Nokia are a brand that everyone knows. They have been around a long time and after a foray into the strange world of Windows Mobile they hit rock bottom. They were then bought out by some former employees and a company called HMD Global, hitched themselves to the Android bandwagon and have started to pump out some high quality devices.
In this, the second year of Nokia making Android devices, even though last year they used what was very close to stock Android, they have decided to use Google’s new stock versions of Android, Android One and Android Go, on all of their devices from now onwards.
The Nokia 7 Plus is their first attempt at a modern 18:9 aspect ratio design, running Android One. Dan has previously reviewed Android Go on the Nokia 1 and there is not much visually different with Android One. Android One is a very bare bones Android version that looks extremely Nexus-like. What follows is a review of the Nokia 7 Plus, from a user who has purchased and used every single Nexus phone ever made.[toc]
What’s good about it?
- Android One is slim, fast and easy to use — just how Google wants Android to be
- Guaranteed updates
- Good looking phone without a glass back
- Battery life is impressive
What’s not so good about it?
- No face unlock (coming soon)
- Speaker easily covered
- Inconsistent camera
Mid-range phone = mid-range hardware?
|Key Specifications:||Nokia 7 Plus|
|Screen technology||IPS LCD|
|Resolution||2,280 x 1,080|
|MicroSD||Yes, up to 256GB|
|Android OS||Android Oreo|
What impressed us about the Nokia 7 Plus?
There are lot of things Nokia got right with the 7 Plus. To start with the design is great — the Nokia 7 Plus is a good looking phone. The copper highlights around the matte black aluminium backing of the phone (which does not look aluminium thanks to the six layers of ceramic-feel paint on the outside of it) give a certain elegance you don’t usually expect in a mid-range phone. It is also available in a white ceramic coating with copper edges but it doesn’t look like the white will make it to our shores. The 18:9 aspect ratio 6 inch display with small (ish) bezels also make for a device that is easy to hold and use.
While the specs are definitely mid-range with the processor only being a Snapdragon 660 with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage the performance does not suffer. Running Android One the interface is smooth and slick as you would expect from something so very close to stock Android. With Android One you are guaranteed to receive timely security updates with Nokia stating that the Nokia 7 Plus will receive:
Three years of regular security patches and two years of OS updates.
There is also the availability of Android P Beta for the Nokia 7 Plus but that is a future review to follow on in a couple of weeks.
There is no bloatware, no inhibitive skins nor any stuffing around with the guts on Android because let’s face it no matter the good intentions of a manufacturer, their own versions of how Android run do not run anywhere near as well as Google’s. This helps the mid-range specs feel not-so mid-range — it’s not quite Pixelly but it’s close. The lack of any skin most likely has something to do with the decent battery life you can get from this phone. Combined with a decent 3800 mAh battery the battery life fell short of the two days Nokia promised but I was able to get a good one and a half days without any charging and an amount of World Cup, music and podcast streaming.
Honourable mentions also go to the presence of the headphone jack — some still prefer them — and the dual SIM capabilities. The second SIM slot can also be used as a microSD slot instead with both slots 4G capable.
What felt mid-range with the Nokia 7 Plus?
We are in an era where smartphone cameras can now produce high quality images, especially so in flagship phones. This expectation of such high quality images unfortunately and unfairly filters down to the mid-range phones. The Nokia 7 Plus produced some decent photos most of the time but it wasn’t very forgiving when it came to shaky hands — got a tripod or steady hands and you’ll be fine. I have very shaky hands but you can still see I managed to get some decent images (see the camera section below).
A few paragraphs ago I was shouting the benefits of Android One from the rooftops but unfortunately there are some downsides to Android One. With no skinning of the operating system Nokia have not added any options that could customise the Android experience more. There are most of the basic options but the big one I was missing was a fast/decent/secure face unlock (and preferably one as fast as OPPO/OnePlus’ version). Of course by adding in more options there is a risk of slowing down the operating system from the speedy nature that it is with a stock Android One experience to something we have come to expect from the manufacturers with heavy skins. The limited options aside, Nokia have made a conscious decision to go all in on Android One and Android Go and I can see them benefiting greatly from it.
How about the cameras in the Nokia 7 Plus?
To avoid repeating myself, if you have not read the above section go and read it. The rear camera on the Nokia 7 Plus was tested first at Oz Comic Con up against a Pixel 2 XL and a HTC U12+. Some of the photos came out a bit blurry which was due to trying to rush to get a quick shot and not holding the phone perfectly still. Although the 7 Plus does have Gyro EIS it does not seem to work as well as it should.
In saying that, once I realised that to take decent pictures I had to hold it perfectly still the images I was able to produce were very good. At the park the Nokia 7 Plus passed not just the slide test but also the spinny thing test, which was very impressive.
Nokia made a big song and dance about their camera app on the Nokia 7 Plus phone at its launch, especially the Pro Camera mode. The Pro camera mode, which most of us will rarely, if ever use, is easy to enter into and use with real time changes in the display as you scroll the respective icon around. I would not be disappointed if Google adopted this approach to their camera app in future Pixel phones.
Nokia have introduced the world to the Bothie and this is the first time I have ever used it. While it seems to be a bit of a gimmick it will come in handy in some interesting places to include yourself in the scenery easily and also capture some great memorable shots. The ability to capture what is on either side of the phone is novel and definitely fun.
Software related things — Android One
I’ve touched on it already but I’ll make this brief. Remember the Android Silver program? Well that is basically what Android One is. It is pure Android with the manufacturer’s camera app. These days stock Android has come a long way so there is the usual options in there including System UI Tuner, Quick Settings, Night Light, gestures (swipe the fingerprint sensor for notifications, turn over to reject call, mute on pickup, lift to check phone, double tap the power button for the camera) and double tap to wake.
Along with these options you also get everything where Google thinks it should be in settings, you get a clean unimpeded interface that is smooth and slick belying what you would expect from mid-range specs. There is the promise of future upgrades and you can be sure all updates, not just security ones, will arrive in a timely fashion — the Nokia 7 Plus is included in Google’s Android P beta program. I will be testing that out next week so stay tuned for that one.
There is no bloatware installed, just the standard Google apps, and let’s face it, most of the Google apps are better than what any other manufacturer has come up with. Android One could well be the future of Android to a certain extent. What Nokia have been able to do with this phone has shown everyone else what can and should be done to produce a great user experience.
Should you buy one?
If you are in the market for a new phone, one that does not cost an arm and a leg but still offers a great software experience while still looking great then you could do a lot worse than grabbing yourself a Nokia 7 Plus. This phone is a mid-range phone with high end performance in most areas.
One place it doesn’t quite reach high end flagship levels is the camera. While not terrible the images it produced just weren’t up to what I’ve come to expect from a Google Pixel 2 or more recently the HTC U12+. If that puts you off you should really be looking at spending flagship prices and not mid-range prices.
This is one of the best mid-range phones I have used. The overall experience was outstanding in every aspect and I have no doubt it will improve even more once it gets an official Android P OS.
Nokia has allowed Ausdroid to retain this device to cover future updates and enhancements.