Nokia to release Android phone at MWC

Android1Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s handset business will soon come to a close, which means the Finnish company’s handset business will soon be wholly owned by the software giant, along with a licensing deal for its patents. But before that happens, Nokia is said to be releasing one final product that will not be running on Window Phone, but instead its chief rival, Google’s Android.

Rumors that Nokia might be releasing an Android phone first emerged in January of last year, when then CEO Stephen Elop stated in an interview that it was a possibility, before adding that the company is satisfied with using Microsoft’s platform for its mobile offerings. Now, sources familiar with the matter claim that Nokia will finally be releasing its Android-based smartphone at the Mobile World Congress this month.

The phone was said to be in the works since before Microsoft announced its intent to acquire the company.

The move to release an Android-based device may seem like a huge blow to Microsoft as it may be perceived as Nokia’s way of saying Windows Phone devices aren’t really that in demand, but the device will still have Microsoft’s influence stamped on it, even if it’s running on Google’s platform.

People familiar with the device stated that Nokia forked Android, which means it will not be able to access Google Play and other Google-developed features. Instead, it will come pre-installed with Nokia and Microsoft services such as the mapping app Here, and music streaming service MixRadio.

The move to fork Android is not unheard of. Others in the industry have done the same thing before, most notable Amazon. In its Kindle devices, Amazon uses a modified version of Android which locks the device so it can only use apps from its own store.

The move to release an Android-based phone could also help Nokia push its devices in emerging markets. Since Nokia chose to exclusively use Windows Phone on its devices, most of which are relatively high-end, it slowly lost the emerging market to Android. This change could help Nokia propel its handsets back to the top, a position it once held and dominated.

“Android has the entry-level smartphone market almost all to itself,” said Neil Mawston, an analyst at research firm Strategy Analytics.

“Microsoft’s missteps in the low-end smartphone market are costing it and Nokia huge amounts of lost volume.”