Expert Rating
3.5/5
Design
★★★★★
★★★★★
Display
★★★★★
★★★★★
Software
★★★★★
★★★★★
Camera
★★★★★
★★★★★
Performance
★★★★★
★★★★★
Battery
★★★★★
★★★★★
Pros
  • Impressive design
  • Gorgeous display
  • Latest and pure version of Android
  • Good battery backup
Cons
  • Not meant for hard-core performance
  • Camera lacks the punch
  • Priced slightly on the higher side

[Update: June 13th]: The Nokia 6 is launched in India with the sticker price of Rs 14,999. It will be available exclusively via Amazon. 

It’d be an understatement to say that Nokia stole all the attention at this year’s MWC. The sceptics might say that the new Nokia is the result of complex partnerships with the newly-formed HMD Global at the helm, which in turn has joined hands with Foxconn for manufacturing. But there’s no denying that Nokia’s smartphone trio garnered the most headlines at MWC 2017, with the 3310 remake playing up the nostalgia factor. The company is expected to land in India soon with its entire range, but the most loaded offering in the lineup, the Nokia 6 (first impressions) has already been launched in China. Since we’re quite eager to see if the iconic brand can deliver on our expectations, we decided to acquire a retail unit of the Nokia 6 from China to bring you our review. Mind you, since this isn’t an Indian model, the final specs could be different, and the software, of course, would include Google services. This means some of our opinions could differ when the phone lands on our shores and we’ll be updating this review at that time. But for now, let’s see whether the Nokia 6 is a mid-ranger that’s worth waiting for.

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Specs at a glance

Display
Size 5.5 Inch
Resolution Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Performance
CPU Octa core, 1.4 GHz, Snapdragon 430
RAM 3 GB
Storage
Internal memory 32 GB
External memory Up to 128 GB
Battery
Capacity 3000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable
Camera
Primary camera 16 MP
Secondary camera 8 MP
Connectivity
Network support Dual SIM 4G
Other options Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
Others
Battery Capacity 3000
Operating system Android 7.1 Nougat

Design and display: giving premium smartphones a run for their money

Dimensions: 154 x 75.8 x 7.8 mm
Weight

If we hand you the Nokia 6 and ask you to guess its cost, then we can bet that you’d peg it upwards of Rs 40k. Yes,  the handset looks and feels so good. Constructed from a singular slab of series 6000 aluminium, the device sports an upmarket look that’s also really sturdy.

Of course, series 6000 aluminium is infamous for resulting in the Bendgate issue with the iPhone 6 Plus, but based on our experience, the Nokia 6 seems to be well built. You don’t need to take our word for it, as there a few some videos doing the rounds on the interwebs that show people using the smartphone to break nuts, subject it to bend tests, and more, and it comes out unscathed every time.

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In terms of design elements, the brand has taken inspiration from its yesteryears metal-clad offerings in the Lumia portfolio. The fascia is dominated by a 5.5-inch display which gets a 2.5D curved glass on top, adding to the premium look and feel. The IPS screen sports a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels and is quite rich in terms of sharpness and colour reproduction. Thanks to the polarised layer, the Nokia 6 screen is easily legible in harsh sunlight with adequate brightness levels.

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Accompanying the display panel up front, there’s an earpiece, secondary snapper, notification LED, a couple of sensors and Nokia branding on top and an array of navigation keys at the bottom. The physical capacitive key in the centre acts as the home button as well as a fingerprint reader. The navigation buttons on the sides are backlit. The fingerprint authentication works flawlessly– it’s fast and accurate in any direction you put your finger on it.

The placement of other controls and ports is nothing out of ordinary. Both the volume rocker and power buttons are placed on the right and provide tactile feedback. The 3.5mm audio socket is available up top, while the micro-USB port along with speaker vents are placed at the base.

The rear panel holds the primary camera module in a vertical strip, which sadly, juts out from the body. This makes the Nokia 6 wobbly when kept on a flat surface. You’ll also find the Nokia branding written vertically on the rear. Thanks to the matte finish, the smartphone doesn’t pick up fingerprints easily, and provides a good grip.

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With a thickness of 7.8mm and weight of 169g, the Nokia 6 might not be the slimmest or lightest phones out there, but we do like the ergonomics and in-hand feel. However, it does seem quite blocky, and since the edges are tapered and not curved, they feel sharp against the palms.

Software: N for Naked Android

Operating System: Android
OS Version: 7.1, Nougat

The common expectation from most Android-based smartphones is the presence of custom skins with a ton of preloaded apps and numerous features. But that’s not the case with Moto smartphones, and we’re glad that Nokia is also taking that approach. Unlike the brand’s earlier foray with Google’s mobile OS where it implemented forked Android for the Nokia X smartphones, the 6 ships with the latest iteration – 7.0 Nougat – that too in a vanilla form… for the most part, that is.

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The Nokia 6 does come with custom icons, and follows the singular interface for home screen and app drawer by default. Thankfully though, you can change it and get a regular menu for accessing apps. The phone comes with the usual features available in Nougat, including the split-screen mode, although unlike the usual implementation of the same, you can only open two apps simultaneously in two equal halves which can’t be resized.

Nokia is promising regular and timely Android updates, and during the course of our review, we got an update to Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which is commendable. If the company sticks to this promise, then it’ll surely be one of its biggest USPs along with standing out from the competition.

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As mentioned earlier, since the device we’re reviewing now has been acquired from China, it doesn’t come with Google’s services installed. However, what’s commendable is that software is well optimised and refined, and we never faced any crashes while using it.

Camera: performs reasonably well

Primary camera:  16 MP
Flash: Dual-color LED Flash
Secondary camera:  8 MP

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While cameras might have started to become the focus (pun intended) of smartphone makers these days, it was Nokia which was instrumental in bringing impressive optics on the backs of our mobiles. Its partnership with Carl Zeiss for lenses, and the Nokia 808 with world’s first 41-megapixel camera on a phone helped raise our expectations from Nokia 6’s 16MP primary shooter quite a bit. But our hopes met with just about average performance. While the images don’t miss out on any details, the colours aren’t natural and look very dull. This is especially noticeable in close-ups, where red flowers are reproduced as pink by its snapper. The dynamic range in the HDR mode works quite well sometimes, but in some cases, it fails to add contrast to the pictures. Having said that, this could surely be solved via software updates, and we really liked shooting from the Nokia 6. You can easily bring the camera to life by double-pressing the power button, and thanks to PDAF, it can lock focus on subjects in a jiffy.

Talking about the camera app, it’s quite minimal, but doesn’t skimp on the basics. In the portrait orientation, it offers a large shutter button towards the bottom flanked by the option to switch to the video mode or preview the images. On top, there are options to enable flash, toggle HDR mode, turn on the self-timer or switch to the front snapper along with diving into the settings. It also offers a manual mode that lets you play with the metering mode, manual focus, white balance, and exposure. While it might not be useful, we liked the idea of changing the viewfinder colours to blue, green, orange or white.

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The front camera will surely satiate the needs of selfie enthusiasts as it’s an 8MP autofocus unit. While it can capture videos in 1080p, the back camera also tops out at this resolution and not 4K, which has started becoming the norm. In sum, the Nokia 6 has a decent camera, but we had expected better performance from a Nokia offering. Additionally, the competition for the best mid-range camera is heating up with the likes of the Moto G5 Plus as well as the dual camera-toting Honor 6X and Coolpad Cool 1 (review).

Performance: runs its own race

CPU:  Octa core, 1.4 GHz, Snapdrago…
GPU: Adreno 505
RAM: 3 GB
Memory: 32 GB + Up to 128 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
Battery: 3000 mAH

This is perhaps the most controversial section for the Nokia 6. The brand’s choice of processor for its debut phone hasn’t boded well with spec nerds, as it has opted for the budget Snapdragon 430 SoC, and not the one from the SD6xx series. Not that the octa-core chip running at 1.4GHz isn’t powerful… in our time with the phone, there was nary an instance of lag. Apps opened quickly, and navigation was smooth too. Thanks to the refined software, the smartphone works well during day-to-day tasks. It’s also able to handle casual titles such as Subway Surfers and Smash Hit. Running graphic-intensive games however, is where the SD430 isn’t able to rise to the occasion. The Adreno 505 graphics chipset shows sign of frame drops or a slowdown here or there while playing Riptide GP2.

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But if you aren’t a gamer, then the Nokia 6 should be able to serve your needs well. Our unit comes powered by 4GB RAM, which is able to store multiple apps in its memory. For storing your multimedia files, there’s 64GB of built-in storage. Although, it must be noted that the global variant of the Nokia 6 (which was unveiled at MWC) offers 3GB RAM and 32GB memory, and in all likelihood, that’ll be the model making its way to the Indian subcontinent, and not the 4GB RAM variant we’re reviewing here.

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If you are wondering about the thermal efficiency of the Nokia 6, then you’ll be glad to know that it manages to keep heat in check for the most part. It’s only when you put it through the strenuous usage of Wi-Fi hotspot or extended periods of gaming, it gets hot at the rear. Thankfully though, that doesn’t impact the performance.

Reliance Jio has revolutionised the 4G ecosystem in India, and the Nokia 6 is well prepared to let you make use of the next-gen network along with utilising HD voice calls via VoLTE. It doesn’t skimp on other connectivity options either with its secondary slot providing you with the option of adding a SIM card or extending the storage up to 256GB, along with the usual options such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. 

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Keeping the Nokia 6 alive and kicking is a 3,000mAh battery. While the capacity might not seem enough at a time when phones boast 4,000mAh or even 5,000mAh cells, it’s able to do the trick in this case. Even with heavy usage comprising internet surfing, streaming songs and videos on 4G and listening via Bluetooth, and some gaming, the phone was easily able to last a day and a half on a single charge. In our battery test too, the smartphone impressed us as it played back a 720p video on loop for more than 12 hours and 30 minutes with only cellular connectivity enabled and both brightness and volume levels set at 50 percent. Having said that, it’s worth noting that the device doesn’t have any Google Play services running in the background, and that might have result in the impressive figures we got. Even though it doesn’t have any fast charging support, the bundled adapter rated at 2A is able to juice it up in almost two hours.

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All that makes the handset an excellent option for multimedia enthusiasts. Adding to the experience are its dual speakers that support Dolby surround sound. We loved watching movies and TV series on the Nokia 6.

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Should you wait for the Nokia 6 in India?

The short answer is an unequivocal yes. But if you ask us to explain, then we’d say that it all depends on you. If you’re looking for the most cutting-edge smartphone out there which doesn’t cost a bomb, then the Nokia 6 doesn’t fit the bill. Heck, it won’t even blow your mind with any single aspect, unlike many of its competitors. Even before it gets launched, the phone already faces the heat from the likes of sub-Rs 15k blockbusters – the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (review), Honor 6X (review) and the Moto G5 Plus (review).

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However, the Nokia 6, or even its siblings aren’t designed to wow you. The company is focussing on its old ideology, i.e. offering solid build quality along with unadulterated software to ensure smooth usage – and the Nokia 6 scores well on all these aspects. In fact, we feel that HMD Global is following Motorola with this strategy when it made a comeback (now that Moto is under Lenovo, things have started to change), which is a very good thing.

As per our conversation with HMD’s India head Ajey Mehta, the brand is expected to enter India by May or June, and we’re already getting impatient. Now if only it manages to price The Nokia 6 attractively, and offer it at the same or even lower than its Chinese pricing of RMB 1,699 (roughly Rs 16,000)…

PS: this review will be updated when we get the Indian retail unit of the Nokia 6 for review.

 

Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5

 

Pros

  • Impressive design
  • Gorgeous display
  • Latest and pure version of Android
  • Good battery life

 

Cons

  • Not meant for hard-core performance
  • Camera lacks punch
  • Priced slightly on the higher side

Photos by Raj Rout