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The concept of a Nokia Android phone seemed utterly ludicrous just six months ago.

Now, there are three set for an imminent release.

The Nokia X, Nokia X+ and Nokia XL were all unveiled in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress this morning and begged the question, ‘Why has Nokia left it to the last minute to be so bold?’

To recap, Microsoft is about to complete its multi–billion pound buyout of Nokia.

For three years, Nokia has been banging the drum for Windows Phone, seeing modest gains but still struggling for relevance as Android and iOS slay all before them.

nokia xl mwc

It could easily have gone with Google back then, but has instead taken a more circuitous route which may still work in its favour.

Amazon has shown that forked versions of Android can work well. Its Kindle Fire tablets offer decent user experience and software minus Google Play and therefore the search giant’s attendant services.

Nokia’s new X Series phones opt for the same approach, using the smart, Live Tile UX seen on Windows Phones but with Android as its base code.

It makes for a cheaper option, both in terms of Nokia’s initial outlay and for consumers.

The entry level Nokia X is only €89 up front. That’s absurdly good value for a smartphone.

There’s also the fact that developers can easily port their apps over to these new phones, without the hassle of having to tinker for days in order to get them into shape.

This is Nokia and Microsoft recognising that its app ecosystem on Windows has a lot of catching up to do.

Users want add–ons and arguably care about them more than they do the brand of their phone.

But if they can get their favourites, and lots of them, on a Nokia device, then that is surely better for Espoo and, ultimately, Redmond.

In opting for a forked version, Nokia and Microsoft are still able to showcase great native apps like Here Maps without having to include Google’s rival efforts in the box. It’s the best of both worlds.

Nokia Maps 3D eagle view

In fact, this whole project shows just how enlightened both companies are being.

Google’s software is free and open source, so why not use it and its app ecosystem to help build brand awareness and consumer love for its Live Tiles UX?

Once punters get on board, they may one day make the move to Windows Phone.

With Microsoft’s announcement that it’s going to tweak the back end of that OS to support slower processors, relaxing hardware rules to boot, then it’s easy to see Nokia X Series as a gateway to more heavily Microsoft-flavoured phones in the future.

It makes you wonder, though, why wait so long? Nokia could have cleaned up with this approach in 2011.

Perhaps it’s simply a case of Microsoft’s impending arrival speeding up the process.

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