There’s no lying that Nokia came and, once again, stole our hearts, last year. The Nokia brand was everywhere you looked. Despite having been late to the Android party, in its current reincarnation, it’s all the way up for the brand. This is best exemplified by the budget Nokia 6 smartphone which I have spent the last one month or so with.
The Nokia 6 may be many things to different people but there are at least a few convergence points for everyone who gets to use the device.
Design and Display
Its design is well thought out and is easily one of the best, if not really the best, in its class.
A glass panel takes up the entirety of the device’s front while an all-metal back takes up the rest of the space making for one premium-looking and feeling mid-range smartphone.
In the case of a matte black Nokia 6 like the one I’ve had with me, the cold black metal’s monotony is broken by the well-machined chamfered edges.
One of the obvious omissions that one will not fail to notice is the decision by HMD Global, the Nokia 6’s makers, to go with microUSB instead of USB C.
The Nokia 6 feels huge because it is huge, thanks to that 5.5-inch full HD display and its sharp edges don’t help matters as they almost tear into your skin as you hold the device. The chamfered edges may be a thing of beauty when you’re staring at them but their sharpness won’t be lost on you as you interact with the device.
Also, the protruding camera at the back of the device means that it wobbles when placed on a flat surface like, say, a tabletop. That also makes it an easy target for picking up minor scratches.
While I have no qualms about the LCD panel on the Nokia 6 (the display is bright, has decent viewing angles etc), its outdoor visibility is, at best, average.
Of course, you’d expect anyone writing for a site calling itself anything “Android” to fawn over stock Android and anything closer to it, right? We’ve done our fair share of that over here at Android Kenya but truth be told, stock Android or anything close to it, like what we have on the Nokia 6, is overrated and far from the most ideal.
Yes, sure there are perks to having minimal, if any, alterations to Android as Google envisioned it but does that mean that it is better? My month-long stay with the Nokia 6 reminded me why I loved and hated stock/near-stock Android in equal measure.
While the user interface is easy to navigate and users are not burdened with lots of features they’ll never use, at this point in time, device makers like Samsung, OPPO and Huawei, whose devices I interact with on a daily basis, actually do add a few things that make the entire Android experience on their devices a bit better.
It’s all fun and games until you realize that a device as respectable as a mid-range Nokia lacks an out and out image and video application as well as a file manager. The user is left to figure all that for themselves. For instance, use the Google Photos app to view images they capture or head to the Play Store and find an alternative gallery app. To be honest, Google Photos is less than an ideal gallery app, more so if one is coming from a device like a Samsung smartphone or some other device that comes with at least a half-decent pre-installed gallery app. Let’s not even talk about videos. File manager? What is that, even? Whatever is there (masquerading as a file manager) is something whose purpose I am yet to deduce, many weeks later.
These may not be deal breakers to myself and anyone who frequents this site because we [drink?] know things but what about everyone else whose life does not revolve around Android and mobile? The masses that just want a phone they can use to stay in touch with friends and family and fire work emails on the go? Don’t get me started on other features almost considered essentials in today’s budget smartphones like advanced (ultra?) power saving modes.
Shortcomings of stock/near-stock Android aside, HMD Global has outdone itself by sticking with the Android as envisioned by Google. The end result is a rather smooth experience (at least on paper since I bumped into quite a number of issues with the Nokia 6, see the performance segment below) as well as timely updates. The latter saw me upgrade the Nokia 6 I had to Android 8.0, Oreo, from the Android 7.1.2 Nougat it was running (it actually received the 7.1.2 update while already in my possession, it had the 7.1.1 when I received it). HMD Global is expected to start seeding the Oreo update to all Nokia 6s soon after it is done with the current public beta testing phase. This something I can’t say about every other device in the Nokia 6’s price range bar Xiaomi’s Mi A1 which is currently receiving its Oreo update.
Unfortunately, perhaps because of the low-end Snapdragon 430 processor, the Nokia 6 is not really the fastest of the bunch. In both Android 7.1.1 and Android 7.1.2, the performance was not the very best I believe I could get from the device. Apps would freeze when I had opened quite a number of them and opening the task switcher meant having to wait for about a minute (maybe more) for things to get responsive and working again.
Things did not get any different when I ditched the comfort of stable software builds and joined the Nokia 6 Android Oreo beta testing programme.
The camera on the Nokia 6, while managing to deliver some “just okay” snaps is not really the best in its class. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed by the photos I was able to capture with the device. I expected more. I mean, it’s Nokia, right?
The device struggles to finish a working day with juice when you put it through its paces. Not that I am being unfairly hard on it but this is the kind of thing I easily achieve with other mid-range devices while doing the same things. The Nokia 6 is not any special and I expected it to uphold its end of the bargain. It did not, most of the time. It was somehow okay, somehow not okay.
As if to add salt to injury, when it’s time to juice it up, the battery takes forever to charge. Fast charging? What kind of rumour is that?
- Good design.
- The Nokia 6 has Dolby Atmos sound operating in a dual-speaker arrangement whereby the device’s earpiece also acts as a speaker.
- Stock Android or anything close is always a better choice no matter how we lament at its apparent lack of additions that we may have gotten used to elsewhere.
- Timely updates will never go out of fashion. In 2018, no one deserves to spend good money on a device that won’t be seeing updates. Sadly, Android is still light years from achieving the kind of near-universal update process that other platforms (cough iOS) have [insert sad emoji].
- The durability of the device, thanks to its design, doesn’t look like it’s in question, really. The Nokia 6 looks like the sort that will comfortably take one for the team and live to tell the story. The Nokia 3310 would be happy. [See what JerryRigEverything has to say about that].
- Battery performance is wanting.
- The lack of any form of accelerated/fast charging makes things go from bad to worse.
- The camera could be better, honestly. As things stand, it’s bad.
For Kshs 25,000 or less (when there’s some sale or something), the Nokia 6 with its base specs of 32 GB internal storage, 3 GB RAM and a spacious high-contrast 5.5-inch display is a good deal and, for its price, I can’t bring myself to recommend anything else. Throw in the guaranteed Oreo update and life even after Oreo and the good traditional Nokia design and you’ve just killed the competition. The drawbacks in performance, battery life and the camera department are things one will have to do some soul-searching on before eventually deciding to part with their hard-earned cash. For the people it targets, those not covered by its siblings the Nokia 2, 3 and 5, the Nokia 6 does a remarkable job of staying ahead of the pack and showing us just how a model Android mid-range device should be. Xiaomi Mi A1 be damned!