While the Samsung S5 remains under wraps for a few more hours, the real headline-grabber at the Mobile World Congress is a cheap-as-chips phone that may prove a real game-changer. And it is the work of a company recently described as on the ropes: Nokia.
The new Nokia X is fast, smooth, gorgeously designed and will sell for €89 (£74). And it runs on (gasp) Android software.
Over the last few years, Google’s free mobile phone software has become dominant, featured on handsets by Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony, Motorola and just about anyone, but Nokia pinned its flag to Microsoft’s rival Windows Phone system.
This was something which some of the Finnish company’s shareholders weren’t mad about. One told CEO Stephen Elop that the path to Hell was paved with good intentions, and would he please take another road.
After all, Nokia, with its exceptional and strikingly different industrial design could surely make a superior Android phone, couldn’t it? But the Android market is a difficult place to stand out.
Nokia’s solution is to make something unique: the Nokia X range uses a heavily customised version of Android designed to look almost like Windows Phone.
It features Nokia specialities such as free downloadable maps and a music compilation app, though only limited camera functions (one model has a 3MP camera, another 5MP).
The idea is to provide an affordable phone loaded with Microsoft and Nokia goodies so when it’s time to upgrade, the move to a Nokia Lumia smartphone will seem logical and look familiar.
Mobile World Congress: The best devices from 2014
Mobile World Congress: The best devices from 2014
1/8 Samsung Gear 2
Samsung launched its first smartwatch to an unimpressed public last Autumn and has updated it for 2014. The Gear (they dropped the 'Galaxy' moinker) has a slightly smoother design and comes with a heart rate and a pedometer to cash in on the trend for fitness tracking devices.
2/8 Xperia Z2
Sony has updated its flagship Xperia range with the Z2 tablet and smartphone. Both devices have 3GB of RAM, 2.3GHz processors and are waterproof. The tablet screen is 10.1-inches across, the smartphone's is 5.2-inches. Both run on Android.
3/8 Nokia X
One of the biggest pieces of news at MWC so far is Nokia's decision to start offering handsets running Google's Android operating system. Three smartphones (the X, pictured, the X+ and XL) will be aimed at emerging markets, running a heavily customized version of the OS that Microsoft's services to the fore.
4/8 Huawei TalkBand
Chines electronics giant Huawei also made a move into wearable tech with the TalkBand. It features a black and white OLED screen that pops out and works as a Bluetooth headset. Huawei are trying to sell it as a companion device (it is only €99) to their new 7-inch tablet, the X1.
This Russian device went on sale last year and its unique selling point is still the same. There's two screens - an LCD on the front and an e-ink on the back - with the latter designed to display notifications and the like when you leave it out on your desk. An intruiging concept, and the update brings with it a smoother design and touch capabilities to the e-ink display.
6/8 Firefox OS
Firefox didn't announce a new phone per se, but they confirmed plans to sell handsets running their Firefox OS for as little as £15, flooding the market (their words) with cheap, internet-capable devices.
Following Edward Snowden's snooping revelations, there is growing interest in a range of mobile phone products with one central selling point: privacy. The Blackphone is an attempt to tap the market, offering pre-installed encrypted software for calls and texts.
8/8 Panasonic Toughpad
Panasonic has been keeping away from the smartphone market but says it will make a partial return with its new Toughpad handsets. These expensive devices run either Windows Phone or Android and are counterparts to their hard-wearing Toughpad tablets.
The downside, some will feel, is that you don’t have access to the comprehensive Google Play Store with its million apps.
Instead, you’re guided to a Nokia app store, curated so you know that every app’s been approved to work.
Other app stores are available, geared to growing markets in Russia and Asia, for instance, which is the Nokia’s prime focus for the X, though the range will be available in the UK.
The resulting phone is a potential winner. It feels great and much classier than its price suggests, even if the display is no match for high-resolution rivals. The customised software is easy to use and intuitive. And the apps that are there look just as they do on other Android phones.
If you’re missing some favourites, and you’re techy enough, you can load almost any Android app to the X by cable, but Nokia stresses that the phone is designed to work with Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud services and Nokia’s Here Maps, rather than Google’s services. The X series is certainly a gamble, but nobody can accuse Nokia of taking the easy road. However it’s paved.Reuse content