okia’s return to the smartphone arena has risked been partly overshadowed by the revival of the Nokia 3310. The return of the 2000s icon earlier this year generated so much hype that the technical achievements of its new range of smartphones risked being undermined.
Nonetheless, the Nokia 8 is the device tasked with returning the Finnish name to the centre of the mobile phone market. It is the first flagship Nokia from HMD Global, the Finnish company that now licences the brand, and wants to regain the ground now claimed by the likes of Apple and Samsung.
HMD has sought to bring some fun from the quirky 3310 into its heavy duty flagship, claiming it is the first ever phone to allow users to take a “bothie” – live streamed video from its front and rear cameras. Hallmark features like that ringtone and startup noise are included, but sadly, there’s no version of Snake built in.
But a name will only get you so far, so is the Nokia 8 good enough to compete in the already saturated Android market?
The Nokia brand generates instant nostalgia for the 100 million or so who owned the original Nokia 3310, released in 2000. The durable brick phone became legend for its weeks-long battery life and and almost unbreakable body.
But as the decade progressed and the market was disrupted by Apple’s iPhone in 2007, Nokia began to lose ground. Nokia chose to work with Windows rather than move to Google’s burgeoning Android software.
It never quite worked and with huge losses its smartphone business was sold to the Microsoft, and Samsung was able to corner the Android market. With Microsoft moving away from its Windows Mobile software, HMD Global in was formed in 2015 by former Nokia executives, buying back the licence to make Nokia phones from Microsoft in 2016.
From these messy origins comes the rebirth of the Nokia mobile brand. HMD developed the new Nokia 3310, a feature phone modeled on Nokia’s old success story. But this and other budget devices were not enough for a brand with this much pedigree. The Nokia 8 is HMD’s attempt to finally launch Nokia into the smartphone age.
With the Nokia 8, HMD has embraced a simple, balanced design, nothing flashy, a safe first effort in many ways. There’s no all-screen design or facial recognition, for example.
With a 5.3-inch screen the phone feels large, but doesn’t really offering the kind of screen space on other premium devices. In the UK, users have only been able to choose between Steel and Tempered Blue as the main colours. It also has a Copper version which is not yet available here.
The blue is attractive in a subtle sort of way and the matte back feels nice to hold, but looks and feels very similar to its much cheaper cousin, the £159 Nokia 5.
The back of the phone, however looks better. The vertical camera is a different design to what we have seen on most Android models, and the aluminium edged camera is the most polished part of its look.
The display itself is a 2K resolution and incredibly clear, although not noticeably better than competitors it is brighter than some rivals at this price point.
Its “Glance” feature, which turns on to show the time and details like unread messages or missed calls when you pick up the phone, is useful. However it automatically turns on when the phone is charging, which is irritating if you want to charge the phone overnight.
There is, however, one major issue with the design which made the general use of the Nokia 8 tricky. The fingerprint scanner is one of the least useful I’ve found on flagship phones. The front placing is better than on most rear-mounted devices, but the scanner is frankly too small and often failed to respond to my touch.
Compared to other Android flagships it felt slow, which is a letdown given that many other fingerprint readers are now lightning fast.
The Nokia 8 comes with a dual lens 13MP rear camera, made by German partners Carl Zeiss. The camera is not bad: light is captured nicely and black and white camera pictures have a professional quality to them, but at times the camera can focus a little too slowly
It can achieve a depth – or bokeh – effect, where the background is blurred and key details like faces highlighted, it’s not a brilliant implementation of it, often losing details. It has a 13MP front shooter for selfies.
“Be less selfie. Be more bothie” is the line HMD has chosen to associate with the new Nokia 8. The technology allows users to easily take a dual selfie and standard picture using the smartphone camera, or to live stream the “bothie” to Facebook.
But the cringeworthy term doesn’t feel likely to take off, despite the ad campaigns. HMD says the phone has been “designed with content creators in mind”, but a scan of Twitter and Facebook feeds for #bothie lands pitifully few results, and few YouTubers seem to have taken to using the streaming technique.
It’s also difficult to use, and the awkward cutoff in the middle of the screen can lead to spliced faces.
Where the Nokia 8 does excel is in its all-round performance. Its operating system is a purists version of Android, functionally smooth and fast, although not the lightspeed quick you would feel on the iPhone 8 with its A11 Bionic Chip.
Nokia have also said they will aim to be one of the first to market with new Android operating systems, so expect to be one of the first to receive updates with Android Oreo (after Google’s Pixel 2 of course).
Battery life is also a boon for the Nokia 8, comfortably one of the best we’ve tested and lasting more than a day and a half on a standard charge. It also comes with handy fast charging, which has become a standard on this year’s devices. The phone added around 30 per cent of its battery on a 30 minute charge.
There are plenty of positives for HMD to take away from its first premium phone. For all the basic, ordinary, day-to-day phone jobs that I found myself doing its pure version of Android is great to use. It doesn’t feel massive in the pocket and is just very nice to hold.
The Nokia 8 is said to be for creators, for the vloggers and streamers with its bothies and high-end audio recording. But I can’t see them flocking to it. It’s not flashy, even a little bland, and misses steps on key functions like a fingerprint scanner and can’t compete with a premium dual lens camera or selfie-taker.
With options like the OnePlus 5 for £50 less, it feels like the £499 Nokia 8 is in a tricky part of the market. And those who trust the Nokia brand may not even care about its high-spec features, meaning the budget Nokia 5 phone may be a better buy for many of the firm’s older, established customers.
With so much nostalgia-marketing for the Nokia brand, which holds less value for those inducted into the first smartphone generation, you shouldn’t forget there is not actually a lot on offer here that you couldn’t get on any other, cheaper, Android device.
If you love Nokia and want something more than one of HMD’s budget smartphones, there is nothing wrong with the Nokia 8. But there is also nothing that sells this as a must-have premium device.
Source: telegraph.co.uk Image: d2giyh01gjb6fi.cloudfront.net