Today, at the start of Mobile World Congress, Nokia made it official. They are building Android-powered phones. I’m not going to rehash all of the data or walk you through the basics of the phone since that’s already been covered in-depth quite well today.
While some at Microsoft may be embarrassed by what Nokia is doing, I can see how it’s a smart move that will help.
First, let’s consider that these phones are targeted towards growth markets, which is just a different way of saying they are cheaper phones for less-wealthy countries. There are really only two options for price sensitive buyers: Android or Windows Phone. Because of the ecosystem and variety on the low end, Android is winning, while Nokia has started to play in this playground with its lower-priced Lumia phones — the Lumia 520 is the predominant reason Nokia holds such a commanding lead in Windows Phone marketshare.
But this move by Nokia will give potential customers of the Nokia X and X+, and the bigger Nokia XL most of the benefits of the app selection on Android while still presenting a very an experience that looks a lot like Windows Phone.
Nokia has done a nice job of unifying the way the phone looks to a user, no matter what whether it runs their forked version of the Android Open Source Project or Windows Phone. And since both Android and Windows versions of its phones will be backed up by Microsoft cloud services, thats another level of consistency. The goal here is to hook customers with a cheap device — the Nokia X series — and lure them up the device chain the the more expensive, and presumably more profitable, Lumia series Windows Phones.
Microsoft needs to win with the low-priced market, and it’s been on the right track so far with the cheaper Lumia products. I think these Android phones give Nokia and Microsoft more ammunition to capture that next billion smartphone users.