At this point in time, it looks like the Nokia brand, brought back to life by HMD Global, has everything going for it. Nokia-branded smartphones are receiving Android system updates and monthly security patches faster than any other in the industry and they are loved the world over for sticking with Google’s vision of Android.
Also because it is, well, Nokia. An iconic brand known and loved by consumers for what it once represented at the dawn of the mobile age: quality, reliability and durability.
Nothing I have encountered so far from HMD Global that represents this more than the Nokia 7 Plus that I have been trying out for a month.
If there’s one thing that the Nokia-branded devices in the market have going for them then it is the design. That was the case in the last Nokia-branded smartphone that I reviewed here, the Nokia 6, and it is the case on the 7 Plus. The design is meant to make the phone stand out. And it does.
The copper accents on the device’s frame and around the camera module and the fingerprint scanner bring a touch of class, flair and beauty. The kind that you couldn’t even find on most hallowed flagship smartphones from yesteryear.
The back, which I am told has a 6-layer ceramic coating accentuated by a matte finish, feels really good and adds some much-needed grip to the device, complementing the rounded-corner profile of the entire device’s design and thus negating the need to hide all that beauty under hideous cases and back covers in the name of seeking extra protection from accidental drops. Trust me you want to constantly see the glint that comes as a result of the sun’s rays hitting those copper strips on the side.
The only downside to the design is that the camera module at the back protrudes. That means one thing: the device wobbles when placed on a flat surface like a table.
The 6-inch display on the Nokia 7 Plus is every bit amazing.
Viewing angles are okay and it’s just bright enough for you to watch a YouTube video while seated in a cab. Just don’t make the mistake of continuing to do so once you alight. Not because of Nairobi’s notorious phone snatchers, though you should look out for those since once your dear device is gone there’s not much you can do about it (wait, there’s something), but because it is not that bright outdoors.
Being an era of 18:9 displays, the Nokia 7 Plus’ feels very much at home and since it is the first such type on a Nokia phone, I can only hope that this becomes a trend. Sure, there’s the bit where a couple of things, like the way images are displayed in certain apps and the fact that you have to zoom in on YouTube videos, but those will be fixed with time as everyone adopts these 18:9 and 19:9 aspect ratio displays.
The one thing you immediately notice when you flip the Nokia 7 Plus on its back is the Zeiss branding. This is to mean that the device’s cameras do have Zeiss optics. Both of them. The 12-megapixel wide-angle camera and its 13-megapixel telephoto counterpart.
The camera app is one of the few areas where HMD Global had its hand in the software and it’s good though the placement of some of the features takes some getting used to. Once you get the hang of the interface, however, you’re on your way to taking some good shots. Auto-focus is fast, the dynamic range is (mostly) acceptable and the colour accuracy commendable.
While the camera does manage to take some okay snaps in the dark, they are just that, okay, not outstanding and not outright disappointing.
Other than standard shooting, the camera app’s pro mode is up there with some of the best experiences available to fans of manual shooting. I wonder what it’s like to fire up the same on the Nokia 8 Sirocco. In fact, if you’ve used previous Nokia smartphones, the ones that used to run a strange operating system that is not anywhere as awesome as Android (and will never be, anyway), you will be pretty much at home.
Other features include 360-audio recording, thanks to the three microphones on the device. It also includes a feature that we first saw on a non-flagship Nokia smartphone on its predecessor, the Nokia 7: bothies. Basically, marketing speak for the ability to take both a selfie and a standard image using the back camera at the same time.
Not much has changed when it comes to my thoughts on stock or near-stock Android. I still share the same sentiments that I did when I took the Nokia 6 for a spin late last year and early this year.
However, the Nokia 7 Plus happens to be the first in, hopefully, a long line of devices that we will be seeing in the future that get the latest Android updates, whether major upgrades or the usual monthly security updates, thanks to being part of the revamped Android One programme, a partnership between Google and device makers that seeks to exorcise the demon of Android fragmentation.
In fact, if anything, the Nokia 7 Plus comes with support for Project Treble.
The only thing that users of other Android One or stock Android devices may find different, and what sets the Nokia 7 Plus apart software-wise, is the camera app. Other than that, everything else is standard.
Things change a bit when, like I did, you flash Android P beta. Features like the gestures (double tap to wake), don’t work on the second developer preview of Android P.
I did not have issues getting the Nokia 7 Plus to do what I wanted it to at any given time. Games played just well without stutters and dropped frames. Sure the processor found on this device does not hold a candle to those found on the Nokia 8 and the Nokia 8 Sirocco but it’s powerful enough to handle everything that the Nokia 7 Plus is meant to handle and then some more.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Nokia 7 Plus does respond to at least one gesture: double tap to wake.
The headsets that are included in the box are actually good. There’s nothing remarkable about their design and overall looks but they’re ergonomic so your ears won’t be fatigued quickly once you start listening to a podcast or playing your favourite Friday afternoon playlist. Simply put, they get the job done.
The sound is good. It’s not the dual-speaker setup that we find on the Nokia 6 from last year and its predecessor this year, the 6.1, but it’s loud, crisp and very clear. Most definitely, this won’t be the best sound you can find on a smartphone in 2018 since there’s a lot of room for improvement but it’s at least half-decent.
Being a Nokia, the 7 Plus is one of the few that come with out-of-the-box support for Faiba’s voice over LTE (VoLTE).
At 3,800mAh, the battery is not small. It’s big and for a reason. The battery constantly lasted me a full day and I have no qualms. If stock Android was as good with battery life as can be seen on customized Android builds from the likes of OPPO, Huawei and others, then we would be talking about excellent battery life here but that’s not really the case. The fast-charging is excellent.
- Impeccable design.
- Good camera though it could do better at night.
- Good display though it could be brighter outdoors.
- Timely and guaranteed updates… this device is part of those that are in the Android P beta for all it’s worth.
- Much as sound is good on the Nokia 7 Plus, I wish it had the same dual-speaker arrangement as the Nokia 6 or the more pricey offerings it is up against.
- There’s no notification LED. This is such a shame and quite a notable omission for a device of the 7 Plus’ profile. Since this is not about cutting corners (I have the feature on sub-Kshs 20,000 phones!) then what is it about?
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mobile devices and what I find impressive and maybe even almost beyond reproach is sure to be faulted by someone else but for me, the Nokia 7 Plus ticks all the boxes. The right boxes for that matter.
The Nokia 7 Plus manages to meet the high expectations I, and many others, have of anything that has the iconic Nokia logo slapped on its front or back. Impeccable design, up-to-standard performance, a camera one cannot easily pass up and, overall, every bit a solid offering. The only qualms I had at first were in the device’s pricing. I felt that it was a little on the higher side but using for a month has convinced me otherwise.
Just get your wallet out, close your eyes and go for it. Trust me, you won’t regret it. The competition, i.e. similarly-priced devices, has nothing on it. In fact, if anything, the Nokia 7 Plus’ competition is devices that are a step higher: at the flagship level. Like its elderly sibling the Nokia 8, last year’s hero device from HMD Global.
Sure, high-end smartphones do offer a good number of features that devices aimed at other market segments can only wish for but after using the Nokia 7 Plus, one is left asking whether it’s really worth it going for the more expensive Nokia 8 Sirocco, which is yet to officially go on sale locally, or even consider its predecessor, the Nokia 8 which is priced similarly to the 7 Plus at this moment.
You can go ahead and cough more for the phone of your dreams (if, at all, there’s such a thing) as long as you want to do just that and have the money but it’s not because there are no decent options that cost way less. The Nokia 7 Plus is one reason why you shouldn’t part with more money for a smartphone than its maker is asking for it. I know I wouldn’t… For as long as the Nokia 7 Plus remains relevant and my name is still missing on that list of NYS scandal beneficiaries. And if I have to go up the ladder then it would be for the camera and not anything else.