The Nokia 8 was unveiled in Johannesburg last week by HMD Global, the company who now manufacturers the much-loved smartphone brand. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Nokia handsets no longer run Windows. Instead, they’ve gone the Android route.
Image credit: Shutterstock
Nokia have now brought out a range of handsets that run stock Android, and at affordable prices, when you look at the 3, 5, and 6 that were launched a while back. The Nokia 8 is its first “flagship”; bear in mind none of the previous three models were regarded as flagships (as obvious as this is, it needs to be said). So, naturally, specs on the 8 are more high-end.
Nokia says with the 8, there are three things that are most important about it: it’s meant to be used in every day life; the design and craftmanship are stand out; and that it runs pure Android.
NOKIA 8 FIRSTS
Before I get into the breakdown of things, here are some features that are first on the Nokia 8. The ability to livestream straight from the camera app onto YouTube or Facebook, after you link your accounts under settings. It allows you to stream from both cameras at once, so you can have a square crop of yourself and what you are seeing, to run the broadcast. It’s their first colab with Zeiss (well it was the same with Nokia and Windows, so this seems natural). It has Nokia OZO audio and 360-degree sound.
UNDER THE HOOD
The Nokia 8 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip; a rather nice 4GB of RAM; and 64GB of onboard storage, of which, 13.25GB is used by the system. The camera uses Zeiss Optics and sports a 13-megapixel camera on both the front and back. The rear camera has dual lenses. It has Nokia’s OZO Audio, which is 3D spatial surround sound, and 360-degree audio capture and playback. The screen itself is 5.3-inches and is a 2K resolution. The Nokia 8 runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat straight out of the box.
The 5.3″ display is QHD display, which is 4x the 720p HD screen. The resolution is 2560×1440 pixels (554ppi if you care about this), which is a 2K screen, and most noticeable when you’re looking at the screen. I love how crisp it is, and the standard wallpapers look great. The material used for the screen is Corning Gorilla glass 5, and 2.5D glass; although I’m not sure what the latter means. What you need to know is that the screen is gorgeous!
LOOK AND FEEL
I’ve always been a fan of Nokia designed handset and the 8 is no different. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that the consumer will never really know about, like a 40-stage process of machining, anodizing and polishing. I love the slim look and at 5.3″ it just about fits in my hand without falling out. The back has a matte-like finish. The screen is flat except for the indent for the fingerprint sensor at the bottom that is rectangular. Soft-touch menu keys can be found on either side. The SIM tray is on the left, and the power and volume up + down key is on the right. The power button doubles up as a camera launcher when pressed twice (switched on by default). The audio jack is on top, and the speaker, mic and USB-C charging port is at the bottom.
We’ve been so accustomed to using Android with overlays that it’s so refreshing to use one without them. Stock Android, or as it is sometimes referred to as “vanilla Android” means it’s the purest form of the operating system, as found on all Google Pixel smartphones (that are not available officially in South Africa). When other manufacturers put it on their phones, namely Samsung, Sony, Huawei, HTC, etc, they add their own apps and interface over it, which sometimes results in what is called “bloatware” (this also takes up unnecessary space on the handset). As of late, some manufacturers have cut down on the unnecessary apps they put on handsets.
The stock Android is as basic as you will get. I love that it’s not filled with apps that I’ll never use. It took a while to get the Settings icon to appear as a shortcut on my homescreen, only because I didn’t want to Google it. I figured I could find a way to put it on. The default tap on the homescreen to add it brings up a shortcut from Settings that you have to pick, without offering Settings on its own. I eventually added it by dragging and dropping.
I am probably in the minority here, but I’ve never been a fan of Google Photos so it’s taking a while to get used to. If I’m honest, this is one thing I miss from other handsets, a regular gallery that is not owned by Google, and is offline. I created an album and by default it uploaded it to the cloud, while I was on 4G, which irritated me and I had no choice but to let it do its thing because I wanted to upload the gallery to Instagram. Anyway, I have yet to figure out how to create galleries that don’t get uploaded to the cloud. For anyone who uses Google Photos, you are entitled to free unlimited storage. That’s awesome, cos I’m currently paying for extra iCloud storage. Apple Tax.
The phone is every bit a flagship device, except I feel it is let down by the camera. Don’t get me wrong, the 13-megapixel cameras are great for basic point-and-shoot functions. It has dual rear cameras with one being a mono lens. You can opt to shoot in black and white, or colour, or both… BUT all the flagships I’ve used this year offer so much more with manual mode, portraits, macro, custom exposure and focus settings, etc. However, the dual camera live streaming with 360-degree audio is great for broadcasters who need to stream to Facebook and YouTube every so often. It definitely has those benefits, but as a standalone camera, I expected more. It’s not like the previous Nokia cameras from WP days.
These are just my first impressions of the handset. I will be using it more extensively and doing a review for the Financial Mail at the end of the month if you want to look out for that.
The Nokia 8 costs R9 499 on prepaid, and is available on contract at R449 x24 months on Vodacom.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 14 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ firstname.lastname@example.org