Nokia surprised everyone when it announced the N1 Android tablet during the Slush conference in Finland, today.
What makes this move significant is the much-anticipated arrival of Nokia to the Android platform. And Nokia is not going to stop at tablets. The company is planning to start working on smartphones as soon as the restrictions posed by the Microsoft deal expire in 2015.*
There is a twist in the story though: This is not a Nokia device.
Nokia doesn’t have a device unit anymore: it sold its Devices and Services business to Microsoft, in 2013. N1 is made by Chinese contract manufacturing company Foxconn, which also manufactures the iPhone and the iPad.
But Nokia’s relationship with Foxconn is different from Apple’s. You buy iDevices from Apple, not Foxconn; you call Apple for support, not Foxconn. You never deal with Foxconn.
In the case of N1, Nokia will be nowhere in the picture. Foxconn will be handling the sales, distribution and customer care for the device. Nokia is licensing the brand, the industrial design, Z Launcher software layer and IP on a running royalty basis to Foxconn.
A bit about the device
N1 is a decent-looking piece of hardware. The device is powered by Android 5.0, aka Lollipop. N1 showcases a 7.9-inch 2048×1536 resolution screen with a full anodized aluminum body. What separates this tablet from the rest (or at least the iPad) is that it is using the industry standard Type-C USB reversible connector.
Intel’s 64-bit Atom Processor Z3580 (2.3 GHz) beats at its heart. The device will have 2GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The device doesn’t feature the camera Nokia is known for but comes with an 8-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front camera.
I always loved the 4:3 aspect ratio as it provides more real estate for reading and other apps compared to 16:9, which is good for HD movies. This is a tablet that will make hard-core Android users drool. If it comes to the US, I will certainly be getting one.
But that’s a big IF.
Nokia is targeting China with N1, where it will be available for an estimated $249 in the first quarter of 2015 — around the Chinese New Year. Nokia is planning to launch it in Russian and European markets. I don’t know when or whether N1 will come to the U.S.
* Nokia sold its Devices and Services business to Microsoft, along with the transfer of brands such as Lumia, X and Asha. Under terms of the deal, the Finnish company is prohibited from licensing the Nokia brand for use in connection with mobile device sales for 30 months and from using the Nokia brand on Nokia’s own mobile devices until December 31, 2015.