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Nokia XL Dual SIM Review: Cheaper but bigger Android

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You already know that Nokia has launched three cheap Android smartphones before in February including Nokia X, X+ and Nokia XL. Then in a couple of weeks “Nokia” turned “Microsoft Mobile” after completion of their acquisition and recently Microsoft Mobile/Nokia introduced one more Android device in the Nokia X family, the Nokia X2. However Nokia XL is still the most yet available in the market here and we have a review of Nokia XL in as much detail as could help you deciding about the purchase.

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Costing at Rs. 17,600/- PKR (~$178) Nokia XL is the most expensive comparatively to its other siblings but comes with 5″ large display and increased 768MB of RAM. That’s 256MB more memory to handle resources on Nokia XL than the original Nokia X which also means that the jobs on Nokia XL will be performed quite better than Nokia X.

It’s going to be a universal truth that you feel a little more prominent in a crowd with a bigger device in your hands. Having objections with this fact in initial days, now I’m also getting more towards bigger screen devices but of course not as bigger as they could cover all your face over during a call. check out the difference below how they look in your hands and which looks better.

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Nokia XL – 5 inch display

Nokia X – 4 inch display

Have you checked out the unboxing session of Nokia XL we recently did? If not, you really should to know what comes with the Nokia XL in the box as well as a quick tour of the device visuals.

We believe it’s the very first extensive and in-depth review of Nokia XL in Pakistan we are trying to bring to you.

FEATURES AND SPECIFICATIONS

  • Nokia X software platform 1.x
    AOSP Android Open Source Project – Android OS 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • 2G/3G, Dual-SIM Support. (3G available on one SIM only)
  • 5 inch IPS LCD, Resolution 480×800 pixels, Pixels density of 187 PPI
    Nokia Glance screen, double-tap-to-unlock
  • 1GHz dual-core Cortex-A5 processor
    Adreno 203 GPU
    Qualcomm MSM8225 Snapdragon S4 chipset
  • 768MB of RAM
    4GB internal storage (1.2GB free)
    microSD card support (up to 32GB)
  • 5MP primary camera, auto focus, LED flash. FWVGA video recording 864×480 @30fps;
    2MP front-facing camera
  • FM radio
  • Wi-Fi b/g/n connectivity, Bluetooth v3.0
  • 2,000mAh battery, micro USB charging.
DESIGN and THE LOOK & FEEL

Nokia XL overall is pretty good to handle but not as comfortable as the devices with 4″ or 4.3″ displays. You can pick it up, take along in hands even when it’s big but it doesn’t look bulky at all however being 190 grams it weighs more than the competitors. Occupying 141.4 x 77.7 x 10.9 mm in space it will fill your pocket and even will be giving a glance from top.

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Well I believe Nokia will not compromise quality over the slimness or light weight of the device. Build quality is still not to abuse about and is still better than others. It doesn’t look fancy but instead decent with a very few curves and rounded elements and the matt finish on the back (specially this black variant we have) waves off any chances that it could slip off your hands.

Backside Overview

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Leaving the glass on the front with a slim metal boundary around, there starts the back cover holding which is fully matt material. Camera and an LED flash is on the upper portion with a “Nokia” branding in the middle and the speaker grill on the bottom part. That’s just simple as other Nokia devices including Lumia.

Controls and Keys

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Top and bottom sides of the Nokia XL serves the 3.5mm audio jack and and the micro USB port respectively. Left side of the device is completely blank with no control or port while the other side hosts the volume control keys and the power/unlock key.

Right view of Nokia XL

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Opening the back cover, like other budget phones from Nokia are little harder. It opens from top with both of your thumbs pushing from the corners to opposite side while holding from the bottom. When opened, both of the SIM card slots are covering the micro SD card slot in between. Both of the SIM slots are labeled with SIM 1 and SIM 2 with the 2G and 3G only labels which is good for your clearance.

Back cover and Battery Removed

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What the bad thing I mostly feel in Nokia’s hardware is the changing of SIM cards. They are not hot-swappable. Even a the second SIM card is also packed inside which you can only change or add after removing the battery which is directly proportional to a restart of the phone to register the new SIM card. Nokia should now start working on the hot-swappable SIM card options.

LARGE SCREEN AND DISPLAY

Simply and straight the screen bigger than 4″ or 4.3″ is usually out of reach to operate with one hand for most people out there. With the 5″ display the phone looks almost the same in size with other devices with 5″ display however this one weighs more than others.

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The worst thing I always think it is when they make phones with larger screens but the resolution is not served accordingly. The same low WVGA resolution of 480×800 pixels on the 5″ display of Nokia XL provides the pixels density of only 187 PPI which is very bad especially with reading text in the web browser.

Well, the justification is enough that this is a budget phone hence low is the resolution just like other devices in the same price range. But we’ll really add an exception of Moto G which delivers a really great deal in this price range along with the 720p display resolution. We must tell you that Moto G is not officially available in Pakistan. (You may find it in market but with a little bump in the price which may vary from one store to another as they are imported ones.)

What else is missing in the Nokia XL’s display is the ClearBlack – which improves visibility of display in bright sunlight by darkening the light reflections – Fortunately ClearBlack display is present in the upcoming Nokia X2 with other improved elements. We really think the presence of ClearBlack display would have been appreciated in the bigger Android from Nokia to distinct really from its little siblings. Also it could have been a plus point while comparing with other brands.

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Outdoor with direct viewing
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Outdoor with slightly tilted to clean sky

Nokia XL is prone pretty much to reflectiveness on the screen which could have been lot lower and better with ClearBlack display. You will need the brightness set at 100% when using the phone outdoors or otherwise you will go completely blind to it even when you are under shadows. “Automatic” brightness could do the job always without your consideration. Viewing angles are better indoors but when outdoors it’s fairly good comparatively with other brands in this price range.

NOKIA X PLATFORM: THE SOFTWARE USER INTERFACE

Including other Nokia X family of devices, Nokia XL runs on Nokia X platform which is a forked version of Android OS built up on AOSP (Android Open Source Project) version 4.1 Jelly Bean. Simply, for being a fully forked version of Android, Nokia X platform will not give you access to the Google Services but instead will give you its own services from Nokia and from Microsoft such as Nokia HERE maps, Nokia Store, Bing services.

Following is the Nokia X Platform User Interface demonstration on the original Nokia X smartphone. There is just no difference between the user interface of Nokia X and Nokia XL so we are using the same UI walkthrough on Nokia X to save time.

Watch on YouTube

Watch on Vimeo

If you have experienced with using any other Android smartphone before then you will instantly point out the difference that it’s something new to Android UI. And if you have used a Windows Phone 8 as well then you know that the user interface of Nokia X platform is similar to it with tiles on the home screen.

However there is only one access key on the Nokia XL or any other previous Nokia X devices which is used for back key and home key, the multitasking can be slightly be handled via the “Fastlane” screen came from Nokia Asha platform. Well that’s something different on an Android phone which presents all of your recent activity on the phone as well as gives you access to that app/task/activity right from the Fastlane and drops you in the app where you left it. Checkout the extensive overview of the user interface of Nokia X platform with screenshots below.

STAND BY AND LOCK SCREEN

On the sleep/standby screen, there is the glance screen feature, first added into MeeGO Nokia N9 and Symbian devices and later came to Windows Phone as Glance Screen, now added to Nokia’s Android devices. In addition to the power/unlock key to wake it up, “double tap” feature is also available on Nokia XL (Settings > Display).

Lock screen serves with pretty much regular items including full screen wallpaper, date/time and notifications about calls and messages as well as notifications from the apps. Phone can be unlocked by sliding the screen either left or right side. Individual notifications can be destroyed by swiping to the left. To destroy them all at once you can swipe them upwards. However swiping a notification to the right side will unlock the phone as well as take you to the relevant app.


Lock Screen

Swipe notification to right

Unlocking the screen
HOME SCREENS – THE APP LAUNCHER & FASTLANE

Unlocking the the screen brings the Windows Phone styled tile icons on front that is the first home screen (aka the app launcher). The other one is the Fastlane.

Swiping the lock screen on either left side or right side will take you to the app launcher (one of the two home screens) or the screen you locked the phone on.


The two home screens can be swiped on either side e.g. swiping left or right from App Launcher home screen will bring the Fastlane home screen and vice versa. Another way to go to home screens is very similar to what we have seen on Nokia N9’s MeeGo UI, that is “Swipe to Home” in Nokia XL (Settings > Apps) that lets you to get away from any app running in front by swiping from the edge of the screen from right or left.

CUSTOMIZING APP LAUNCHER

The App Launcher home screen is where you launch apps usually. The icons (kind of tiles) can be rearranged in groups apart by spacing or in folders. Long tapping on the icon will trigger the edit mode on the app launcher will be dimmed leaving the icon you tapped on with options to enlarge/reduce in size, change the background color of the icon on tile and an option to uninstall the app right away.

You can create a folder by tapping on the left folder icon enabled on the context options after once you are in edit mode. Second screen above is showing the “Stores” folder open with Nokia’s stock and third party app store apps placed in. There is to point something in Nokia XL that these icons are not the live tiles as you have seen in Windows Phone but you can still resize them in small or large tiles.

The other context option in edit mode is to choose widgets and place them on the main App Launcher home screen. There is wide variety of stock widgets as well as apps you install may also bring their relevant widgets to use.

Note: Adding widgets to your App Launcher home screen may effect the performance due to hardware limitations.

FASTLANE & PULL DOWN STATUS BAR

Fastlane is actually borrowed from the Nokia Asha platform that adds something different in Android UI than we have seen on others. The Fastlane gives you the backtrack of your activities while giving you access to that activity to review or open right from there. What’s included in the activities covers most of the things you do on the phone. It includes lastly opened apps, web pages you have visited, the calls activity with contacts, messages and emails, calendar events, recently installed apps, shared content, pictures you have taken recently , social network activities. In simple, anything you do on your phone will be added as a log into the Fastlane. Specifically opening an app from Fastlane will open the app right from the same state you left that app, even the text you had entered will be there.

Fastlane’s settings can be changed from the (Settings > Fastlane) where you turn on notifications, manage notifications, turn on/off the apps activities and social network notifications.

What’s left on the home screens is the pull-down status bar, which of course can be pulled down not only from the home screens but just like on other platforms or Android itself, it works anytime you perform the gesture. After everything about notifications has been put inside the Fastlane, the pull-down status bar doesn’t provide notifications but only a few shortcuts to the features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth,Mobile data and a silent switch. Else is the list of features that are currently turned on.

CALLS, MESSAGES AND CONTACTS/PEOPLE

Making calls and message conversations are the two major tasks a phone will do. But with how much feasibility and easiness? depends on the user interface of that phone. Nokia XL allows to sync contacts with your email accounts e.g. on your Windows Live account.

In Nokia X, “People” is the phonebook where you can arrange your contacts in groups and make them favorite. A standard way of Android to scrub contacts with starting alphabet reference on the right scroll bar. Pictures of the contacts are also available from your accounts and can be set manually. Quick view of the contact information pops up by tapping on the image area while tapping on the contact entry takes you to the full information detail screen of the contact. Contacts can be searched by typing as well.

Contacts can be synced with your accounts on the phone from (Settings > Accounts)

Making calls on Nokia XL is pretty straight forward. You can switch to the calls log and dialer from the interface as well as quick list of contacts is also present on the same interface from where you can select a contact call instantly. Unfortunately the smart dialing is not available on Nokia XL just like even the Windows Phone still doesn’t have that feature on its 8.1 developer preview version.

The source SIM card can be chosen right from the top pull-down status bar before making a call or sending text messages. That chosen option remains your default source SIM for future calls or text messages however you can choose “Always ask” option in (Settings > Dual SIM) to make Nokia XL ask you every time which SIM you want to use before making a call or sending an SMS – that option is not friendly for me at least. Setting a default active SIM for outgoing calls/messages is more than feasible as it appears all the time on your top status bar with high lighted SIM number as well as calls and text messages always indicate the SIM reference which was used for the call/text.

SIM card reference is always indicated with each call log entry (incoming/outgoing) and each message you send or receive.

Thread based conversations in text messages are just mostly same as in other platforms or user interfaces of Android. Tap and holding on the thread triggers the edit mode on the list where you can just delete a single thread or multiple threads. A conversions in the thread shows simple bubble interface with text message. You can add pictures and videos to the conversation to send in a multimedia message. Messages from/to both SIMs are shown in the same thread view with a SIM number indication to tell which SIM was used for the message.

The QWERTY keyboard performs well in accuracy but sometimes I felt lags between typing letters. I struggled a lot to switch it to landscape mode but while in Text Messages, I couldn’t. There is the option in “(Settings > Accessibility) or (Settings > Display) to rotate screen automatically which you can turn on. But apparently it works on only a select applications including web browsers. Messages app won’t rotate the screen and will work only in portrait mode as with the current software version of Nokia XL platform v 11. 1.1

What else features on the keyboard is the Swype input, that you can slide your finger on the keyboard covering the letters your desired word contains.

Note: Third party apps (e.g. Ultimate Rotation Control) to rotate screen may work well on Nokia XL too to forcibly rotate screens such as on the apps like “Messages” where you may want to type in landscape mode.

Context Menus:

Context menus which are relevant to the app you have opened in front can be pulled up from the bottom. A handler becomes visible on the bottom if there is an option in the menu.

Back button is always provided on the top reference bar of the App interface but I did mostly use the hardware capacitive touch key on the screen bottom.

Remarks: Sliding, swiping, scrolling and animations etc. were smooth to be said as much better on this low-budget Android phone. But a slight delay in opening and getting back from apps was a little bad to impress.

NO GOOGLE PLAY STORE, BUT NOKIA’S OWN STORE APP

Nokia Store comes pre built into Nokia XL devices rather than the Google Play Store as mentioned already that no Google services come with the Nokia XL. While there are workarounds for bringing the Google services in, there as well are straight options as you can install other third party app stores from within the Nokia Store or even from their respective websites namely Yandex, Mobango, SlideME, 1Mobile and Aptoide etc (checkout the review of all of those stores). But if you talk about the one comes with the Nokia XL, the Nokia Store, then yes! it won’t give you as much variety of apps as available on Google Play Store. At last, you are not restricted to the only Nokia Store, you can move on with your own choice of a store app or multiples.

GPS & NAVIGATIONS

Although Nokia XL comes pre built with Nokia’s HERE maps which are acclaimed worldwide for being free for life navigation with depth detail, in Pakistan it’s absolutely of no use. Since the days of Symbian, taking Nokia to Windows Phone and now into Android, the maps from Nokia has changed various names such as Ovi Maps, Nokia Maps and most recent is the HERE maps but what’s not changed is the non-presence of Pakistan’s map data. Here they are in Pakistan on HERE maps as below.

Anyway, with Nokia there have never been possibility of availing GPS navigation in Pakistan. Google Maps is the good option as well as Waze provides Pakistani maps in good detail, so you can use that. We’ll post later about how to install Google services including Google Play Store and Google Maps/Navigation.

THE CAMERA, STILL PICTURES

Camera in the Nokia XL does have an improved camera than the one came in Nokia X. It’s 5 megapixels autofocus camera now in Nokia XL but still is not appreciable after when we have seen excellent photography elements from Nokia. But it’s the best out of its X named family yet so far and matches the camera modules found in other brands of this price range.

What impressively it brings to the family is the front-facing camera. It’s only phone from X family that is equipped with a 2 MP front-facing camera for video calling or for better selfies.

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The camera UI provides access to the most used options which include flash mode, white balance and exposure setting on the right of the live viewfinder. There are advanced settings with a gear icon on the left side providing access to ISO, sharpness, saturation, noise reduction among others. Nokia XL also supports geo-tagging, face detection and color effects for camera.

What we found was the sharpness over applied to the images Nokia XL captured but fortunately we also found the option to manually handle it in camera settings. Check out the following comparison shots we took and arranged in order with different sharpness levels.

The factory set level of sharpness is 2 but trying out other levels make us decide that the level 1 is much better with normal sharpness than the level 2. You can see yourself above.

There is an LED flash with the camera which you would mostly want to use when taking pictures indoor specially the portraits. But it’s really not what you would like to use anytime. The final image is filled with yellow shades when using the auto white balance while setting the white balance manually didn’t help me either. Without using the flash gave me the real shots with much better color reproduction. See following.

Without Flash:

With Flash:

Panorama:

Nokia XL also takes panoramas up to 2500×500 resolution while excluding the misaligned areas when moving the hands. So you most probably will be taking a little bit smaller panoramas due to the handshake while moving around.

Above panorama was developed at the resolution of 2464×424

FWVGA Video Recording:

In video recording, Nokia XL can only record FWVGA videos (resolution of 864 x 480) at frame rate of 30fps. Which is not up to par. The still images are well to appreciate being 5 megapixels of resolution but we surely not have the same opinion for the video recording.

User interface is also fairly good where you can choose between different encoders including h264, h263 and MPEG4. Audio recording can be chosen from AAC or AMRWB – first is better in video recording.

We don’t have a video recording sample here from Nokia XL and we are sorry about that it’s just not to show up something special. You should not rely on Nokia XL if you usually record videos with your phone and want a good video recording feature.

Battery and Performance
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2000mAh battery capacity is what Nokia XL relies on all the day. It can spend much more than a day as well as it can leave you just in a couple of hours as around 10 hours only. That all depends on your usage. Keeping both the SIMs active, Nokia XL performed really well with us as it easily stood alive more than a day and a half (40 hours) in average with moderate use of the phone which include voice calling, text messaging, always on Wifi at home/office, healthy browsing on Wifi, whatsapp messaging, facebook etc. – (we didn’t play games)

With extensive use of the phone which includes exploring the UI/UX, using the camera, video playback, all those including above even more extensively as well as the 3G/2G browsing and other in-app data consumption, GPS navigation, It could only stand up to 10 hours with us at minimum.

Low-resolution on the 5″ screen of Nokia XL is the worst part of the phone but in this regard all thanks goes to the low-resolution display as it helped a lot taking less power for the tasks we do all the day on a phone.

Final Words
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The thing is not only comparison between siblings. There are other cheap Android phones in the market too you could choose from but that all goes with the balance of the price and the features. After compiling the range in different brands we could found the following in the same price range or a little bit above or down the 17K price tag.

Being in the same price range the Galaxy S Duos 2 doesn’t serve with a better hardware. 4″ display is rather smaller but that’s not an issue. The TFT display however is not better than the IPS display. LG Optimus L5 II on the other hand also brings an 4″ but IPS display which is comparable but that comes with a 512MB RAM and 1GHz processor while again the HTC Desire 310’s 4.5″ display is TFT and also works with only 512MB of RAM which can’t give you better performance even with a Quad Core 1.3 GHz processor on board.

What leaves us with is the Huawei G610s and G510 where the G510 is a bit cheaper than Nokia XL but also comes with the hardware not matchable with Nokia XL and the G610s having a little higher price tag comes with even better hardware components within.

So the package, we won’t say, is expensive but even better to get Nokia XL in that price range. What actually differs it with the other brands is the forked version of Android running on Nokia XL. The Nokia XL Platform does not allow you to use Google services including Google Play Store or even Google Maps while gives you access to its own services including Microsoft ones and Nokia ones such as Microsoft Bing, Nokia Store and Nokia Maps.

If you are a fan of Google services and can’t afford less quantity of apps in any other store instead of the Google Play Store then these things are what Nokia XL is purely unaware of. But as it’s based on Android, there are always tweaks you can do with it and bring all those stuff you like including the Google services, Google Play Store and Google Maps.

 

Nokia XL Photo Gallery

That’s it! do tell us what you have to say or ask about the Nokia XL below in the comments. We’ll try our best to answer your queries right away.

 

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