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Nokia 6 (2018) Review - Twenty-Four Carat Android

Nokia is the Phoenix of smartphone manufacturers, as the company managed to survive the Microsoft apocalypse and reborn from its own ashes to now become one of the most popular players in the Android ecosystem.

And while its devices are getting better with every generation, the one thing that propels Nokia to a great future is its loyal customer base, which has been there even during the hard times that the brand went through under Microsoft’s umbrella.

Now that Nokia is back in business, the company can concentrate more on things that allow it to build its own future, including on devices that evolve from one generation to another to eventually bring to the market a very compelling feature package at unrivaled prices.

Such an example is the 2018 edition of the Nokia 6, or as the Finish firm itself calls it, the Nokia 6.1. This is a second-generation model which sports more muscle than its predecessor and whose purpose is to deliver the core Android experience packed into a smartphone that comes with a price supposed to convince you to get past pretty much any compromise.

Nokia 6 (2018) camera
The design of the Nokia 6 is by no means exquisite. It’s no iPhone X, that’s for sure, but it’s the kind of bulky smartphone that kind of grows on you. And furthermore, from certain angles, it reminds of something that also surrendered to Microsoft’s wrath: the Nokia 930, another boxy flagship running Windows Phone which at one point represented the elite of this mobile operating system.

While this could easily be a subjective description, I do like the way the Nokia 6 looks like, despite it clearly not matching the trends set by the more expensive iPhone or Samsung models. Yet, this design approach comes with its own set of strong points.

First, the body is made from 6000-series aluminum, which means that as compared to an iPhone, it won’t shatter into pieces the moment you drop it to the ground. Obviously, it will eventually break as well, but its rectangular and sturdy body shows that the Nokia 6 is built to last. Not the Nokia 3310 built to last, but without a doubt in a way that today’s glass-made phones can’t match.

In some aspects, the Nokia 6 is built like a rock. It tips the scales at 172 grams, so you might think twice before going bungee jumping with it because you might never go up again, and it measures 148.8 x 75.8 x 8.6mm, which for a phone with a 5.5-inch screen is living proof that Nokia wasn’t really interested in today’s design trends, like edge-to-edge panels. Bezels are there, and they’re kind of huge, with the bottom chin serving basically no purpose, as the fingerprint sensor is placed on the back.

“CLASSIC DESIGN APPROACH WITH HUGE BEZELS.”

While it might seem like an odd design choice, it all comes down to the price. Nokia just couldn’t build this phone like a flagship, first of all, because it is not. It’s a mid-ranger that’s supposed to offer more than its rivals, and at this price, finding something that looks as good as Galaxy S9 and delivers the same high quality as the Nokia 6 is quite a challenge. Unless you want to go for a Chinese phone, of course.

The back of the phone is what sets it apart. Nokia uses accent colors for the camera bump and the fingerprint sensor, and to be honest, this little touch looks unbelievably good. My review unit was orange, which is also my favorite color, and when used on a black case, everything seems to blend together quite nicely.

The fingerprint sensor is placed under the vertical camera bump, but it’s a little too close to the flash, so you might find yourself touching the flash on several occasions. For me, that’s not quite a big issue since I rarely use the flash for taking photos, but this doen't make the problem go away.

I’ve seen many people complaining about the grip that this aluminum body gives to the Nokia 6, and to be honest, I now see what they mean. The device feels excellent in hand thanks to its rectangular shape, much better than my Galaxy S8 really, but on the other hand, it’s indeed super-slippery to the point where it’s extremely easy to drop it. It could also slide out of a pocket in a second, so it might not be a good idea to go for a run unless you securely hold it in place.

Nokia 6 (2018) fingerprint sensor
Nokia 6 was built from the very beginning to be a mid-ranger that offers the pure Android experience without the bloatware that you typically get when buying a phone from pretty much any other OEM except for Google. Therefore, the device is powered by Android One, which is the effort that Google announced back in 2014 for budget phones.

Android One, however, has evolved, and is now the best choice for Android phone manufacturers who’re willing to stick with the core OS experience and deliver timely updates (heard that, Samsung?). Nokia 6 is already running Android 8.1 and gets monthly security updates nearly at the same time as Google’s own Pixel series. This is something that security fanatics like me will certainly love.

The stock Android Oreo runs on a Snapdragon 630 processor paired with 3GB RAM and a maximum of 64GB storage. Of course, the SDM630 chip sets things straight from the very beginning and signals that this isn’t a high-end phone, but I promise you won’t be disappointed with its performance. Clocked at 2.2 GHz, the CPU is up to most typical tasks, though it shows its limits if you’re a heavy gamer. Playing super-high-resolution videos could also be a challenge given the Adreno 508 chip, and this struggle will most often reflect in the battery life, which drops significantly when doing this.

In the last few days, I’ve seen many people complaining about the performance of the Nokia 6, and most of the criticism was aimed at the rather buggy experience and crashes that occasionally occur when launching demanding tasks. While I haven’t seen such a behavior on my review unit, though slowdowns absolutely happen in such conditions, it’s important to always have in mind the purpose of this phone. It’s not the flagship of flagships, and even though it can do most of the things that your one thousand dollar phone can do, it needs a bit more time to complete the task.

“NO-NOTCH DISPLAY, GORILLA GLASS 3.”

The one thing that left me with mixed feelings is the display. The 5.5-inch no-notch IPS LCD screen comes with a 73.2% screen-to-body ratio and 16:9 ratio, so it’s pretty clear that Nokia had absolutely no intention to be one of the cool kids, and left all the new design trends behind. The 1080x1920 pixels resolution and 403 ppi both match the expectations for a mid-ranger, and I’d say the way Nokia optimized the display deserves all the praises.

The screen is very responsive to touch and it features vivid colors with pretty good contrast, though it leaves a lot to be desired in direct sunlight.

On the other hand, protection is ensured by Gorilla Glass 3, which is strong enough to resist typical scratches, but obviously not as advanced as the more recent generations. This is clearly a decision that Nokia has made in an attempt to keep the price down, so I’d recommend you to be extra careful with the front side of the phone, not necessarily not to drop it, but when holding it face down. Also, not carrying it in the same pocket with your keys should be the modus operandi for all Nokia 6 users.

In pure Nokia style, the device features Zeiss optics on a 16-megapixel camera with f/2.0 and 1.0um sensor size. There’s dual-LED dual-tone flash, face detection, and the typical feature arsenal like HDR support, and touch focus.

Nokia 6 (2018) camera sample
Nokia 6 (2018) camera sampleNokia 6 (2018) camera sampleNokia 6 (2018) camera sample
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Nokia sticking with the classics means you won’t be getting a dual- or triple-camera system, and since it’s a mid-ranger we’re talking about here, this is quite alright. Nokia 6 isn’t trying to lie to you. It doesn’t promise to replace your DSRL, but it won’t disappoint either, though it all depends on the lighting conditions around.

This is pretty much the typical behavior of phones that are aiming for premium quality, but whose performance is dragged down by the cost factor. Cameras are generally decent, but the moment you step in a darker environment, they have a hard time taking a photo, to say the least.

Nokia 6 makes no exception. The one thing that I instantly spotted was the slow focus, which at certain times takes longer than you actually afford to wait. If you’re a cat person, you certainly know how critical fast focus is, and Nokia 6 might not be up to the task every time. Its limited sensor of course leads to overexposed areas when it doesn’t properly adjust the white balance, and in low light, there’s a painful amount of noise covering your photos.

Colors are generally good and the contrast settings are average, though if you’re a heavy shooter, I’d recommend downloading an app like Snapseed for some manual post-processing and further refinements because you’ll definitely going to need them.

“CAMERA IS JUST AVERAGE.”

Overall, Nokia 6 doesn’t excel in terms of camera performance, but it’s not entirely disappointing either. As long as there’s proper lighting around, it can take beautiful shots, so if you don’t mind carrying a professional lighting kit with you wherever you go, Nokia 6 could be surprising.

One of the things I like the most about the new Nokia is that the company truly listens to feedback. And honestly, this is the only way to go for a company that nearly went dark entirely.

The revised version of Nokia 6 comes with several improvements over its predecessor, and includes features that you won’t find on its rivals. For instance, there’s fast battery charging, which is definitely a nice touch given today’s phone market. The original model lacked this functionality and at some level, it was one of the factors that pushed potential customers to Samsung phones with wireless charging.

But Nokia 6.1 does feature fast charging and it can go from 0 to 50% in just 30 minutes. Nokia also replaced the micro USB port with USB Type-C, and charging supports up to 18W chargers.



Nokia 6 (2018) branding
The 3000 mAh battery, however, won’t last for more than one day. Obviously, it’s not even supposed to since most of us recharge our phones every day or during the night, but for me, it was quite a challenge to get more than 18 hours per charge. While I admit that at some points I’m a heavy user, I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen in the case of users who spend most of the time chatting, posting pics on Instagram, and browsing. This is why fast charging is such an essential feature addition.

There are smaller touches here and there that make the Nokia 6 a much better choice than the other mid-rangers on the market. For instance, you also get NFC, microSD card support, a headphone jack (yes!) even though its position at the top of the phone isn’t quite my cup of tea in terms of ergonomics, and even FM radio with RDS.

But the best of all is without a doubt Android One. Many power users who want to enjoy the full Android freedom typically choose Google's Pixel lineup of phones simply because it comes with the core operating system without any changes, custom ROMs, or modifications that would eventually alter the experience.

For someone who wants pure Android, this is without a doubt excellent news, as the majority of OEMs prefer to install their own ROMs on top of the operating system for what they describe as improved usability. Nokia, however, has ignored this strategy and instead went for Android One, which means you won't be getting any bloatware, but Google's very own clean version of Android.

And what's more, it also means that you'll be receiving updates faster than in the case of devices costing twice more, such as Samsung's flagships. Very often, Samsung is painfully slow when it comes to shipping monthly security updates to its devices, so with Android One, Nokia solves this problem and guarantees that not a single patch would be skipped. During my time with the Nokia 6, I got not only the Android 8.1 update, which isn't yet available for my daily driver Samsung Galaxy S8, but also the May security update, which, again, is nowhere to be seen on my S8.

The Good
Nokia 6 is one of the best mid-rangers that money can buy right now, and it certainly shows that a brand which was once again at the top of the phone industry can deliver a little bit more than low-cost models.

By going for stock Android, Nokia has made the best choice for hardcore Android fans, as the company can not only offer bloatware-free experience but also guarantee updates and security patches faster than most of the industry.

Nokia 6 is an honest device that's not trying to impress with high-end features that you don't need. It has a decent camera, a sturdy construction, and an average display that serves its purpose well.

You also get goodies that bring it a bit closer to the premium market, like fast charging and NFC, so you certainly won't feel ashamed for showing up with a Nokia 6 when going out with your friends.
The Bad
There are two things that I'd like to see improved on the Nokia 6: the camera and the battery life.

The phone's camera shows its limits nearly every time, and the most painful experience was when trying to focus on objects in motion. Imagine you're trying to take a photo of your kid or cat, and the phone simply struggles to maintain the focus point and needs a couple of seconds to actually capture the moment.

Everything ends up quite blurry and, depending on lighting conditions, with a certain amount of noise. For better pics, you need static subjects and perfect light, which is nearly impossible to get every time.

Battery life is far from impressive, and although the Nokia 6 could get you throughout the day, you might find yourself charging the device more often than you expect. The fast charging system is a Godsend given all of these.
Conclusion
If I were to purchase a mid-range Android device, there's no doubt that the Nokia 6 would be among the models ranked highest.

While this is a subjective choice because I'm not a big fan of phones coming with custom ROMs, bloatware, and other apps that OEMs think I need but which I don't, I believe the Nokia 6 comes with a very compelling feature package that puts the core Android experience on the first place.

When buying the Nokia 6, it's very important to keep in mind that this isn't supposed to be a flagship, but an all-rounder which won't let you down. In fact, it won't let you down if you know exactly what to expect because, in the end, you still have to adjust your usage habits to the way it works. The camera is far from perfect, the battery life should be better, and the grip isn't the best, but you should be able to get used to all of these quite fast.

Nokia 6 is for me the living proof that the Nokia brand is on the right track here and sooner or later it might become one of the top brands in the Android ecosystem. Of course, it doesn't have the financial power of Samsung or Huawei, but with devices like this, its user base can only increase.
Nokia 6 (2018) Review - Twenty-Four Carat Android Reviewed by Kelechi O on 00:16 Rating: 5

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