“We put Nokia’s second-gen Android-toting smartphone through its paces”
Believe it or not, Nokia was one of the first mobile manufacturers to introduce a smartphone. Long before the iPhone, in the pre-touchscreen era, Nokia had Symbian-based devices in its portfolio which offered users a 'smart' experience with customisability options, the ability to install apps, and more.
But with the arrival of the Apple iPhone and Android OS-laden devices, the brand wasn't able to ride on its first-mover advantage for long. It did try to combat the competition by opting for Microsoft's Windows Phone OS, instead of Google's Android platform, as most users would have wanted. But, better late than never, as the former Finnish company did reveal its first Android smartphones back in February, in the form of the Nokia X troika. However, more than their middling hardware, their limited software functionality made them just an average choice.
The Microsoft-owned company then revealed the successor to the series, the Nokia X2, which corrects many of our grouses with the original devices. So can Nokia X2 be the budget smartphone you're looking for? Let's find out.
|Short on time? Take a look at the Nokia X2 review in pictures|
Terms like "fingerprint magnet" are used quite loosely for smartphones with a glossy texture, but the Nokia X2 is a real embodiment of this phrase. The shiny finish on the back panel picks up fingerprints like nobody's business, and looked even worse on our piano black review unit. There’s also a glass layer over the plastic at the back, similar to the Asha 502 and 503 handsets, which makes it slippery when held for longer periods.
Coming to the design, the Nokia X2 follows the design language of its predecessor with a blocky rectangular shape, slightly rounded edges and a curved rear. However there are some subtle differences, most notably in the front of the device. Above the display in the front, the X2 gets a Nokia insignia, a earpiece and a front-facing camera, which wasn't present in the Nokia X. Below the display, instead of a single back button, you'll find two capacitive navigation keys. The first one if for returning to the previous screen, while the second is for directly jumping to the home screen. The back key also serves the purpose of bringing up the multi-tasking menu when long-pressed. Sadly, the keys aren’t backlit which makes them difficult to use in low light.
The left and bottom edges of the smartphone are completely devoid of any functional elements. On the right spine, the device gets the volume rocker and the power button. Up top, there's the micro-USB port and the standard headphone socket. The rear backplate of the Nokia X2 houses the main camera unit, with an LED flash above it, Nokia branding in the middle and a speaker mesh at the bottom.
Like most Nokia devices in the budget segment, the back panel extends towards the edges and can be removed. Prying open the cover exposes the removable battery, and three slots – two for inserting micro-SIM cards and one for expanding the internal storage.
While most smartphones highlight their slim waistline or featherlight weight, the Nokia X2 is an exception as it tips the scales at 150g and measures 11.1mm in thickness. However, this lends it a reassuring feel. It also fits well in hands, thanks to its compact 4.3-inch display panel.
The 4-inch screen adorning the Nokia X has been increased to 4.3-inches in its successor. While the resolution remains the same at 800 x 480 pixels, the ClearBlack LCD display reproduces good visuals and there's no sign of pixelation even though the pixel density is on the lower side (~217ppi). Compared to its predecessor, the display looks much better, both in terms of colour reproduction as well as brightness levels. The touchscreen also seems more responsive and supports five-point multi-touch, as opposed to just two-point multi-touch.
The display is protected by scratch-resistant glass to help it withstand minor scratches.
Nokia's vision of its X series is quite interesting – the devices are intended serve as a gateway to Microsoft's Windows Phone platform as well its services. That's why the Nokia X2, just like its predecessors, runs the Nokia X Software Platform, which is a forked version of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). The X2 runs the latest version of the software, v2.0, which is based on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, as compared to v1.0 which had Android 4.1 as its underlying OS. With v2.0, the software interface on the X2 brings forth numerous differences, many of them much-needed changes.
The basic interface remains the same with the lock screen offering the normal swipe, pattern or number lock mechanism. Once you unlock the smartphone, you'll be greeted by the homescreen which is reminiscent of Windows Phone's Metro interface, with all icons displayed as large tiles. The homescreen functionality hasn't changed compared to the Nokia X, allowing you to remove an app from the main screen, resize tiles and change their background colour. You can also add widgets to this screen. The interface has also made it easier to access all the apps installed on the smartphone. You can simply swipe to the right from the main screen to be presented with an alphabetical list of all the apps installed on the smartphone. You can search for an app by using the search bar at the top, or quickly jump to the apps starting with a particular alphabet.
Just like the Nokia X and Asha smartphones, the X2 has a Fastlane interface that displays recently-opened apps as well as recent notifications.
Swiping down from the top brings up the notification shade, which is quite different as compared to the one on the Nokia X. While its predecessor didn't provide any way to access notifications except for the confusing Fastlane interface, on the X2 you can access missed notifications via the drop-down panel. There's also a quick toggles tab that lets you turn on / off features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular data, etc. as well as adjust the brightness.
Another big difference in the UI is all thanks to the two hardware buttons on the Nokia X2. Yes, we're talking about the ability to access recently-opened apps on the smartphone, something that didn't even seem remotely possible on its predecessor. The multi-tasking menu is similar to the WP interface, displaying mini screens of running apps which you can swipe through, open or close.
In fact, thanks to the ability to easily access notifications and open the multi-tasking menu, we rarely used Fastlane. We didn't even feel the need to install custom launchers like Nova Launcher, something which had become a necessity on the Nokia X.
The Fastlane interface isn't rendered completely useless though. You can customise which apps you want displayed on the screen, and we used it specifically for social-networking apps, which allowed us to view a unified stream of communication.
The X2 retains the Nokia Store which allows you to download apps. Just like the implementation in the Nokia X, the Nokia Store directs you to third-party stores in case it doesn't have the app. You can also install stores like 1Market, Amazon App Store and Mobango to directly download apps and games.
One major concern that exists with the device is the non-availability of Google services, since the smartphone runs open-source Android. So, if you're heavily invested in Google apps like Gmail, Hangouts, and Drive, among others, it's very difficult to use the Nokia X2.
While the Nokia X offered a very basic setup in the form of a 3.2-megapixel fixed-focus rear camera without an LED flash, its successor seems better equipped for handling shooting requirements. The Nokia X2 features a 5-megapixel camera at the back, which is supported by an LED flash to assist shooting in low-light conditions. The shooter is also capable of recording videos in HD resolution, compared to 480p video recording on its predecessor.
The camera interface is very minimal, with the ability to turn on / off flash and other options hidden behind an expandable menu on the left, and a single capture button on the right, when held in landscape orientation. You can also swipe the capture button to switch to video shooting or a self-portrait mode. It should be noted that this self-portrait mode uses the rear camera instead of the VGA front snapper to capture an image by giving you voice guidance. To switch to the front camera or change modes like night, sports, etc., you need to tap the button alongside the flash. You can also adjust brightness and image quality by going into camera settings.
In terms of camera performance, the Nokia X2 is more than a step up from its predecessor, and offers decent results. The images are good on detail and colours, though sharpness seems to be on the lower side when the images are zoomed in. Macro shots are quite good, but landscape shots struggle because of the camera's low resolution. Here's a look at the images captured with the main camera of the Nokia X2. Click on the thumbnails to view them in full resolution.
The changes in the X2 continue in hardware, reflecting in performance as well. The Nokia X2 draws power from a Snapdragon 200 chipset offering two Cortex-A7 cores running at 1.2GHz, in contrast to a 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Play SoC on the Nokia X. The more efficient processor gets support from Adreno 302 processor for churning out good graphics. In terms of memory, the phone has double the RAM than its predecessor. All this leads to slick performance. While the Nokia X seemed to lag even with simple scrolling, the X2 was able to handle everything we threw at it.
Graphics-heavy games like Riptide GP2 also delivered smooth performance without any sign of lag. However, the smartphone tends to heat up after 10 to 15 minutes of gameplay.
For installing apps or storing your personal content, the device comes with 4GB of storage on board which leaves around 2.1GB after accounting for the space occupied by the OS. It can also be expanded further with the use of a microSD card of up to 32GB. Sadly, just like its previous avatar, the handset misses out on support for USB On-the-Go.
The device comes with the usual connectivity options, including 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. We also liked the sound output from the single speaker available on the smartphone.
The Nokia X2 works well as a daily driver and its 1,800mAh removable battery lasts around a day on a single charge with light usage. Heavy usage with 3G or playing games sucks the battery very quickly though. In our battery drain test, where we loop a 720p video with brightness and volume set to 50 percent, the Nokia X2 lasted for close to six hours and 30 minutes, which is an average result.
Before relaying our verdict, we should say that the Nokia X2 left us impressed when compared to its predecessor. It seems like the Nokia X was a beta product, while its successor comes across as a much more refined device. Not only does it right the problems with its predecessor, it also delivers a much better user experience.
Microsoft (formerly Nokia) has also kept the pricing of the Nokia X2 quite similar to the Nokia X at Rs 8,599. The device is now available at an even lower price point of around Rs 7,500. This price segment has been seeing notable competition from both the stalwarts as well as new entrants. Offerings such as the Xiaomi Redmi 1s (Review | FAQs), Huawei Honor Holly (first impressions), Micromax Unite 2 (Review | FAQs), among others, simply blow the Nokia X2 away with their specs. Then there are options such as the Android One trio (Karbonn Sparkle V review) and Moto E (review | FAQs) which offer stock Android along with the promise of updates for two years.
|Have a few doubts about the smartphone? We try to answer them in our Nokia X2 FAQs|
All this makes the going quite tough for the Nokia X2. Plus, there’s the known fact that Microsoft is killing the Nokia X product line, and that its design elements will be used for its WP-powered Lumia devices. This makes us wonder if the smartphone will get any future updates in terms of software.
All said and done, if you're looking for a sturdy device from a trusted brand which offers the customisability of Android, you should opt for the Nokia X2.
Photos by Pratik Vyas
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