The Nokia 7 Plus with Android One reviewed

Last year the most famous brand in mobile phones, Nokia, rose again from the ashes left by the Microsoft aquisition a few years earlier. Now being licensed by HMD Global, they’re making mobile phones again and this time they’re Android phones. This year they’ve got a whole new line-up and the Nokia 7 plus appears to have the best cards to become a sales hit, so let’s check it out.


The new Nokia with HMD Global

Less than two decades ago almost everybody seemed to carry a Nokia phone; it was THE brand in mobile phones and every single one was built like a tank and had the cooelst features. But then came the smartphone revolution and Nokia got in way too late and with the wrong partner. They lost marketshare quickly and in the end even an aquisition by Microsoft (effectively rebranding Nokia to Microsoft Mobile) couldn’t save them.

In 2016 Microsoft sold the Nokia brand (by then only used on feature phones instead of smartphones) to the newly founded HMD Global company that was founded by former Nokia employees, and in 2017 they introduced their first Android phones to the market. If that wasn’t only just one year ago, I’d be tempted to conclude with “and the rest is history”… πŸ˜‰
Recently the marketshare numbers for the Netherlands were published and Nokia had already taken fifth place in these rankings (ending end Q1) in its first year, despite lacking a flagship model and limited global availability, outselling HTC, Google and OnePlus combined.
Looking at the new line-up, I’d say “the only way is up!”.

Nokia 7 plus specs

First, lets have a look at the specs, courtesy of GSMarena.com

Network Technology GSM / CDMA / HSPA / EVDO / LTE
2G bands GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 – SIM 1 & SIM 2
CDMA 800 & TD-SCDMA – China
3G bands HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
CDMA2000 1xEV-DO – China
4G bands LTE band 1(2100), 3(1800), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 20(800), 28(700), 38(2600), 40(2300), 41(2500) – Global
LTE band 1(2100), 3(1800), 4(1700/2100), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 20(800), 28(700), 34(2000), 38(2600), 39(1900), 40(2300), 41(2500) – China
Speed HSPA 42.2/5.76 Mbps, LTE-A (2CA) Cat6 300/50 Mbps
GPRS Yes
EDGE Yes
Launch Announced 2018, February
Status Available. Released 2018, March
Body Dimensions 158.4 x 75.6 x 8 mm (6.24 x 2.98 x 0.31 in)
Weight 183 g (6.46 oz)
Build Front glass, aluminum body (6000 series) with copper edges
SIM Hybrid Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
Display Type IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 6.0 inches, 92.4 cm2 (~77.2% screen-to-body ratio)
Resolution 1080 x 2160 pixels, 18:9 ratio (~403 ppi density)
Multitouch Yes
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Platform OS Android 8.1 (Oreo); Android One
Chipset Qualcomm SDM660 Snapdragon 660
CPU Octa-core (4×2.2 GHz Kryo 260 & 4×1.8 GHz Kryo 260)
GPU Adreno 512
Memory Card slot microSD, up to 256 GB (uses SIM 2 slot)
Internal 64 GB, 4 GB RAM
Camera Primary Dual: 12 MP (f/1.8, 25mm, 1.4Β΅m) + 13 MP (f/2.6, 1.0Β΅m), gyro EIS, dual pixel phase detection autofocus, 2x optical zoom, Zeiss optics, dual-LED dual-tone flash, check quality
Features Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, panorama, HDR
Video 2160p@30fps, 1080p@30fps, check quality
Secondary 16 MP (f/2.0, 1.0Β΅m), Zeiss optics, 1080p
Sound Alert types Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
Comms WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE
GPS Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
NFC Yes
Radio No
USB 2.0, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector, USB On-The-Go
Features Sensors Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Messaging SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
Browser HTML5
– Fast battery charging (18W, 9V/2A)
– MP4/H.264 player
– MP3/WAV/eAAC+/FLAC player
– Photo/video editor
– Document viewer
Battery Non-removable Li-Ion 3800 mAh battery
Stand-by Up to 723 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 19 h (3G)
Music play Up to 126 h
Misc Colors Black/Copper, White/Copper
Price About 400 EUR

That is a nice specification set for a phone that’s being offered for 399,00 euros and really seems to tick all the boxes for what you’d expect in this midrange pricerange. Years ago, Nokia released the (then very last Nokia branded phone) Lumia 830, marketing it as “the affordable flagship”, and taking into consideration its specs Γ‘nd price, the new Nokia 7 plus seems to target exactly that same audience.

That’s what I also mention in the unboxing video I made for this review (bear with me, it’s my very first in English), and which you can watch below. The unboxing video focuses mainly on the design of the phone, and below the video I will get on with the review and into things like performance.

Unboxing video

Picture walkaround and design

The Nokia 7 plus is very nicely designed phone and is also built to last. The main body is C&C-ed out of a single block of aluminium, which is then coated in no less than 6 layers of paint that gives a ceramic feel to the whole backside of the phone. The sides, which have a polished red copper look to them, are anodized twice for durability.
I’m not sure if the screens Gorilla glass 3 is so heavy or the six times coated aluminium body is, but the phone feels pretty heavy in the hand which had me worried that if you drop the 7 plus, it might suffer some serious damage due to its sheer weight alone. The 7 plus (183 grams) weighs only two grams less than the old Lumia 920 (185 grams) which was infamous for being heavy and durable, but that featured a polycarbonate body instead of an aluminium unibody.

So, it feels extremely sturdy and at the same time its weight feels like it would severely increase damage on impact. Needless to say I haven’t tried this in real life (I want to keep HMD as friends you know).

Here’s the 7 plus from a general front facing angle:

Next up is the rear with its dual Zeiss™ lenses (one of them being a Tele lens, but I’ll get to that later) showing of the copper accents around the lenses and the fingerprint scanner and also the Nokia brand logo. On the bottom end you’ll find some branding about Android One and other certification stuff in a dark grey font. Which I think is a pity and doesn’t need to be there, right?
You’ll also notice the dual colours of the LED flash and a small microphone hole above the dual lenses of the camera (I haven’t been able to find the third microphone as Nokia states in its own speclist it should have)


The front side with its 18:9 aspect ratio IPS LCD shows some nicely rounded corners to it, which I’ve been told is becoming a very popular design cue among customers these days. Also clearly visible here is the narrow copper accent around the screen:

The bottom of the phone features one downward firing speaker slot (nothing special here), the USB-C connector and another microphone hole (the one also being used for phone calls):

And then there’s the SIM-slot on the left topside of the phone, featuring a SIM-tray that holds either two nano-SIMcards or one single nanoSIM and an additional Micro-SD memory card. So you get to have either two SIMcards installed, or sacrifice that functionality in favour of expanding the already generous 64GB of storage space with an even bigger Micro-SD card:

To conclude: it’s a gorgeous phone that feels like it’s built like a tank. The ceramic paint gives a really nice touch of sturdiness to it, and contrary to what you’d expect, the red copper accents don’t make the phone feel ‘tacky’ at all. It just works and isn’t dominant at all.

General performance

I’ve loaded up the Nokia 7 plus with a Google backup that’s available from the Google cloud and generated by my daily OnePlus 5T phone. That was actually my first pleasant surprise, since I wasn’t aware that also Android in a way is capable of “cloning” your phone to the next one, but that’s a Google thinghy of course. Being a former Windows phone user, I was very accustomed to being able to “clone” a phone to another Windows phone and this now appears to be an Android capability as well. The backup feature of Microsofts Launcher put the icing on the cake with also restoring my complete homescreen layout. It took quite a few hours to download all the apps by the way.

The standard Android One launcher

Speaking of this Microsoft Launcher; I’ve had some problems with this on the first day of use on this Nokia 7 plus. It kept crashing, hanging on black screens, etc, which already had me worried that this mid-tier Snapdragon 660 CPU inside this 7 plus wasn’t up for the task. After uninstalling it and reinstalling it, all seemed fine however, with no lags or hangups anymore. Except for one thing; after an app update of the Microsoft Launcher, the 7 plus would revert back to the default Android One launcher, despite having chosen the MSFT Launcher as the default. It appeared like it had problems with memory usage, but using only about 240MB while running on a 4GB RAM phone, I fail to understand why this kept happening. My OnePlus 5T never does this…

On the other hand; I need this launcher because I’m deeply invested into Microsofts ecosystem and MSFT Launcher ties into all this very nicely. It also gives you a much better organised app list in a single column that is much easier and quicker to navigate than the standard Android One launcher (shown here), which is just a grid of icons that somehow always looks so incredibly unorganised.

Anyway; after the first hickups the Launcher ran a lot better, but still had some choppyness to the scrolling, which I also noticed in some other apps. Mind you; I am comparing this to what I’m used to and that is a Snapdragon 835 paired with a whopping 8GB LPDDR4 RAM which ain’t a fair comparison of course. But it made me have some doubts about these lower spec Snapdragon SOCs. Going with last years SD 835 (which also features a much better GPU of course) couldn’t have been thΓ‘t much more expensive I guess….?
On the other hand; most customers belonging to the target audience likely won’t get to the limits of what this phone can do and will probably use it with most of the standard software.

Calling quality and network quality (both voice and data) are excellent and the earpiece speaker can be turned up quite loud actually. Buttons respond very well and have a nice tactile click to it and as I mentioned in the part about the design; the phone is simply a pleasure to hold and operate.

Display

The IPS LCD is bright and has good contrast to it with nice black for an LCD and is very well visible in daylight as well. Its autobrightness level is set just little to high, which is fine during the day but makes it light up the room when you use it a night. Especially when you don’t use the night mode which dims the screen a bit as well as shifting its colour to the red side of the spectrum. This red-shift is a bit too agressive for my taste, but so is the clearly too blue-ish colour balance in normal day mode. I guess this all needs a bit more finetuning in the software over time but overall it is a very nice display to work with.

Camera, photos

The camera had me positively surprised I’ve gotta say. Last years first batch of Nokia phones didn’t really turn any heads when it comes to camera performance, but since then Nokia has made some good improvements, especially in the software department of the camera setup. Of course there are the outstanding Zeiss lenses, but in smartphone camera tech a lot comes down to the camera app and the post-processing done in there.
For this new 2018 batch of phones Nokia has revived the Pro-camera app from the old Lumia line (it looks the same anyway) that gives you a lot more control over the image by offering manual controls. But aside from these controls, the low-light performance has increased dramatically over last years models and is none other than impressive for a phone in this pricerange.
Here’s a few screenshots of the camera app interface:

All the main modes
The PRO mode
The live-bokeh mode, clearly showing the much narrower tele angle

I do have a few small complaints though. First thing I think needs a bit of re-adjustment is the exposure; the 7 plus tends to overexpose a bit to my taste. Looking closely at the picture it seems all dynamic range is there and there is no clear overexposure visible in the light areas, but the whole image appears just slightly to light to my liking.
The other complaint I have is that the post-processing kills a bit of the sharpness of the Zeiss optics, sharpening the image just slightly too agressively in the post-processing.
Finally, the live-bokeh mode is simply not working nicely. First of all I don’t like the fact that it uses the telelens exclusively, which forces you to get further away from the subject to have the same composition. What’s more, the software simply does a bad job at adding the bokeh unsharpness, often making bad choices at where unsharpness should be added. Since this live-bokeh thing is a software gimmick I really don’t see why it should utilise the telelens exclusively and this function defenitely needs some more work in upcoming updates.
Since this camera app is brandspanking new, I expect Nokia to do just that in the near future. Anyway, here are some pictures in wildly different circumstances:

Camera, video

The video mode of the camera also had me impressed, most of all its audio recording capabilities. While I was reviewing this phone we had a big Stoner/Metal festival going on in my home town and I took the opportunity to record some videos during a few concerts. Circumstances notoriously difficult for a phone, this 7 plus does a stellar job at surpressing the crazy high sound levels (mind you; I was wearing earplugs myself) and keeping clear defenition to it instead of producing undiscernable noise πŸ™‚

Here’s two of these videos, the first one mainly vocals, and the second one with some serious metal music on extremely high volume (Ain’t my kind of music either, but it demonstrates the 7 plus’ audio recording capabilites very well):

Unlocking the phone

To unlock the phone you have the good old options of a password or PIN, but there’s also the nowadays standard fingerprint reader on the back to unlock the phone. The reader works quite well, but it’s not the fastest one on the market (I still think OnePlus has the fastest one). The placing on the back is perfect though, at least for my small fingers, it’s exactly where you’d expect it.
Another mode of unlocking was missing from this test phone though: face unlock. During the presentation at the Mobile World Congress it was promised that this function would come to most new Nokia Android phones through a software update. Since the 7 plus has just been released this functionality wasn’t available yet which was a pity. I’ve grown very accustomed to it in my OnepLus 5T, and it’s a perfect solution for unlocking the phone when it’s flat on the table in front of you, combined with its double-tap-to-wake feature.
Too bad I couldn’t test this yet, but it will really complete the feature set of this 7 plus to a very nice high level for a midrange phone when this comes available in the foreseeable future.

Software and batterylife

Starting 2018 Nokia has decided to offer all their Android phones with an Android One image, the vanilla Android image endorsed by Google, ensuring timely updates and guaranteeing major OS updates for at least two years from release which makes for another unique selling point for this 7 plus, since it’s the only range besides Google’s own Pixel models to offer this.
And it shows because my 7 plus review sample already had Android Oreo 8.1 with the april security patch installed right out of the box. I’ve been reviewing this phone in the last week of april and the first of may, so it couldn’t be more up to date than this.

Β Β Β 

And then there’s that other USP: the battery life of the Nokia 7 plus. Nokia promises two days worth of batterylife out of its new phones and they come very close to living up that promise. Of course it all depends on how much of a heavy user you are, but I was able to extract almost the promised two days of use out of it with a usage scenario that would come close to heavy use: listening to Spotify over bluetooth for many hours a day, keeping my Fitbit synced over bluetooth with notifications running, checking Insta a lot, taking pictures and doing my messaging and email and a few calls, and the screenshot below shows I came really close to making two days with that kind of usage.
That’s some strong battery performance and in my opinion one of the most important features of a smartphone these days. Most regular users will probably really sqeeuze two full days out of this…

Verdict

Considering the target audience for this phone, I think HMD may have created a bestseller here. For most people in this category a vibrant large display, strong battery life and a decent camera are the main arguments when choosing a phone in my humble opinion, and the 7 plus ticks all these boxes whilst at the same time offering a very affordable price.
The buildquality is just awesome, although a bit on the heavy side, and it leaves very little to wish for. With software updates to the camera and the face unlock coming up to iron out the last things to be desired, this phone should end the year high in the sales rankings and I can only totally recommend it to anyone looking for a good new Android phone without breaking the bank.

Pros:

  • Price/performance ratio
  • Buildquality and design
  • Batterylife
  • Android One
  • Camera
  • Dual SIM!
  • Silicon bumper included!

Cons:

  • The Snapdragon 660 (bit that’s nitpicking)
  • The red copper… πŸ˜‰ (that’s a taste thing; blank aluminium would have been good enough for me)
  • Camera post-processing and exposure