As has been a tradition over the last 2 years, HMD Global, the global custodian of the Nokia brand, took to the ongoing Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain, to show the world what it has in store for 2019.
As has been the case since 2017, it didn’t disappoint.
Well, for the most part. Fans of the tradition it had cultivated of reviving a vintage device every year at the same venue will be left a little disappointed that nothing of the sort happened this year. There was the revival of the venerable Nokia 3310 in 2017. Then the Nokia 8110, dubbed “banana phone”, made a comeback last year.
While both devices did make it on sale in Kenya, as I found out when I took the 3310 for a spin, the said devices were more for the nostalgic appeal and to rekindle all the fond memories we have of the Nokia brand than anything substantial when used as the devices they really are. So, for many of us, it really doesn’t make a difference if they are there or they are not. Plus, anyway, they have outlived their usefulness. Everyone who needs to know now knows that Nokia is back and they mean business.
At MWC 2019, that business involved releasing sequels to devices HMD Global unveiled last year which themselves were also successors of others from the first generation lineup introduced back in 2017.
Nokia 1 Plus
The Nokia 1, released at MWC 2018, has run its course and, like every faithful serviceperson, it’s time is up and it is getting retired. The Nokia 1 Plus picks up from where HMD Global’s most affordable smartphone to date, leaves.
While many from the West are falling over themselves saying how the name is bound to create some confusion since there’s another smartphone brand called OnePlus, that’s unlikely to be a problem to the Kenyan buyer it targets. The latter has almost zero brand recognition locally and, for what it’s worth, it makes sense that a successor to a well-known device has a “Plus” name added to indicate both continuity and an upgrade.
Like the Nokia 1, the Nokia 1 Plus is an Android Go smartphone through and through – it packs just 1 GB memory and has an internal storage capacity of just 8 gigabytes meaning that there’s very little left when the system is taken care of.
The Nokia 1 Plus goes down in history as the first smartphone from HMD Global to ship with the Go edition of Android 9 Pie. The recent update to the Nokia 2.1 prevents it from becoming the first to showcase the same software.
Other features of the device include an updated design, a much bigger display (bumped up to 5.45 inches from 4.5) with an 18:9 aspect ratio, better cameras (8MP on the back and 5MP on the front) and a slightly bigger battery that, combined with the battery-saving features of Android Pie, should bring good news to users (its predecessor wasn’t the best in this regard).
While we are yet to know how the device will be priced locally, its global pricing is $99 – just under Kshs 10,000.
If it matters to you, this is the only Nokia device announced so far this year without that dreaded cutout at the top to satisfy our unquenchable thirst for “all-screen” smartphones: a notch.
I am currently reviewing the Nokia 3.1 Plus – look out for a review soon – and if there ever is to be a successor to that device then this is it.
The scales are even tipped heavily in the 3.2’s favour when the old Nokia 3.1 is used to ascertain its merit. It has a bigger display than the Nokia 3.1 from last year. Like the Nokia 4.2 (see below), it also has a notification light operating from the power button as well as a minimal “teardrop” notch. It has the same memory and configurations as its superior sibling but gets its performance tails cut a bit by the presence of the Snapdragon 429.
Its mammoth 4,000mAh battery and the 3-year guaranteed support from HMD Global in the form of security updates means that anyone willing to part with between Kshs 14,000 and 17,000 for either variant will be getting real value for their money.
I don’t remember there ever being a Nokia 4 smartphone so colour me surprised when I heard that HMD Global had announced a Nokia 4.2 at its MWC event. A name with 4.2 doesn’t exactly indicate a fresh start as one would expect but where’s the continuity when there was no Nokia 4 and 4.1?
Anyway, what’s important is that anyone looking to get a “premium” experience when compared to what HMD Global is offering on the Nokia 3.2 then the Nokia 4.2 will be their natural port of call thanks to the device’s glass front and back.
Like the Nokia 3.2, the 4.2 also becomes among the first Nokia devices to ship with a dedicated button for the Google Assistant (those new LG budget smartphones are in trouble).
Still sticking with buttons, the Nokia 4.2 has the LED notification built into the power button. How cool is that? Just when you thought that we had seen the last of device makers going out of their way to deliver notifications in the most interesting way like Sony, Oppo and Tecno have done in the past. It’s even more impressive when a company is able to pull such off without heavily modifying Android.
HMD Global has a history of using the camera, perhaps as a means of reminding us that we are dealing with Nokia, as means of differentiation given that it offers what is pretty much a stock Android experience. In the Nokia 4.2, that comes in the form of a bokeh mode built into the camera that is expected to make all those objects one captures stand out.
Other features of the Nokia include a Snapdragon 439 chipset, a combination of either 2 or 3GB memory variants coupled with 16 or 32GB onboard storage respectively, a dual-camera sensor that features a depth-sensing lens (13+2MP) and a 3,000mAh battery.
Pricing starts at just under Kshs 17,000 globally for the base model (2GB RAM + 16GB onboard storage) and Kshs 20,000 for the other variant.
Nokia 9 PureView
MWC 2018 had the Nokia 8 Sirocco. MWC 2019 has the Nokia 9 PureView.
In the run-up to HMD Global’s event at MWC, the Nokia 9 PureView was perhaps the most widely leaked, discussed and anticipated Nokia smartphone. We have heard for months on end of its existence.
With nothing confirmed, obviously, it was quite refreshing to see a name (PureView) that evokes so many memories of the highs of Nokia Mobile in its past life pop up once again and, this time, under the Android fold. Previously, that had happened on the Symbian platform with the 808 PureView and Windows Phone with the Lumia 1020, what I consider to be the best experience I have ever had on a camera phone.
Did the Nokia 9 PureView live up to the hype?
It is hard to tell at this point when I have not even seen the device in person let alone handled it. What I know, though, is that as someone with trypophobia (Google it), you don’t want to know what immediately comes to mind when I see that penta-camera arrangement on the back.
What you need to know at this point, though, is that this is the best device from HMD Global, yet, and, as such, its automatic 2019 flagship smartphone. The Finnish company does a good job of not over-emphasising its flagship devices – the Nokia 8 in 2017 and the Nokia 8 Sirocco last year – but, rather, being very strategic with each market and that is what we may see here.
As such, much as there are demo units of the device in the country, I’ll have to await official confirmation of its local availability before jumping to any conclusions. Last year, HMD Global sidestepped the Nokia 8 Sirocco for the impressive bang for buck Nokia 7.1 Plus when it came to headlining its local device lineup.
Still, for anyone looking to pick up the best that HMD Global has to offer, the Nokia 9 PureView sure does pack a punch. Its QHD+ panel is just a hair shy of clocking the 6-inch mark. Its 5-camera arrangement sees 2 colour cameras complemented by a trio of monochrome counterparts for some of the best mobile photography out there, according to its makers, claims that will need to be verified. Being the device at the head of the Nokia table means that it is the only one on this list with novelties like wireless charging, a USB Type-C port and IP67 certification.
Like its two predecessors, it disappoints by not arriving with the most recent offering from Qualcomm’s lineup of high-end processors as one is likely to find on flagship devices from other brands. What differentiates it from those other devices, though, is that it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. At a recommended retail price of a few shillings shy of Kshs 70,000 in the global market, OnePlus will have a much harder time dealing with it than worrying about the encroachment of its name by a forgettable Nokia 9 PureView sibling like the Nokia 1 Plus.
What’s interesting about all the 4 smartphones above, besides their specific features is that they are all under the Android One programme, just like all other Nokia smartphones announced between last year’s MWC and this year’s.
Even better, unlike other devices we have seen highly hyped and unveiled in Catalonia over the last few days, you can count on HMD Global to bring these devices to the Kenyan market in a few weeks. Those foldable devices? Those 5G smartphones? They’re cool and all but, for now, it’s these Nokias that you will be seeing here this year. We can’t wait to review most, if not all, of them.