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Struggling with Apple & Samsung at one end and low-cost domestic players at the other end, handset maker Nokia has finally embraced the Android platform, by launching a new Nokia X software platform based on the Android open source project, although Microsoft is buying Nokia’s phone business shortly.

It also launched a new family of smartphones based on Nokia X platform along with two new feature phones and a couple of software announcements at the ongoing Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona. (More on that here).

Nokia X platform

As stated earlier, Nokia X is a forked version of Android built on top of Android open source project (AOSP) version 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean), quite similar to what Amazon did with Fire OS. Therefore you will see Microsoft services along with signature Nokia experiences in a Nokia Asha-like interface instead of the traditional Google services. This also means there will be no Google Play, for which Nokia is providing its own app store along with support for multiple third party app stores.

This is probably the only way Nokia can counter Google’s dominance, although multiple app stores can turn out to be quite confusing to consumers. Besides this, Nokia also allows users to sideload Android apps to Nokia X devices.

Nokia X Screens

The company is also positioning Nokia X as a better monetization platform due to its operator billing tie-ups globally. Nokia claims to have billing agreements with more than 160 operators across more than 60 markets and offer a 70:30 revenue split (70% to developers with no additional operator specific charges). In India, Nokia has carrier billing tie-ups with Airtel, VodafoneIdea Cellular and Reliance Communications.

Operator billing will be critical for app developers especially in emerging markets like India where the credit card penetration is still quite low. Frankly, its quite surprising that Google (or even Apple) has not rolled out operator billing in India yet, despite of having carrier billing tie-ups with Reliance Communications and Uninor. In contrast, Nokia claims that 99% of app revenue on its feature phones comes through operator billing. (Also read: Why India’s Carrier Billing Platform Market Is Heating Up).

Going forward, it also plans to introduce a Try and Buy model, which will allow developers to offer a time-restricted or a turn-restricted version of their app to consumers before the purchase. The company says it is currently piloting this solution with select number of developers.

75% Of Android Apps Will Be Nokia X Compatible

From app compatibility point of view, Nokia says around 75% of Android apps can be published to the Nokia Store without any modifications and for those which need modifications, it is offering an analyser tool which will recommend requisite modifications needed before the developer can publish their app.

Nokia says some of the apps which might need modifications are apps using Google play services or Amazon services for push notifications, maps or in-app payments. For these, Nokia is offering its own APIs like HERE Maps API, Nokia Notifications API and in-app payment API. The company claims that developers can distribute a single application package file (APK) for targeting multiple stores. Developers can currently download the Nokia X SDK from the company’s developer website.

Initial Partners: At launch, Nokia X platform will feature apps like BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), Facebook, LINE Free Voice and Messages, LINE Camera, LINE Bubble, Picsart, Plants vs. Zombies 2, Real Football 2014, Skype, Spotify, Swiftkey, Twitter, Truecaller, Viber, Vine and WeChat.

Nokia mentioned that Facebook, BBM, Twitter, LINE, Viber, Electronic Arts, Gameloft and Rovio will also be launching their key apps across Nokia’s device portfolio of feature phones, Asha, Nokia X and Lumia while Foodpanda will be launching its app across Nokia Asha, Lumia and X family of devices shortly.

Nokia X Apps

New Apps For Nokia Lumia: Nokia mentioned that Adobe Photoshop Express, Facetune and JUSP will be soon launching Windows Phone apps along with Instagram, Vine, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Subway Surfers.

Nokia Developer Exchange Marketplace: Nokia will now offer premium real estate slots in 181 countries to select partners through the Nokia Developer Exchange Marketplace. The initial partners for this exchange include Electronic Arts, Gameloft, AE Mobile, Miniclip and Outfit7.

New Imaging SDK: Nokia also released an update to its imaging SDK, dubbed as version 1.1, to offer image editing features to Windows Phone 8, Windows 8.1 tablets and PCs. The SDK currently powers Nokia’s own apps like Nokia Storyteller and Nokia Camera. [Video Demo]