Nokia’s top secret low-cost smartphones run Android, not Windows

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Nokia is still working on an Android powered range of smartphones, even though the sale of its devices and services division to Microsoft has all but gone through. That’s according to reports from The Verge, which says that it has confirmed rumours about the new range with sources from the company.

The phones are being developed under the codename ‘Normandy’, and are reported to be running a version of Android that has been forked from Google’s design, similar to the way that Amazon uses Android as the base for its Kindle Fire operating system. The phones would be a replacement for the popular Asha range of psuedo-smartphones, and if they were compatible with Asha apps as well as Android ones, the company would have a vast catalogue of games and utilities available at launch.

The other benefit for Nokia would be not having to pay licensing fees for the operating system itself, which would allow it to keep costs down to compete with other low end Android manufacturers. This is one of the major issues that faces anyone wanting to build a low cost Windows Phone, as the license fee for WP8 is believed to be as high as $30 – which is roughly the starting cost of an Asha handset. Android, of course, is free.

Of course, the if the deal with Microsoft goes ahead, which in all likelihood it should, then the licensing fees that Nokia has to pay for the use of Windows Phone would fall away because Microsoft can’t exactly charge itself to use the Windows Phone software. Which would suggest to us that Normandy has possibly been developed as a plan B for if that deal was rejected by US competition authorities. So the likelihood is that it will never actually see light of day.

As part of the Nokia acquisition Microsoft obtains the rights to use the Nokia brand name on its lower end devices for the next 10 years but only if those devices are “based on the Series 30 and Series 40 operating systems”. This could be one of the reasons that Microsoft would not be willing to transition the low end of the phone business to Windows Phone as it would lose the brand equity that Nokia holds at that level of the market.



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