NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Nokia ( NOK) -- soon to officially be a division of Microsoft ( MSFT) -- is making Android phones? That's hard to believe.
When Stephen Elop took over at Nokia a few years ago, he had three choices to make as soon as he got the job: keep developing the company's in-house, open-source mobile operating system; switch over to what nearly everyone else in the industry was doing -- making Google's ( GOOG) Android OS phones; or take a deal being offered by Microsoft to drop everything else and start making Windows Phones exclusively.
Elop chose to kill his company's terrific N9 and any future MeeGo OS smartphone, reject Android and accept Microsoft's offer.
Ultimately, the move helped Nokia become the No. 1 Windows Phone company on the planet but didn't help Elop to the top spot at Microsoft. That's why it was amazing to see the same Elop (now a Microsoft senior vice president) take to the Nokia stage in Barcelona overnight to announce Nokia's first and probably last Android smartphones.
Nokia shares were advancing 0.27% to $7.48 in premarket trading on Monday.
The new "X" line consists of the X, the X+ and the XL. All sport Nokia's colorful outer shells. Specification-wise the phones are mid-level devices. The new phones are made to fit in between Nokia's Asha line of super-inexpensive phones for developing markets and it's Lumia line of Windows Phone OS models.
The new phones are 2G/3G (no 4G/LTE in sight) and all use dual-core, 1.0 GHz Qualcomm (QCOM) processors and are dual-SIM capable. The new X model has a 4-inch IPS screen (800 by 480), 512 MB of RAM and a 3 megapixel, fixed-focus rear camera. The X+ adds a little more RAM (768 MB) and a 4 GB storage card. The top-of-the-line XL phone jumps to a 5-inch screen and a 5 MP camera on the back and a 2 MP camera up front.
Despite the obvious tile-based tip-of-the-hat given to Windows Phones' look and feel, the Xs also come loaded with a package of Nokia/Microsoft apps such as Skype, HERE Maps, MixRadio and others.
The Nokia X is non-contract priced at 89 euros ($122 and will go on sale immediately in Asia-Pacific, Europe, India, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. The Nokia X+ (99 euro/$136) and Nokia XL (109 euros/$150) are expected to roll out in the same markets beginning early in the second quarter.
Nokia also announced two new, very low-cost phones which probably will never be sold in the United States. The Asha 220, Nokia's lowest priced data-enabled model will retail for 29 euro/$40 and the Asha 230 a touch-screen feature-phone selling for 45 euros/$62).
-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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