First look: Nokia 8 – the $460 smartphone set to rival Samsung and Apple

We got our hands on a device ahead of general release and put it to the test. (Nokia)

Those of a certain age will be familiar with the evolution of the mobile phone. We’d go as far to say that many current smartphone owners who grew up in the nineties have owned a Blackberry (remember BBM?), followed by an Apple iPhone or Samsung device in their time.

But long before these three individually dominated the market at some stage, the one brand that was considered a solid choice 15-20 years ago was that of the trusty Nokia. That ringtone… how it took forever to type a single text… those ‘Snake’ games! Ah, the memories.

Over the past decade, it’s no secret that the Finnish company struggled to keep up with its rivals (falling sales, transfer of business…etc.) However, a turning point seems to have come with last year’s sale of the phone business from Microsoft Mobile to HMD Global, a new organisation founded by former Nokia executive Jean-Francois Baril.

Just over a year later, and the company has unveiled its flagship model. Set for release in the GCC on 21 September, the Nokia 8 is being billed as a smartphone to rival the Samsung Galaxy S8 as well as iPhone 7. And considering the price point – $460  – it could very well make its mark.

But just how well does it fare up to its competitors? We got our hands on a device ahead of general release and put it to the test.

LOOK & FEEL

One of the features that HMD Global’s executives seem to be quite pleased with is the Nokia 8’s unibody that has been milled from a single block of 6000 series aluminium.

The Android phone comes in at 151.5 x 73.7 x 7.9 mm (for comparison’s sake, the dimensions for the Samsung Galaxy S8 are 148.9 x 68.1 x 8 mm, while the Apple iPhone 7 is 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm), while it weighs 160 g (S8: 155 g | iPhone 7: 138 g).

It’s certainly a gorgeous-looking phone and looks and feels expensive. What stands out here is the 5.3” IPS LCD screen that comes with a screen brightness of 700nts, apparently the highest ever in the market right now.

Verdict: Similar to both S8 and iPhone 7

PERFORMANCE & INITIAL USER EXPERIENCE

Keen for the phone not to compromise on performance, the Nokia 8 is powered by the Qualcomm SnapdragonTM 835 mobile platform. It’s also kitted with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal memory storage space. There’s an external MicroSD card slot for support of up to 256GB – something Apple is still not doing. Sigh.

In terms of user experience, the phone was easy to navigate, and the installation of heavy usage apps didn’t seem to slow the phone down. The only drawback here is that the ‘back’ button is on the opposite side to what would be on a Samsung phone, so if you plan on switching devices, then it will take a while to get used to.

Finally, battery life is much better than other phones. That’s another thing Apple needs to sort out.

Verdict: Similar to S8, better than iPhone 7

PHOTOS

This Nokia is said to be the brand’s first to team up with Zeiss for its camera. The rear cameras offer 13MP of colour and mono, teamed with front-facing camera of same megapixel value.

The camera comes with ‘dual-sight’, which means you can snap yourself and what’s in front of you at the same time.

Here, the device is a bit of a let-down. The image quality offered is nowhere near the quality of other smartphones – the S8 takes great pics in dark environments and has great filters, the iPhone 7’s images simply ‘pop’ due to the quality of depth and texture.

Verdict: Similar to S8, better than iPhone 7

VIDEO

While dual-sight function isn’t new, the standout feature with the Nokia 8 is that dual-sight video can be livestreamed in real-time to social media. The brand is calling it a ‘Bothie’ (a take on the ‘selfie’, get it?) but frankly that word should go away as soon as possible. Because, well, it’s stupid.

We’re not really buying into the idea that people need to film their face as they’re filming someone/something else… however, dual-sight video could come in handy for things like filming an event – capturing a concert and the crowd behind you, for instance.

Verdict: Similar to both S8 and iPhone 7

SOUND

Playback sound is impressive and there’s hardly the need for headphones if there’s no one around you. Another ‘first’ for the Nokia is that the 8 is its first to feature spatial 360-degree directional OZO audio, meaning the quality of sound recording is excellent. This feature allows you to adjust the audio you want to capture depending on where it is coming from.

The only drawback here is that this 360-degree style audio might not come out when live streaming, or when uploading to social media, because signal quality and website compression systems come into play.

Verdict: Similar to S8, better than iPhone 7

OVERALL VERDICT

All in all, considering the price, the Nokia 8 is a superb effort and one that could easily sway people to converting, especially from the S8. Those on iOS might still need a bit of swaying, and of course it remains to be seen what the iPhone 8 will look like in the coming months.

The main drawback of the Nokia 8 is the camera. The quality of photos just doesn’t live up to what users expect in our visual content-driven world. If you work in an industry that requires taking a lot of photos, then this won’t be the purchase for you.

However, if you’re looking for a simple Android smartphone, a second device or something for a teenager, it can’t get better than this offering.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:01 - GMT 11:01
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