We were in the camp that begged Nokia at every possible forum to come up with an Android smartphone. Our excitements definitely dampened after the Nokia X but we hoped the slightly better spec’d Nokia XL would somehow justify the Android experiment that Nokia conducted. While the Nokia XL is slightly superior in terms of performances when compared the to the Nokia X, there is little hiding away from the fact that this is not the way Android works, at least in 2014. In fact, if pushed, the experience on the Nokia XL resembled a bit like our battered HTC Desire One, and dare we say, the Desire still rocked our boat more.
However, since the launch of the Nokia X series of devices, the Nokia-Microsoft merger has gone through, and while most of us expected the experiment with Android to end with this merger, there are strong reports that Nokia X2 will be rolled out in the coming months as Nokia will try to get Android done the right way. While the Nokia X may fit in to the space where users may want to pick the device as their very first Android experience, the positioning of the Nokia XL is largely perplexing. For what the device costs, there have been several Android phones launched, which provide a User Experience that is so much better, leaving Nokia XL in an uncomfortable space. All said and done, what does the Nokia XL brings to the table, or rather, what does it miss out on? Lets find out in the full review of the phone.
Pricing, boxing and availability
The Nokia XL is available for a price of Rs 10,240 on the leading E-Com portals in India such as Flipkart. The device comes in several colours including green, black, orange, white etc and pretty much all the colours can be picked up without much of a fuss. The box of the device contains a wall charger, the device itself, its removable battery, a pair of headphones with microphone and some warranty and quick start documents. Interestingly, there is no USB to Micro USB cable included. The box is a sweet green packaging with the device on top, very reminiscent of the Nokia Lumia package.
We were able to find the device for as low as INR 9,500 in the market, though maybe with better bargaining skills you can pick the phone to lesser. However, availability was not an issue with the Nokia XL and the three shops we asked, all had the phone in stock here in Mumbai. Picking the accessory for the phone was a pain though. Not too many options in terms of back covers are available. Screen guards too specifically made for the Nokia XL were rare to find, though most of the good mobile stores did promise us to fit the right screen protector on the phone. Removable shells of the device were not available at any of the stores that we asked.
Design and feel of the device
At the first look, you will be forgiven to call the Nokia XL, just another phone from the Lumia range of devices. The phone bears a lot of design similarities to the Nokia Lumia series of phones, especially if you look at the rear of the devices. The Nokia XL is a plastic slab of a phone with sharp, albeit very slightly rounded corners. With a width of 141.4 x 77.7 x 10.9 mm, the Nokia XL is a fairly big phone. Add in the 190 grams of wight, and you know you are holding a chunky phone. Despite that, you cannot fault the construction of Nokia here as the phone is really well built with no undone edges.
The Nokia XL feels like a zoomed in version of the Nokia X, however, one that is not very comfortable to use single handedly. Despite fairly large hands, we really struggled handling the phone with one hand, especially as the back is rather slippery and most of the weight is centrally concentrated. The device from the front end is all screen and has a capacitive back button residing on the massive bottom bezel. There is also a 2 MP front facing camera alongside the Nokia branding and grille to hear the phone calls. There is a single microphone on the bottom chin of the phone and therefore no noise cancellation.
On the outside, the right flank of the device has the power unlock button as well as the volume control keys. The bottom of the phone has a Micro USB port and the 3.5 mm headset jack is located right at the top of the Nokia XL. The back of the phone has a soft plastic feel to it and houses the 5 MP rear camera with LED flash. There is a large speaker grille as well as Nokia branding on the back too.
The back of the phone is removable and you can insert two micro SIM cards as well as your Micro SD card. The battery on board is user replaceable. There is no NFC here. You can check out the Nokia XL in our photo gallery of the phone here.
The Nokia XL has a 5 inch IPS LCD display with a resolution of 480×800. This gives it a pixel density of 187 as compared to the Nokia X whose display has a PPI of 233. The colours on the Nokia XL appear bright and saturated, though it is next to impossible to ignore all those pixels that stare in your face. The bright colours such as orange, red, green and deep blue look pretty sweet with good contrast ratios across the phone. The touch is decently responsive too. A slightly higher resolution screen, and you would really have liked this display.
The outdoor visibility on the phone was good while the viewing angles were great till almost 140-150 degree, beyond which the colours started to wash out. The overall experience is very decent and nothing more and a lot of it is down to the poor resolution. It is rather strange that Nokia opted for the exact same resolution on the Nokia XL as they did on the Nokia X, though the colour reproduction on the XL certainly was a wee bit better.
Software, performances and lack of Google Play Services
The Nokia XL runs a forked Android version on top of Android 4.1.2 Jellybean, which is almost a two year old version of Android. As expected with obsolete hardware and software on top of it, the experience is not what you would expect from an Android phone in 2014. There is no Google Play Services here, as a result you are tied to Nokia’s Store which although does have basic apps like Twitter and Instagram, anything more fashionable and you must flash the Google Play Store after rooting the device or depend on other Android stores for apk files.
The phone stutters and hangs pretty much even in the most basic tasks such as searching applications in the Store or opening and replying to a message. Lack of notification centre and multitasking means there is very limited stuff you can do with the phone at one time. While you can install a third party launcher such as Go Launcher on the phone, it totally disables Fast Lane which is pretty much your only hope for achieving any sort of productivity on the device. Fastlane basically records all your actions that you do on your phone and lists them in the order of the task performed. This is in a way Notification centre and Multitasking combined into one and although it works petty much with all the apps that you can pick and does not miss out on notification, it is very limited. For example, for any interaction with the notification, you need to go inside the application and there is no expansion or minimisation possible of the notification. You can though, turn the application off from appearing in the fastlane as well as pick which notifications will be visible.
The homesceen setup of the Nokia XL is very much like the Lumia devices and you have this tile like interface. You can delete the apps right form the desktop where they live or resize them between a larger or a smaller square. Apart from showing notifications, there are no live tiles here though. Unlike WP 8.1, you cannot even change the background of the desktop and the back button just takes you to the fastlane and then to the home screen. Long pressing the home button takes you to home directly. You can add folders as well as widgets to the home screen though.
You can change the wallpaper of the lockscreen, but the notifications on the lockscreen are not active and there is no widget support for lock screens either. Double tap to wake though present, but works only when you hammer the phone. Glance feature too is present, where the phone will show you the time on the lockscreen of your Android phone. You can add your own words to the dictionary to make typing a bit faster, though there is no swipe keyboard by default here. You do get the Nokia Here maps, Mix Radio and a bunch of games such as Tetris, Green Farm etc with the device which is sweet.
Overall, the software experience on the Nokia XL is complicated and a bit inconsistent. There are few apps where you can swipe your finger across to go to the home, while this doesn’t work across the system. There are few places where a menu pops up at the bottom while it is missing from the rest. A stock Android 4.1.2 experience is certainly a lot better and consistent than what we experienced on the Nokia XL.
The camera on the rear of the Nokia XL is upgraded to a 5 MP shooter as compared to the Nokia X. The sensor is a 1/4 inch in size and is capable of shooting videos in 480 P. You do have a front facing 2 Mp snapper too. The camera interface is pretty good and simple to use. You have settings such as white balance, flash and exposure that are omnipresent in the camera window. You can also change the ISO, saturation levels, contrast levels, sharpness as well as picture size in the settings. There are basic inbuilt filters under colour effects such as Sepia, Negative, Aqua etc giving users plenty of options to compose a good shot.
Th camera on the Nokia XL was one of the most disappointing features of the device. Nokia in the past have done a very fine job with camera of device in the budget or lower budget section, but the camera on the Nokia XL was really underwhelming from the standards Nokia has set. In comparison to other devices in this class, this is still pretty much as good as it gets. We must add that there is a massive shutter lag and due to the absence of any sort of OIS, inevitable you get an image that is a little blurry unless you use a proper tripod.
You can check out the in-depth camera sample analysis of the shots that we took with the Nokia XL here.
Phone calls and Network Performances
Lack of noise cancellation meant that while the phone calls were good and loud, it was a right trouble for the person on the other side when we were in a crowded place. You can only turn the 3G on, on your primary SIM of the phone and that was a bit of a turn off. The data speeds were largely decent though and matched with those of what we were receiving on our other more expensive phone with reception staying consistent. We dropped 2 calls out of the 18 calls we made from the phone. Due to lack of Wi-Fi 808.11 ac, you will be restricted to 808.11 b/g/n so be mindful of that. Wi-Fi hotspot was not an issue at all and worked well with a surprisingly good range.
Battery Backup and Speaker phone
The speaker on the Nokia XL certainly was louder than the Nokia X, but it lacked the polish that you would expect from a Nokia product. The sound was loud, but lacked proper calibration. The video playback in 480 P was fine, but anything beyond and you will struggle with massive frame drops. The battery on the phone had decent standby times, but connected to Wi-Fi and a bit of browsing here and there with occasional phone calls meant the phone was crying for a charger in about 12 hours time. We certainly expected a lot more from the 2000 mAh battery of the Nokia XL.
If the Nokia X was tough to recommend, the Nokia XL is tougher. The phone is priced for about Rs 3,000 more than the Nokia X and brings nothing apart from a slightly bigger display and a better rear camera to the board. Looking around at some of the Windows Phone devices in this category as well as Android phones such as the recently launched Moto E and you can hardly make a case of why would anyone want a Nokia XL. If you are to go by our advice, you are better off picking either the Moto E or one of the recently announced Android 4.4 devices in the Rs 8,000 range or save a bit more and pick the Moto G in the future, cause if nothing else, you will get an experience that is in sync with time unlike the Nokia XL that just serves Android in an avatar that we really want to forget even existed.