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Nokia To Launch Android Phone Ahead of Microsoft Acquisition

As Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia continues to move forward, the smartphone maker is reportedly planning to release an Android-based smartphone later this month.

Citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal on Monday reported that Nokia will introduce its first Android device during the Mobile World Congress event, which kicks off on Feb. 24 in Barcelona, Spain.

While Nokia's device will be based on Android, it will also incorporate some Microsoft services, according to the WSJ.

"The Nokia phones will differ from most other Android smartphones, and won't access some Google-developed features or Android apps from the Google Play storefront," the WSJ said. "Instead, the phone will come installed with digital services created by Nokia and Microsoft, including mapping service Here and streaming music service MixRadio, as well as a Nokia application store."

The description echoes earlier speculation that the device will run on a "forked" version of the Android platform. Leaked images of a low-end Android-based Nokia phone, code-named "Normandy," surfaced late last year showing a strong resemblance to Nokia's Windows Phone-based Lumia devices in both hardware and in the tile-based UI.

According to the report, Nokia's plan to develop an Android device predates Microsoft's announcement last September of its plan to purchase the Finland-based company's device arm for $7 billion in a deal that is expected to close sometime this quarter. At any rate, many analysts see a Nokia Android phone as an opportunity for both Nokia and Microsoft to improve their performance in the smartphone market.

Android currently has over 80 percent of the global smartphone market, while Microsoft's own Windows Phone platform -- even as it solidifies its No. 3 spot -- has under 4 percent. Nokia, which accounts for over 90 percent of all Windows Phone shipments, is only the No. 8 smartphone manufacturer despite improving Lumia sales.

With Windows Phone struggling to grow its worldwide market share past the single digits, a low-end Android device could be one way for both Microsoft and Nokia to shore up their presence in emerging markets, where smartphone saturation is still low. There is significant opportunity for Android in emerging markets, which Gartner estimates will account for 75 percent of all Android device shipments by 2017.

The need for Microsoft to back an entry-level smartphone becomes more pronounced as the company steadily positions Windows Phone for larger, more expensive devices that may not be as accessible to buyers in emerging markets. Windows Phone 8's latest update brought support for higher-quality displays and larger screens; the forthcoming Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to extend that support to even larger devices in the "phablet" category.

"At least for now, Microsoft appears willing to outsource part of its phone lineup to Android to boost volumes and support its handset manufacturing operation," the WSJ noted.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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