9to5Google has posted an image of an alleged Nokia feature phone running Android. Rumors have been floating around since over a year ago that Google is developing a stripped-down version of its operating system that can run on a phone with a d-pad and traditional buttons and it appears HMD Global will be one of the first companies to release a phone with this version of the OS.
Per the image posted, Nokia's purported feature phone looks a lot like the Nokia 220 that was released back in 2014. However, that phone runs the Nokia Series 30+ OS. It appears that the toned-down version of Android will have a new layout for the home screen, and it makes total sense as feature phones typically have smaller displays and all the controls are hardware-based, not touch-based.
In the top-center, a microphone icon can be seen, and this is likely a shortcut to the Google Assistant. Given that the Nokia feature phone will lack touch controls, having a digital assistant can be very handy. That being said, this can very well be a microphone for voice searches only and the feature phone might not support a digital assistant as it will most likely be underpinned by a slow processor. Google relies on AI software to make its assistant work, and entry-level chipsets are usually not well equipped to handle AI-related tasks.
However, rumor has it that Google is working on AI that will run faster and require less space, which will make it optimal for feature phones. Moving on, the bottom of the phone displays different icons for apps such as Camera, Chrome, and YouTube. There is also a mystery app with the Material Design icon and some resemblance to the Files by Google app icon, but it cannot be said with certainty which app it is.
The other parts of the user interface are reminiscent of old Nokia phones, with shortcuts for alerts and settings, each corresponding to the button right below it. The middle button can be used for selecting the required options and presumably for navigating the phone as well.
Other details remain sparse at the moment, but one previous report did claim that Google's new OS might be a lighter version of the Android 8.1 Oreo. Google had previously made an investment in KaiOS, an operating system that is popular among vendors who make feature phones. However, it appears that Google wants more than just stakes in another company and thus it has decided to make its own version of Android apt for feature devices.
Feature phones are pretty popular in developing countries as they offer frequently used features and decent hardware at a low cost. Most of these phones are 3G and some have WIFI as well. In fact, even some users in the developed nations keep feature phones as an additional device and some rely on it to cut down on screen time. Creating an operating system specifically tailored for feature phone can help Google increase its share further in the mobile operating system market.
Nokia can also benefit from the partnership, as although the company has made a strong comeback under the guardianship of HMD Global, it still doesn't have a sizeable share of the industry. The company already offers an eclectic mix of smartphones and a feature phone running Android can help it penetrate even more markets. With IFA Berlin scheduled for September, there is a possibility that we might see Nokia's upcoming feature phone is a couple of months.