Android is the most widely-used mobile operating system in the world. And Google is now looking to expand the portfolio of possible devices by introducing feature phones into the mix, too. Feature phones are handsets that incorporate some limited functionality that you won’t find on a “dumb” phone, but not enough for it to qualify as a smartphone. So, you’ll be able to get online and play music, but don’t expect to be playing advanced Augmented Reality (AR) games like Pokémon Go, or stream hours of Netflix.
HMD Global, which sells handsets under the Nokia brand name, has enjoyed enormous success with the revival of a number of popular feature phones, like the re-imagined Nokia 3310.
According to a new listing from the Wi-Fi Alliance, the company that certifies new wireless products, a forthcoming feature phone from HMD Global – dubbed, Nokia 400 4G – will be powered by an operating system referred to only as GAFP. Now, why is that so important? Well, Google-centric blog 9To5Google has previously claimed GAFP is an upcoming twist on Android designed to run on feature phones and offer some limited smart functionality.
Exactly how Android would work on a feature phone is unclear.
After all, most Android developers create their software with a touchscreen in mind. So a feature phone – with a cramped touchscreen at best, and nothing but a keypad of alphanumeric keys at the absolute worst – could prove to be a hefty compatibility challenge.
Android is finally receiving a feature Google should have introduced years ago
If Google manages to iron-out the kinks, we could see the likes of WhatsApp, Google Maps, and even Slack appear on affordable feature phones. Not only that but a slimmed-down version of Chrome is likely to work much better – and be more compatible with modern websites – than the browsers found on most feature phones on sale right now.
Thankfully, we might not have to wait long at all to see the first generation of GAFP-powered phones.
HMD Global is widely-rumoured to be preparing to unveil a raft of new devices at the annual MWC tradeshow in Barcelona. Leaks suggest we could see as many as four separate handsets under the Nokia branding. This will likely include a new flagship smartphone – powered by the fully-fledged Android – as well as a new entry in its “Nokia Original Series”.
It's not clear what the “Original Series” is, but our guess is that HMD Global is hoping to rekindle some of the excitement around its redesigned Nokia 3310 by dusting off another classic from the Nokia history books. Personally, we’ve got our fingers crossed for a new Nokia N-Gage.
Written by David Minister