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Team Android: An alternative history of Nokia Lumia

Andy Vandervell


Nokia android

Sales of Windows Lumia phones have dwindled to near 2012 levels – Andy Vandervell ponders how different it could have been for Nokia and co.

This is painful. Microsoft’s sold just 2.3 million Lumia phones so far in 2016, a huge 73% drop from 8.6 million in the same period last year. In fact, it’s nearly the same number Nokia sold back in 2012.

It’s as if Microsoft’s given up on Lumia, hopefully to focus on the oft rumoured Surface Phone. But it’s still a complete waste of the talented Nokia folks swept up in Microsoft’s multi-billion dollar acquisition.

In fact, I can’t help imagine what might have happened if Microsoft hadn’t infected Nokia.

What if Stephen Elop, a former Microsoft exec, hadn’t taken over Nokia and linked arms Steve Balmer?

What if Nokia made very different choices and reshaped the world of smartphones for the better?

Here’s my rose-tinted take on what might have been.

Nokia Lumia 1020Now That's What I Call A Camera Bump 2013

March 2013 – Lumia 1020 is Phone of the Year

In my alternative reality, Nokia made the sensible decision to ‘go Android’ and the ground-breaking Lumia 1020 was universally praised at its MWC 2013 launch.

Long before the camera bump became fashionable, Nokia made space for the awesome camera in the 1020.

A remarkable 41-megapixel, 1/1.5-inch sensor allied to optical image stabilisation – almost unheard of in phones back then – meant the 1020 was way ahead of its time.

Clever software gave the 1020 an effective 3x zoom, so you could reframe and crop into shots without them turning into a pixelated mess.

It also had a 720p AMOLED screen and decent overall specs, but poor network support and the unpopular Windows Phone did it no favours – what’s a great camera with no Instagram app to share on?

(Yes, Windows fans, I know there’s an app now, but remember this is 2013! And, let’s face it, app support is patchy even now. Ok, it’s not as bad as people often think, but that isn’t the same as being good.

Oh, and I suppose in this reality the camera was a bit faster because... well the 1020 wasn't quite as good as people remember. Moving swiftly on...)

HTC LogoHTC: Going quietly into that good night

March 2013 – HTC teams up with Microsoft

Terrified by falling sales and the strength of Samsung and Nokia, HTC decides to gamble with Microsoft – its fateful decision coinciding with the 1020's victorious launch.

Its strong history of making Windows Mobile phones makes Microsoft a natural partner, and Stephen Elop joins HTC to oversee future product releases.

What could go wrong?

NexusEveryone loves a Nexus phone unless it's a Nexus 6, then they're sad (or they have huge hands)

June 2014 – Nokia makes a Nexus phone

Now that Nokia is on Team Android, it’s free to work up with Google to make a Nexus phone in 2014. Delete the Nexus 6 by Motorola and replace it with the Nexus PureView, announced at Google I/O and given away free to everyone there.

Nokia brings its camera smarts to the Nexus line, perhaps abandoning the Xenon flash in favour of an LED one.

It’s a year on and Nokia’s perfected the technology, which works even better thanks to faster software and hardware.

Let’s face it, the Nexus 6 wasn’t Google's finest hour, so the Nexus PureView would’ve been a big improvement.

Google vs EuropeImagine this awesome Photoshop never happened

August 2014 – Google buys Nokia

In this world, Google never bought Motorola, but it's so impressed by the Nexus PureView it fancies a piece of Nokia.

After a few years in the Android world, Nokia is doing pretty well. Samsung’s still out in front, but the likes of LG and Sony have been edged out by Nokia and its colourful, unique design and innovative tech.

Now firmly in camp Google, Nokia sets to work producing a whole new range of Lumia phones, but now they're pure, unhindered Android and there's a phone for every budget.

Anticipating its recent troubles with the EU, Google chooses to stop forcing Google services on rivals, and instead backs Nokia to compete with the iPhone and Samsung.

Left to decide things for themselves, Samsung and other Android phone makers continue to load more and more crud on Android, pissing off customers more and more.

Nokia’s range of clean, frequently updated phones, grow in popularity.

KojimaHideo Kojima also never leaves Konami – this timeline is awesome!

January 2016 – Nokia is #1, HTC is nowhere

It’s 2016 and Google’s gamble has paid-off. The combination of awesome hardware and Nokia’s historically strong brand around the world has made it the no.1 smartphone manufacturer in the world.

Samsung, realising its mistakes, kills TouchWiz and uses vanilla Android. It even apologies for the name. TouchWiz? Seriously, guys.

The Amazon phone... well, no, that was still rubbish.

HTC, meanwhile, is sinking without a trace. New phones are few and far between, and a promising new VR headset is cancelled as Microsoft chooses to focus on its HoloLens augmented reality headset.

Woe unto HTC Vive, but this is what happens when you mess with the timeline, right Doc?

Dead Words

April 22, 2016, 7:57 pm

Nah I'll keep my Lumias as they are. My Lumia 830 is still a better phone than a solid 90% of the phones released in the last year. In my opinion.


April 22, 2016, 8:09 pm

830 happens to be my favourite Lumia as well. Really nice phone that, especially given the price when it went on sale. Ironically, was one of the last 'Nokia' Lumias if I recall correctly.

Dead Words

April 22, 2016, 8:43 pm

It was the last Nokia branded Lumia, along with the 730/5 (another solid device). I really want the Lumia 950 XL but my Lumia 830 is still going as strong as it was the day I got it. It's rocking Windows 10 Mobile now.


April 23, 2016, 3:49 am

Hey I'm with you, I wish the Alternative History. I love my Nokia 1020, and have been using Nokia for almost a decade, but my next phone will be an Android. Also maybe my next tablet! Just not enough apps to keep me happy. Sadly Microsoft will no longer be a must have and just be relegated to whatever is on my desk at the time.

Sean Cameron

April 23, 2016, 11:17 pm

I think Nokia was doomed either way. Without a doubt, the engineers were a very talented bunch, something that is reflected in the Lumia hardware legacy. However the organization behind it all was slow and bloated.

And in a perfect world, it would have been MeeGo and Palm leading the smartphone charge.


April 24, 2016, 12:07 am

my 1020 is held together with selotape but still takes great photos and has been my phone for just over two years.. Just last week picked up the 930 for £100 brand new on ebay, so I can keep living in my own alternative Nokia timeline. The upshot of being poor/lazy is if you live a few years behind on tech you get some good stuff for cheap. I prefer the 1020 and 930 compared to my friend's Samsung s7 edge which just seems pointlessly blingy like a pimped bmw 3 series, and android feels tacky to me. Add to that that I paid £650 less for a gadget which does 99% the same thing. The simple windows aesthetic and flow works with the great designers at Nokia. Already miss the 1020 camera though and am toying with buying another. Still haven't found any need for 'apps'. From my point of view windows and Nokia went well. A solution could have been to sell the same phones with a choice of windows or android, and never having sold themselves to Microsoft. Their latest windows phones are mind-blowingly dull.


April 25, 2016, 9:45 am

You're probably right, but there was a still a chance if different choices were made. Hindsight is easy, though. ;)


May 1, 2016, 9:40 pm

Personally I find that my friend's Nokia 1020 seems pointlessly blingy like a pimped bmw 3 series compared to my Nokia 3100.

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