However, Nokia has made concerted alterations to the design of the XL: the corners are more obtuse, which screams budget, differentiating it from the smooth rounded corners found in the Lumia series.
The power and volume buttons are located on the right side of the phone - a design that's consistent with larger phones. Below the screen lies only one capacitive button, which is the Back button. There are no other buttons, not even a Home button. This odd choice of button configuration will lead to a slew of usability problems for the user, which we'll detail more in the second page covering the software functions.
The Nokia XL has a removable back cover, whereby when removed, reveals a removable battery, along with two micro-SIM card slots. Do take note that only one slot is capable of supporting 3G, while the other does not.
Holding the phone, one will find it to be somewhat bulky, comparable to to some phablets or worse. The phone's thick 10.8mm side profile and 190g weight are the culprits, but given its entry-level positioning, it is perhaps tolerable.
The phone sports a 5-inch IPS LCD screen, with a screen resolution of just 800 x 480 pixels. Such screen resolution is remarkably low even for an entry-level smartphone. Yielding a pixel density of 187ppi, the display looks awkwardly pixelated. The color reproduction looks just about average as well. Overall, other than the screen size, and the good viewing angles, the display is reminiscent of the iPhone 3GS or HTC Dream days.
The Nokia XL comes with 4GB of internal storage, much like the Xiaomi Redmi. However, much of it is occupied by the OS. For the remaining space, 1.12GB is partitioned for apps installation, leaving only 1 GB of user storage. Fortunately, the phone's internal storage is complemented by microSD expandable storage - supporting up to 32GB capacity cards. As such it doesn't support the new SDXC standard, which means 64GB microSD are unlikely to work. Again, this limitation is on par with other old or budget devices, such as the Xiaomi Redmi.