When you do a thing poorly, nobody benefits
I've had a few days to digest the Nokia X product line announcement from early Monday morning. I've tossed things around in my head, trying to get a handle on what Nokia was trying to accomplish with the new products, what it means for both the Windows Phone and Android ecosystems. I've seen the horrible reaction from potential users on various social networks, and I've read some compelling arguments that suggest it will be a good thing overall from our own Dan and Chris.
But I'm still not convinced.
I don't see anything here but a play from Microsoft and Nokia to stop users from using Google's services. And it's wrapped up in what appears to be pretty poor packaging. I've decided that my mind is made up, and it's time to let it flow from brain to fingers to keyboard.
Why the Nokia X line is bad for Android fans
Simply put, The Nokia X and its Kin (see what I did there?) are laggy by design. You have an old version of Android (Android 4.1) that's three full cycles behind, built with very little hardware optimization, and tossed on low end hardware. It's almost as if someone wants to make Android look laggy and poor ...
It's almost as if someone wants to make Android look laggy and poor.
By all accounts the phones performance is dismal at best once you try to actually do something with it. Sure, most Android apps — ones that do not need Google's services, which we'll get to later — can be sideloaded on the Nokia X, but you probably won't like the experience very much. Having a native Vine app means little when the device is so poorly designed that it can barely run it. As Android fans, we know this. We've seen it with all the piss-poor low-end phones that Samsung and Motorola used to crank out several years ago. I'll say it. They sucked. Just like the Nokia X will suck.
Another big problem for Android fans is they way Nokia chose to eschew all of Google's services. Instead, they push you to Microsoft services, which makes sense because Nokia is Microsoft for all intents and purposes. But your Gmail, your Google Maps, your Google Search, and your Google News — they are going to suck, too. You'll be using whatever Nokia included as a web browser if you want to use any of those services. And as an Android fan, you likely use them all. A lot. It's that, or a combination of Nokia HERE and Microsoft Bing services.
Someone, somewhere, will likely hack all the Google services back into the Nokia X, but that won't fix the poor performance. Make no mistake —if you're an Android fan and are looking for a budget phone, buy the Moto G and don't even look twice at this abonimation.
Why the Nokia X is bad for Windows Phone
This one is easy. The Nokia X will take away sales from the great budget Lumias, and the fact that it runs Android apps is what will help it happen. Users looking for a cheap handset will pick the one that runs Plants vs. Zombies 2 (albeit poorly) and ignore Microsoft's "better" models. If you want people to join the Windows ecosystem, plying them with Android apps isn't the way to do it.
Users looking for a cheap handset will pick the one that runs Plants vs. Zombies 2.
When it's time to upgrade, users will have a choice to go to Android and run all the apps they are familiar with — and enjoy how much better they run on other models — or to move to a Windows phone that is likely missing most of those apps. Outlook and Bing are available for every Android phone, so saying users will switch to Windows isn't a given. I can go Android, and have everything I already have and more, or I can switch to Windows and lose part of it. I know what I would do, and I'll bet it's what most people will do.
Unless Microsoft is planning on a method for users to run native Android apps, which is a complete and utter admission of your platform's failure, the Nokia X will hurt Windows Phone sales.
Why the Nokia X is bad for Nokia
Nokia made, and still makes, some incredible phones. Sure, they have their little quirks, but ask around the Internet and most people will tell you that, operating system aside. Nokia phones are beautiful, durable, and generally freaking awesome. They still make the best Windows phones, and Android users have wanted a premium Nokia model for years.
Instead, we got the Nokia X.
Does Nokia want its Android legacy to be this shiny pile of lag and fail? Of course not. But chances are it will be. That's not fair to the engineers, the fans of the brand, or the company itself. But does anyone really think Microsoft will let Nokia build a phone that rivals the latest and greatest from LG or Samsung? Of course they wont, because that won't drive Windows phone sales. As a business, they have to do what is best for their own sales.
Does Nokia want its Android legacy to be this shiny pile of lag and fail?
Nokia, as a brand, deserves better than the Nokia X. Whatever business voodoo that went on to give the green light to this project will end up hurting them in the long run, and both Android fans and Windows fans won't soon forget. We're fickle and hold a grudge forever.
Why the Nokia X is bad for Microsoft
On the surface, the Nokia X looks like it will bring more users to Microsoft services. Not paying customers, because the target audience isn't folks with that kind of disposable income, but users nonetheless. There's money in numbers when you put ads in your services — which Microsoft does, too.
But the key, I think, is putting happy users in touch with your services. A horrible experience with Bing on a phone that runs the application poorly only serves to tarnish the brand. The 1974 Pinto didn't create a single Ford fan, even though more than a few people bought one. The Nokia X is that 1974 Pinto.
The Nokia X is the 1974 Ford Pinto
Microsoft's apps for Android are nicely done. When you run one of them on your Galaxy phone, or your HTC One, you'll appreciate the time and thought that went into their design and development. This is where Microsoft needs to focus if they want more users — especially paying users. Wow me with what you can do and what you have to offer, and I'll look twice. Don't try and tempt me with Plants vs. Zombies and Amazon app stores when you already have a series of devices that are cheap, and do a better job running your services.