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Nokia readies “Normandy” Android smartphone for MWC launch

Nokia has been in Microsoft’s pocket for some time – and indeed literally is now, with Redmond’s acquisition of the firm – but the Finnish company is planning to reveal a fresh strategy at this year’s MWC: An Android handset.

Rumours have been swirling about Nokia going the Android route for quite some time, and at first were met with much disbelief, but this is actually a viable strategy – and one it seems is now about to happen.

The latest to chip in to the rumour mill is the Wall Street Journal, which says the usual people “familiar with the matter” are confirming that Nokia will reveal its Android handset (codenamed Normandy) at MWC in a fortnight.

This move was apparently planned before Microsoft’s acquisition, but it won’t be scuttled – simply because Redmond desperately needs to work on its budget smartphone market presence (yes, even more so than the rest of the market, which isn’t exactly healthy either).

Windows Phone isn’t designed to run on low-end handsets, the sort of models which are now really picking up steam – particularly in the developing world – and a cheap Android smartphone would be one way of solving this problem. It might not be an ideal solution, but it would be a swift one.

The good thing from Microsoft’s point of view is that this wouldn’t be taking sales away from Windows Phone, as the Android phone would be no competition to existing higher-end Lumia handsets.

Neil Mawston of Strategy Analytics told the WSJ: “Android has the entry-level smartphone market almost all to itself. Microsoft's missteps in the low-end smartphone market are costing it and Nokia huge amounts of lost volume.”

Using this strategy, Microsoft would then be free to push forwards with the higher-end Lumia models and attack premium devices such as the iPhone and Galaxy S5.

The other point to note is that the Nokia Android handset won’t exactly be Android as we know it, or any kind of Google-fest. As we’ve discussed previously, it won’t have access to Google Play or the usual Google apps, instead plumping for options like Nokia’s Here maps. The UI will also be crafted to approximate the aesthetics of Windows Phone, to further differentiate the device.

What will be interesting is to see if this phone is a one-off temporary measure, or if further low-cost Android phones will follow from Nokia.