Nokia has unveiled its first hardware offering since it sold its devices and services business to Microsoft, and it marks a shift away from any loyalty to Windows Phone: The $250 N1 is an Android tablet that looks unabashedly like the iPad Mini, and appears to be destined for Chinese users.
Nokia doesn’t want to scrap with Apple in markets where iPads already reign and where Nokia would likely lose. The N1 tablet is instead hitting shelves first in China, where Apple is under pressure from Xiaomi, a local manufacturer that makes low-cost smartphones phones, tablets and TV streaming gadgets that controversially ape Apple’s product offerings.
Though it seems like an ignoble way of doing business, the strategy has helped make Xiaomi wildly successful in China. It recently became the third-biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world, behind Samsung and Apple.
The N1 will probably provoke as much eye-rolling in Cupertino as Xiaomi already does: it features the same 7.9-inch screen size as the iPad Mini and a body built from a single piece of anodized aluminum, volume buttons and an uncannily-positioned rear camera that are all reminiscent of Apple’s tablet (though there is of course no home button).
Nokia says the N1 was designed around its Z Launcher, an Android launcher built on top of stock Android 5.0 Lollipop, and which Nokia released onto Google Play last June.
“The idea of the [N1] tablet came about when the teams at Nokia unanimously agreed that Z Launcher deserved its own device – and that a natural fit would be a tablet”
Nokia calls the UI layer “a re-imagined way to use your Android,” and promises to “[launch] anything in one second.”
A core feature of the Z Launcher may well appeal to Chinese users frustrated with English-language user-interface designs on Western devices, particularly keyboards that don’t cater to the wealth of Chinese characters. With the Z Launcher, users can scrawl out the first letter of the app, contact or file they’re looking for in the middle of the home screen with their finger, to quickly search through files on the tablet or do a Google search.
“The tablet will initially be sold in Chinese markets and will offer Pinyin support for Scribble”
Nokia partnered with Foxconn to build the tablet, according to The Verge, licensing the industrial design, Nokia brand and Z Launcher software to the Taiwanese manufacturer. In that sense the tablet appears to be as much an offering of Foxconn, as it is of Nokia. (Nokia didn’t mention Foxconn in its press release; only an original equipment manufacturer, or OEM.)
Here’s Nokia’s reveal video for the N1:
Here are the complete specs of the device:
- 7.9-inch, 2048×1536 (4:3) IPS LCD with Gorilla Glass 3 and fully laminated zero air gap display
- 64-bit 2.3GHz Intel Atom Z3580 processor, PowerVR G6430 GPU with 2GB RAM
- 32GB built-in memory (non-expandable)
- 8 megapixel rear camera, 5 megapixel front camera
- Dual channel 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, Bluetooth 4.0
- Micro-USB 2.0 with a Type-C reversible connector
- Stereo speakers
- 5300mAh battery
- Unibody aluminum design; available in Natural Aluminum or Lava Gray colours