HMD Global, the Finnish company that licensed the rights to produce Nokia phones, is revealing the company’s first Nokia-branded Android flagship phone today. The new Nokia 8 will be available in early September across Europe, priced at 599 euros ($705). As we saw with the leaks, the Nokia 8 has a 5.3-inch display (2560 x 1440), and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage.
The specs are mostly what you’d expect from any top phone this year, but HMD is sticking with capacitive keys and larger display bezels despite an emerging industry trend to slim bezels down and move the fingerprint sensor to the rear. In terms of design, the Nokia 8 is slim at 7.3mm on average across its curved frame, and it places the antennas at the top and bottom with a full aluminum back like we’ve seen from Meizu, Apple, and even OnePlus / Oppo. There are glossy blue and copper colors, and matte blue and grey options too. During a brief closer look at the handset, I personally preferred the matte colors.
HMD offers camera tricks instead of superior design
Instead of design superiority, HMD is offering some camera tricks. This is the first Nokia-branded Android phone to feature Zeiss optics on the front and rear cameras. Both are 13-megapixel sensors, with a dual-camera array at the rear that also includes a monochrome camera. HMD isn’t customizing the camera software very heavily here, but it has added what it calls a “bothie” mode.
The bothie mode (yes, really) is similar to what we’ve seen Samsung and LG do in the past, and it will activate both the front and rear cameras to capture photos or video. What’s slightly different here is that the Nokia 8 will also broadcast this video (with the front and rear cameras) to Facebook or YouTube natively through the camera interface. Ultimately it’s a camera gimmick, especially with the bothie naming, but it could prove popular for sports scenarios or even people attending and streaming protests.
The Nokia 8 has Ozo audio
The Nokia 8 also includes another trick, thanks to the integration of Nokia’s Ozo Audio. Ozo has typically been reserved for Nokia’s futuristic camera for filming virtual reality, but HMD is now bringing the audio portion over to the Nokia 8. In real terms, it means that videos will capture 360-degree audio, allowing for it to be broadcast live on streams. If you’re listening to a Facebook live stream with headphones, you’ll be able to hear the 360 audio.
Nokia was one of the first phone makers to embrace notifications and information on a phone display when it’s off, and while others have followed HMD is now bringing back the always-on display. The Nokia 8 includes an LCD display, so this makes things more tricky than an OLED equivalent, but HMD has built a proprietary solution with a low-power mode for a small section of the display. It will show calls, emails, and text messages, and HMD plans to add social network notifications in the future.
After my brief time with the Nokia 8, I wasn’t left blown away by the handset. It’s very much an average “flagship” compared to what we’re expecting from Apple this year, and what we’ve seen Samsung achieve with the Galaxy S8. HMD isn’t setting the bar high here with an uninspiring design, a lack of waterproofing or wireless charging, and a price point that doesn’t make this a cheap Android phone with good specs. That’s especially relevant when HMD has competition like the OnePlus 5.
HMD’s Nokia 8 joins the existing mid-range Nokia 6, Nokia 5, and Nokia 3 devices as the flagship handset in the range. It will go on sale across Europe in September priced at 599 euros ($705), but it’s not clear if this handset will reach US shores like the Nokia 6 did.