In a special event at the ongoing Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the company announced its very first Android smartphones—three of them in fact: Nokia 6, Nokia 5 and the Nokia 3. They also announced a modern day reincarnation of the legendary (and heavily memed) Nokia 3310—“for fun,” they said. I foresee a lot of people going to buy it for the exact same reason.
The new Nokia phones are being developed by HMD Global, a Finnish company that Nokia has licensed the task to. However, Nokia assured its fans that they recognize the love for the Nokia brand over the years and promise to not let that down with HMD.
Other than the four phones, they showed us various other products being developed by Withings, a French-based company specializing in connected healthcare devices, which Nokia bought last year. Furthermore, all Withings products will now be sold under the Nokia brand.
The Nokia 6 has been available in the Chinese market since January but will be launched globally now along with the others. There will also be a special premium version of the phone called the “Black Arte Limited Edition” sporting a premium piano black finish along with slightly higher-end specs—64 GB of storage and 4 GB of RAM compared to 32 GB of storage and 3 GB of RAM on the regular version.
This is what Nokia known for, and they do deliver as you’d expect. The phones seem to have excellent design and build quality, especially considering their budget price points.
The 6 and the 5 both rock aluminum uni-bodies while the 3 feats an aluminum frame around a poly-carbonate back. Based on early reviewers, they look beautiful in person and feel solid in the hand.
The 6 and 5 both have fingerprint sensors on the front. All four phones use microUSB—no USB-C in 2017 is disheartening. Nokia chose to use a Snapdragon 430 on the 6—one that I feel seems pretty low grade for a phone of its price. Maybe real-life performance can prove otherwise. It’s too early to say now. The lower priced Nokia 5 also uses the same SoC.
The Nokia 6 boasts stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, which should make for some great speaker quality—a rarity even on flagships these days. The Nokia 5 and 3 on the other hand use a single-firing speaker for audio.
“Pure, secure, and up to date” is how Nokia describes it—and they really mean it. These phones run pure, stock Android 7.1.1 Nougat right out of the box, complete with the Google Assistant (oddly, the Nokia 3 runs 7.0). Nokia promises to deliver security updates monthly and new Android upgrades regularly as soon as they’re out. It’s not hard to believe since the primary reason for delays is manufacturers optimizing the new updates onto their own OS skin, which in this case is virtually non-existent.
Software is the part most Android enthusiasts were apprehensive about for Nokia’s first Android debut. I was afraid they might just turn it into another line of Galaxy phones because for some reason sometimes it just feels like bigger brands just can‘t directly add stock Android onto their devices without modifying it.
And as much as we Android enthusiasts hate it, we can’t completely blame manufacturers either—they do have a case for it. Phones with a close-to-stock Android experience have failed to secure a mainstream appeal while phones with gimmicky software features actually have. It is harder to market a device with plain Android than to market one with add features and skins to set themselves apart.
This is why this move by Nokia is actually very bold and risky. I’ve already seen people complaining how the new Nokia phones disappointed them because they are “boring” and have “no innovation.”
But here’s why it’s different in this case and why probably only Nokia can afford to take such a risk: the name—Nokia—it’s iconic. They don’t need anything unique or gimmicky to get people’s attention. They can just trust the much beloved name to market itself and sell and that’s probably exactly what they’re banking on. Kind of similar to how Google has been using the Google name so fiercely to sell its own Pixel phones with stock Android.
Nokia seems to have brought us some solid mid-range, stock Android phones—potentially filling the void left behind by the death of the Nexus line.