Nokia is back – and its smartphones now run on the platform it should have years ago: Android. At MWC 2017 the company unveiled two new Nokia Android smartphones, alongside a new variant of the Nokia 6 smartphone that was announced in January.
All three devices bear the Nokia brand, but as we all know, they are made by HMD Global who holds the license for the brand. Thankfully, after spending some time with the three phones, I’m happy to report that they are much better made than the Nokia 3310, and appear to serve a better purpose than nostalgia.
Let’s start with the most affordable of the lot. Those who have been following Nokia will immediately notice that the 3 bears more than a striking resemblance to the Lumia 925 from the Windows Phone days. There’s a metal frame with rounded sides, and a polycarbonate back cover (though thankfully without the ugly camera bump).
Because of the rounded metal frame, the Nokia 3 really is very comfortable to hold. The small 5-inch display also adds to the overall ergonomics. What was odd, though, was in the placement of the power and volume buttons on the right: they were simply too high the frame to be reached easily with the thumb.
I’ve never encountered this with any smartphone, especially a 5-inch one. And oddly enough, the same issue popped up with the Nokia 5.
That aside, the Nokia 3 has a solid feel that should give it an edge over other devices in its price range. And because it’s running on pure Android, the relatively modest hardware (MediaTek MTK6737 and 2GB RAM) runs effortlessly on the 720p display.
On the other hand, the Nokia 5 feels a lot like the other metal unibody smartphones we’ve seen from many Chinese companies. That isn’t exactly a bad thing either, since it lends to a solid feel. The curved sides again makes it a comfortable phone to hold.
What separates the Nokia 5 from the others is in the colour choices offered. All three Nokia Android smartphones come in four colours, where the 5 really stands out. Besides the standard matte black and silver, the navy and copper colourways add a lot of character to an otherwise bland device.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 430, just like on the Nokia 6, offers good performance though of course, a few minutes on a fresh device isn’t exactly the best reflection of real-world performance. What was impressive was in the display: despite being only a 720p screen, the display is fully laminated and is polarised that results in punchy colours.
What will attract the greatest attention is, of course, the Nokia 6. HMD Global wanted to leave such an impression it created a special Arte Black edition just for the global market.
Besides a minor spec bump in RAM and storage, the Arte Black edition features a glossy glass black back, giving it a totally different aesthetic. It is also, naturally, a massive fingerprint magnet.
The aluminium body with chamfered edges is also reminiscent of another phone: the Xiaomi Mi 4. And just like the Mi 4, it feels durable and slightly heavier than expected – which to some people, isn’t actually a bad thing either.
The Nokia 6 definitely looks and feels the most premium of the three. And that’s a hallmark of Nokia that HMD Global wants to maintain; at the launch event, the company stressed that it wants premium design to drip into the lower-end models.
And, the ace up HMD Global’s sleeve lies in the software. At its price points, offering pure Android is actually a legitimate competitive advantage; the phones at the 3 and 5’s price range especially are littered with Chinese products with Android skins that are not optimised for low-end hardware.
The two points make for an interesting proposition for consumers, and how they will react to Nokia’s re-entry into the mobile market. The brand name certainly remains strong among Malaysian consumers, but their retail prices may put off a market that is decidedly price-sensitive.
Nevertheless, we will take a closer look at the new Nokia phones when we receive our review units.