Back in the day, I was a MASSIVE Nokia fan boy. I worked with Gerrymoth on NokiaAddict. I'd follow and track every single slither of Nokia news. Every single handset they released, I'd try and get my mitts on. I was without a doubt, a Nokia Addict. To me, Nokia handsets were innovative, stable and generally had kick-ass cameras. I even invested in a Nokia 1020 when they switched to 'Windows Phone', and even today it's is one of the best cameras in mobile phone history. After the Nokia 1020, I started to lose interest. I couldn't get behind Windows Phone - Android was my mobile OS of choice. Eventually Nokia faded away, and all subsequent phones were 'Microsoft' branded. Nokia seemingly faded into history..
However, in December 2016, HMD Global rose from the ashes - they are the 'home' of Nokia phones. Their first real foray into the high end phone market is the Nokia 8 and just hours before I jumped on a plane to New York they got one into my hand. I was intrigued to see if HMD Global have put the magic, and ethos of the 'Ghost of Nokia past' into a brand new phone. So much has changed since Nokia went away, there are a lot of smaller companies selling decent, cheap Android handsets. Brands like Huawai have really disrupted the industry. Can Nokia compete in 2017 and beyond?
First impressions of the Nokia 8
As I unboxed the handset, I picked it up, and it feels incredible, the slim body, precision machined from a single block of 6000 series aluminium sits nicely in the hand. The 5.3" 2k display is protected by sculpted Corning Gorilla Glass 5 and is just the right size for the thumb to sweep over the whole display. It feels like a solid, well made handset. It feels like a Nokia. Pressing the power button fired the handset up, with the iconic Nokia theme politely playing. The Nokia 8 runs pretty much pure Android, with some VERY light launcher customisation. There has been no re-inventing the wheel here, there's no unnecessary 'Assistant' like Bixby on Samsung phones. You'll find the Google Assistant embedded in the launcher, just as I like it. There's no over complicated 'skins' over the UI. It's elegant, and simple. Keeping it simple like this means that updates and patches from Google will appear quickly. The Nokia 8 runs Android Oreo, right now. Very few other manufacturers have got this on their handsets. HMD Global promise that the updates will keep coming. I hopeso!
The phone has dual 13 MP camera sensors on the back (with Zeiss Optics) and a 13MP 'selfie' sensor on the front. Nokia were the leaders in mobile photography back in the day. It's fantastic to see them rocking Zeiss optics again. A key feature of the Nokia 8 is the 'Bothie' facility, which allows you to take pictures, and film videos with both the front and rear cameras. I'll cover that in detail later. Setting up the phone was a doddle. The 'moving' process has been improved in Android in recent years, and I was able to restore the apps from my Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus with ease.
The 'real world' tests
It's impossible to get the measure of a handset unless you're fully invested into it. Once I'd got to my hotel, I pulled the SIM out of my Samsung and put it in the Nokia 8. The Nokia 8 was going to be my main phone, the Samsung wasn't going to see the light in NYC. HMD Global had mentioned that because my handset was a UK Model, it might not perform well on US 4G / 3G bands. It happily connected to the ATT network with a strong 3G signal. That would do me just fine! Being a heavy Samsung user I have massive battery anxiety, I ALWAYS have a battery pack with me. I left the hotel to go exploring with my battery pack just in case. After this first day, I didn't bother - the Nokia 8 is very frugal with the battery. My battery anxiety drifted away quickly. There's a 'Power Save' mode which I used on the day we got married, because, largely the phone would stay unused in my pocket. It did what it said on the tin, and the excellent battery life became AMAZING battery life.
Not a garish screen but not a bad screen
Compared to my Samsung, the screen on the Nokia 8 isn't as garish. It doesn't have the 'touch me' feel of the Samsung. It's not a bad screen at all, it performs well in sunlight, it just feels a little more 'muted' when side to side. I suppose it's best described as the Samsung looks like a TV you'd see in a showroom, the Nokia 8 is more like you'd have it at home. The colours are deep and accurate, and blacks are as black as can be.
The fingerprint sensor is embedded in the home button, rather than the 'reach around' one on the Samsung. The fingerprint sensor is SO quick and accurate. The phone springs into life quickly with very few 'misreads'. The internal speaker at the bottom is perfectly loud enough and doesn't really get covered as you hold the phone. I did notice the NFC antenna wasn't perhaps as strong as other handsets, it took a bit of jiggling to complete Android Pay transactions on some terminals.
There is NO wireless charging facility on the Nokia 8, it's a shame, especially as in New York you find more and more places with wireless charging pads within tables. It would be more of an issue if the battery on this handset was bad, thankfully it's not. However, at this price point I'd expect it.
How is the Nokia 8 Camera?
Having such a firm heritage in strong mobile photography, the Camera is absolutely KEY if Nokia want to take back their crown. The Dual 13MP Sensors with Zeiss Optics should be able to take a good photo, and yes it does. The proof is in my Nokia 8 Sample Photo Gallery. It's not without a few niggles. You can go directly into the camera app by double pressing the power button. It sometimes takes a few moments for the camera to 'wake-up' and get ready to shoot. It's normally when the phone has been in your pocket for a while, it's like it needs a bit longer to rouse it. Once you're in the camera app, and it's up and running and you're taking pictures, aside from a slight delay between shots it's all good. It's not as slow as the Huawai P9, but it's not as quick as the Samsung S8. I feel there could be a few tweaks to make taking photos just that little bit faster.
I also feel that the photo app needs a bit of work. You can record in HD, or 4K on the front and rear cameras. However, there's no other options, or frame rates.
The camera does have a 'Manual' mode, so you can tweak the elements of the photos. There's a 'Live Bokeh' mode where you can apply Bokeh effects as you take photos, there's also the option to go back and re-edit the Bokeh effect too. There's a 'Photo' mode which is automatic. A 'Panorama' mode for taking wide shots, and a 'Beautify' mode which smooths out your face and makes you look slightly odd.
Video recording is pretty good - it records with Nokia OZO spatial 360° audio. It would be good if there was some kind of 'wind noise' filter. You can switch between front, rear and 'surround' audio, which is great. You can 'Go Live' to YouTube or Facebook straight from the camera app too. The 'Bothie' mode is a pretty interesting proposition for Vloggers, so you can see both sides of the camera. It would be great if there was some deeper tweaks that you could do with the 'Bothie' mode. Perhaps a more 'picture in picture' effect, or the facility to cut between the two cameras in the edit.
Below are two sample videos, one outside at night, and one inside in the subway in New York. Night recording and low light recording can be a bit crappy, however - the Nokia 8 does well. The Subway video had LOUD music, there's no clipping or blowing out of the sound, it's coped really nicely.
I think the front facing cam could be a little better - I noticed the one on my Samsung produces better 'Instagram Stories' and Snapchats
I really wanted Nokia to come back with a bang. The Nokia 8 is a fantastic start. It's not without a few foibles, and could do with a little work on the Camera app. BUT. It is a good handset - the build quality is superb, and oozes quality. As ever with a Nokia, the hardware is lovely - really high quality. There is room for improvement, and there are MORE high end Nokia handsets coming our way too. Hopefully there will be some improvements. I have genuinely enjoyed using the Nokia 8. I switched back to my Samsung when we returned, and you know - tomorrow - I'm switching back. There's just something about the Nokia 8. It's not too big, it's not too small - it's a smashing handset. The retail price is £499 - however it's available on Amazon for over £100 less. There are cheaper phones, however I love the way the Nokia 8 feels and performs, it's excellent value.
I'm looking forward to watching HMD expand the Nokia brand, and sharing it all with you!