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Opera browser finds new niche: Nokia's Android-powered X family

The Norwegian browser maker finds a place on an unusual phone. Microsoft can be forgiven for wanting an alternative to Chrome on the Android-powered device.

The Android-powered Nokia X phones use Opera's browser by default.
The Android-powered Nokia X phones use Opera's browser by default. Opera Software

Nokia's new X family of smartphones are oddballs of the mobile device world -- an Android phone from a Microsoft brand more associated with the Windows Phone operating system. But that unusual software choice opened the door for browser maker Opera Software.

The Norwegian company was an early leader in mobile browsing but has struggled to compete with browsers from Apple and Google that are built directly into devices with their iOS and Android operating systems. And on Windows Phone, Microsoft's Internet Explorer is the dominant option.

On Tuesday, Nokia unveiled its X2 smartphone , a low-budget dual-SIM model that costs €99 (roughly £80, $135, or AU$140). It runs Android, open-source software that anyone may adapt for their own use, but Microsoft could be forgiven for not wanting to embrace Google's Chrome browser along with Google's operating system. Opera is a browser rival, but StatCounter analytics show its share of usage to be shrinking, and Google is a much more formidable competitor overall.

Opera announced its browser is the default on Nokia X devices.

"We have worked closely with the Microsoft Devices Group on this project, to make sure the users of Nokia X affordable smartphones can have the best web browsing experience right out of the box," Opera Chief Executive Lars Boilesen said in a statement.

The company declined to comment on terms of the deal.

Just because Google's browser isn't obvious doesn't mean its influence isn't still there. In 2013, Opera abandoned its own Presto browser engine, switching instead to Google's open-source Chromium project and the Blink browser engine at its core.