“The Nokia 8 impresses with what it brings to the table”
Nokia’s much-hyped comeback into the phone segment has been a tad unexciting so far, truth be told. Ironically, the refreshed Nokia 3310 feature phone (review) managed to steal the thunder away from the trio of Android smartphones unveiled by the brand back at MWC. The Nokia 3 (first impressions), 5 (first impressions) and 6 (review) are slotted into the budget and affordable segments, but what the world has really been waiting for is a true-blue flagship, a contender that can stand proudly against premium smartphones from the likes of Samsung, LG, Google and HTC. And with the covers coming off the Nokia 8 today, the HMD Global-owned brand is offering exactly that, or so it seems.
The Nokia 8 is as loaded as they come. Not only does it have the firepower expected from a high-end torchbearer, it ticks all the right boxes in terms of fit and finish, along with contemporary features like dual cameras. On top of that, HMD Global has gone ahead and established ties with Carl Zeiss, the premium optics brand whose logo found place of pride on so many Nokia phones in the past, helping make the cameras on those devices strand out from the rest of the crowd.
The key highlight of the Nokia 8 is the dual camera setup at the back. This includes a pair of 13MP sensors and the aforementioned Zeiss branding. The main sensor at the rear is RGB, while the second one is monochrome. The shooter comes assisted by laser autofocus for zippy focussing and also sports optical image stabilisation. At the front is another 13MP sensor, which also rocks autofocus. The front camera in fact, utilises the same sensor as the primary one at the back, also features Zeiss optics, and you can shoot 4K video from both front and rear.
Now you do get the usual camera features expected from a flagship – a manual mode and even a Live Bokeh mode that gives you a slider to tweak the level of blur. Interestingly however, the front and back cameras together enable what Nokia is calling the Dual-Sight streaming feature. When enabled via the camera app, it gives you a split screen view from both the front and rear cameras, letting you being in the frame as well. You can shoot stills using this mode of course, but if you switch to video, you can stream in that Dual-Sight mode to either Facebook or YouTube, directly from within the default camera app. Anther notable highlight of the Nokia 8 is the OZO spatial 360-degree audio capture, which utilises three microphones to record surround sound.
The colourful retail box bears an image of the phone up front, and key specs at the back. Inside, you’ll find the smartphone, a wall charger, a USB Type-C cable, and a wired stereo headset, along with a couple of leaflets and a SIM-eject tool.
The Nokia 8 is a stylish-looking phone, but expect second glances only if you have the Polished Copper variant. The other colours include Steel, Polished Blue and Tempered Blue. Both the copper and the Polished Blue are glossy and prone to smudges, so do keep that in mind. The build quality is signature Nokia though, thanks to a solid metal body fashioned out of Series 6000 aluminium. Up front, you’ll see a QHD 5.3-inch LCD display, layered with Corning Gorilla Glass 5. The side bezels are quite slim, and thanks to the small display, the overall size of the phone is quite compact – making it nestle comfortably in the hand and lending itself well to single-handed usage. The rounded edges make the grip even more comfy. It’s quite sleek too, being just 7.99mm thick at its thickest point (latter being the camera module which juts very slightly out of the body). The average thickness is 7.3mm though.
Above the display, you’ll see an earpiece and the front shooter, while an oval-shaped home key cum fingerprint scanner is placed below, flanked by capacitive navigation keys. The rear is slightly more interesting, thanks to a pair of cameras placed in a vertical strip, along with a flash, laser autofocus and Zeiss branding. Nokia’s own logo is plastered in the middle, and there’s the usual regulatory info printed closer to the bottom. A volume rocker and power key can be found on the right, while the left is barren except for an ejectable tray. HMD Global will be launching the Nokia 8 in both single-SIM as well as dual-SIM variants, but we expect the latter to come to India. Do note that this would be a dual-SIM hybrid device. The bottom is home to a USB Type-C port and a speaker, while the top has (thankfully) a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Software-wise, the Nokia 8 runs a vanilla build of Android Nougat 7.1.1, and there’s no wastage of precious storage space since there’s no bloatware at all. Speaking of storage, you get 64 gigs of it. The horsepower is provided by the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 835 SoC, married to 4GB RAM.
Loaded specs and stock Android translate into a zippy and fluid usage experience, and in our brief usage period, there was no sign of any lag or stutters. A 3,090mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 support powers the proceedings, and hopefully, should be able to get you through a working day easily. A couple of quick test shots indicate very good image quality, so till the time a detailed analysis concludes otherwise, we’ll be leaving with very good first impressions of the Nokia 8’s shooting prowess.
Clearly, HMD Global is now gunning for the big leagues with the Nokia 8. The smartphone world though, is now a very different place than the time when Nokia used to rule the roost. It’s going to take a very special device to shake Samsung’s throne, and get the other major players worried. Whether the Nokia 8 is that game-changer or not is something time will tell – and if you ask us, the new smartphone does face an uphill task when it comes to impressing those obsessed with specs. This is because 6GB RAM and upwards is now getting mainstream in the flagship smartphone space, and the Nokia 8 only comes in a 4GB RAM model, at least for now. Secondly, while the Nokia flagship is IP54 splash-resistant, it can’t match the higher IP ratings of devices like the Samsung Galaxy S8 or the HTC U11.
Specs aren’t everything though, and the Nokia 8 promises a fluid, smooth user experience. The standout features offered by the dual-cameras and the front shooter, including the innovative Dual-Sight mode, are aimed at ‘creators’, as Nokia likes to put it. Video live streaming has become very popular these days, so the phone should appeal to youngsters too, apart from Nokia fans and others who’ve grown up with the brand’s phones. The Nokia 8 does seem to have what it takes, and it’s time the other biggies sit up and take notice, if they haven’t done so already.
Disclosure: this writer was in London on HMD Global’s invitation.