Nokia is preparing to release its first-ever smartphone running Google's Android OS, sources claim.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the Finnish firm plans to unveil the device at this year's Mobile World Congress conference, which takes place in Barcelona on February 24-27.
The move comes as Microsoft inches closer to completing its €5.44bn acquisition of Nokia, which was first announced in September 2013.
Even before being gobbled up by Redmond, Nokia has lately relied exclusively on Windows Phone to power its smartphones, on the insistence of its CEO, former Microsoft man Stephen Elop.
But the WSJ's unnamed sources say the beleaguered former phone leader now plans to introduce a low-cost Android device to its lineup as a way of retaining customers on the low end of the market, where feature phones are gradually being edged out by entry-level smartphones.
Windows Phone is too resource-intensive to run on cheap hardware, these sources claim, which is why Nokia is turning to Android for its new, bargain-priced kit.
Not that you'll necessarily know the new device is an Android phone at first glance. Earlier reports have revealed what are purportedly leaked screenshots of Nokia's Android skin, and its UI appears heavily modified, with more than a passing similarity to Windows Phone.
In addition, the WSJ's sources claim that Nokia's Android device "won't promote some of the key Google-developed features" – which may mean it won't come preloaded with the Google Play store and its related services.
If that's the case, it would mean Nokia is taking a similar approach to Amazon, which bases its Kindle tablets on a custom fork of Android and bundles its own app store in place of Google Play.
It's not yet clear which countries Nokia plans to target with its Android device, but earlier reports have suggested that it wants to sell them in emerging markets such as India and China, while sticking to its Windows Phone–powered Lumia handsets in more affluent markets.
El Reg asked both Microsoft and Nokia for confirmation of the plan, but neither would comment. ®