For a good while, the world was without Nokia phones. Nokia sold off their handset division to Microsoft years ago, which ended disastrously for everyone involved. Nokia itself is still content to stay out of phones, focusing on the more profitable business of making and selling networking equipment to carriers (and, more recently, getting into health wearables by acquiring Withings). But, Nokia-branded phones made a comeback late last year nonetheless, as a new company called HMD, made up of a handful of former Nokia and Microsoft employees, licensed the Nokia name. They got started with classic feature phones and low-cost Android handsets, but now they’re ready for the big stage — the Nokia 8, announced yesterday, has all the trappings of a premium smartphone.
It looks like this new premium phone won’t be coming to the U.S., though — not a surprise, with the U.S. premium smartphone market so heavily dominated by Apple and Samsung. Still, Europe’s premium smartphone market is no less crowded than the one here, and that means you need something to make your phone stand out.
Unfortunately, Nokia has decided that this thing will be the ‘bothie.’ The concept is inoffensive, even if the word itself is nails-on-chalkboard level — using the phone’s camera app, you can create split-screen videos and pictures that use both the front and rear cameras simultaneously. It’s definitely not the first time this has been done, although Nokia’s implementation looks pretty slick. With both sides of the camera getting equal space, it’s almost certainly going to be popular with livestreamers (and it’s possible to do that using YouTube or Facebook with one touch).
So, are those cameras any good? They look good on paper, at least. The rear camera has a dual sensor array with two 13 MP sensors and phase-detect autofocus — one color sensor with optical image stabilization, one black and white sensor for collecting more accurate data about light levels. Used together, they can create depth of field effects, too. But, pixel size is a little small at 1.12 microns and the f/2.0 lens is good but not great compared to other premium Android phones, even if it does use Zeiss optics. That array can take 4K video, and Nokia has used Ozo audio recording technology to more capably record 360-degree audio to complement those bothie videos. Meanwhile, the front camera is almost identical to the rear color camera, but without OIS — that should mean image quality on both halves of the bothies should be about even.
Otherwise, it’s the usual premium phone stuff. It’s got a 5.3″ 2560 x 1440 IPS display and runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC and 4 GB of RAM. A 3,090 mAh battery powers all of that hardware, which might be cutting it close in terms of getting a full day out of this phone. It’ll be available with 64 GB of storage with a microSD card slot that supports 256 GB cards. Connectivity is solid, too — the modem on the 835 is excellent for LTE, and the phone also features dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. And yes, there’s a headphone jack.
Anyway, remember the days of those awesome bright Nokia Lumia colors? Well, this isn’t a return to those days, but HMD isn’t being a total bore. The all-aluminum phone will be available in a couple shades of blue, a plain grey, and a pretty eye-catching copper color. The phone won’t be waterproof, but with an IP54 rating, it will survive a bit of dust and rain.
HMD plans to start selling the Nokia 8 across Europe in September for €600, or about $700. That’s super expensive and puts it in direct competition with the best of the best in the world of Android, which is yet another reason we probably won’t see it come to the United States. It’s also hard to tell just how long HMD will keep supplying updates to the Nokia 8, or any of their other Android phones.