It’s hard to explain how epic Nokia was back in the day, to young ones whose first exposure to smartphones were iPhones and iPhone-esque slabs. You had to have witnessed the period of Nokia’s dominance to grasp how much of a force they were both in the emerging smartphone category at the time and regular phones.
A lot has changed since then, Nokia (the phone making component at least) has, killed two of its OS platforms, adopted Window phone OS, been sold to Microsoft, and now much like BlackBerry, licences its in-house hardware designs and technologies to third-party manufacturers. It’s obviously a lot more complicated than this, but that’s a quick summary.
One of the most consistent commentaries around Nokia from its first signs of decline till very recently was what would have happened if Nokia adopted android instead of stretching its own operating system or going Windows Phone.
Indeed, we got a taste of what’s possible when android OS runs on Nokia hardware with the Nokia X, X+ and XL, but one can argue that those were underpowered and didn’t run the full android experience (they cut out all the Google Apps).
So when HMD Global, which now has the licence to produce hardware under the Nokia brand, announced their range of android running Nokias, a few diehards like myself were interested to see where the project will go.
I recently got to play with the Nokia 8, HMD Global’s first flagship android device, and here are a few quick impressions of the device.
On paper, the device is on par with a lot of the android flagships at now as it features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. However, as soon as you set your eyes on it, you’ll notice a few things that make it seem dated compared to most of today’s flagships.
The first and most obvious, is that in a world of shrinking bezels and end-to-end displays, Nokia has opted to keep its bezels, chin and capacitive buttons. The device also feels a bit thick through the middle, though the tapered ends make it seem a lot thinner than it actually is. The device also ships with a 5.3-inch display, again an anomaly in a lineup of today’s flagships, which are all pushing 6-inches, without really having a much bigger footprint (except you count the mini versions of flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S8, The Google Pixel 2 and the iPhone 8).
The Nokia 8 is available in polished blue, polished copper, tempered blue and steel. The device I played with was the polished blue variant, which as you can see from the photos is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, thanks to its polished aluminum back. The device, while not exactly reminiscent of Nokia’s design, does look and feel solid.
Beyond build quality, Nokias were renowned for their hardware engineering wizardry, and mobile photography and the Nokia 8 has a few tricks up its sleeves in those regards. First, the Nokia 8 manages to have an always on screen that shows the time and notifications, much like the other flagship androids this year do, however what’s different here is that they have managed to achieve it while keeping the battery consumption down on an LCD display. All the other devices that do same use OLED displays (which allow you to turn off/on individual pixels).
Nokia also has an elegant cooling system inside the device to keep the phone itself cool regardless of how much work the processor is doing.
The camera system, while not on par with flagships like say the Pixel or Note 8, is decent and features a “bothie” mode, which allows you take shots or videos from both the front and back cameras simultaneous, which are both sporting 13-megapixels sensors, with Zeiss lenses. The rear features a monochrome camera as well along with the main one.
The device also features OZO Audio technology, that uses the three microphones to record more immersive audio for out “bothies.” Cool stuff.
I didn’t mess with the device long enough to write a proper review, seeing as I didn’t have time to use it as my daily driver, so while I won’t comment on how it stacks up to all the other flagships from 2017, I’ll say if you still have a soft spot for Nokia, you may want to check it out.
Here are a few hands on photos.