Nokia 6 review

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Before HMD Global unveiled the Nokia 8, the Nokia 6 was the highest spec’d smartphone from the company, a company which describes itself as a startup but that carries the strong legacy of the Nokia brand. It was one of the three Nokia-branded Android smartphones (along with the Nokia 3 and Nokia 5) first launched by the company.

The Nokia 6 is essentially a mid-range smartphone that aims to offer a great Android experience instead of competing on the specifications sheet. Since it was first unveiled at MWC 2017 in February – but only went on sale only in the second half of the year – the innards are a tad dated compared to what else is on the shelves at the moment.

Does the Nokia 6 deliver on its promise of a capable mid-ranger with a pure and up-to-date Android experience? Let’s find out!

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Design

Let’s get this out of the way: the Nokia 6 looks brilliant. It’s probably the best-looking Android smartphone in its price range– standing out in a sea of similar-looking smartphones. The design elements are even reminiscent of some devices in the Lumia portfolio from the Nokia of old.

It looks blocky since the edges are tapered, rather than curved. At 7.85 mm and weighing 169 grams, it’s not the slimmest or lightest phone out there, yet it looks very premium and feels solid when you hold it in your hand. Milled from a single piece of 6000 series aluminum, the Nokia 6 feels like it is built to last.

At the back, there’s the familiar vertical Nokia branding. The matte finish looks slick, and the smartphone doesn’t pick up fingerprints easily. The camera is placed in a chrome housing, and it protrudes slightly from the body. It doesn’t look bad, but it does make the phone wobble when placed on a flat surface.

Overall, the Nokia 6 looks like a very premium smartphone with a build quality that gives you confidence it can withstand the rigors of everyday use.

Display

The 5.5-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS LCD display on the Nokia 6 adds to the smartphone’s premium look and feel. There’s 2.5D curved glass on top with Corning Gorilla Glass protection.

There’s also a polarizer layer on the display that works like a filter to reduce the glare and reflections from the glass while improving the sunlight legibility. Even in harsh sunlight, brightness is adequate though and there’s no problem in using the phone outdoors.

The display offers decent brightness generally, and the color reproduction is great. The images and text look crisp, but the contrast is somewhat lower than I would’ve liked. The viewing angles are just fine though.

Performance

The Nokia 6 has a modest specifications sheet, especially compared to other smartphones in its price segment – and some in an even lower one. The Snapdragon 430 processor isn’t a workhorse, but it’s no slouch either. 3 GB RAM is good enough for most people, and the Nokia 6 powers through everyday tasks without slacking. In most cases, the Nokia 6 actually fared better than other phones powered by the Snapdragon 430 chipset.

However, if you push it a little, the phone’s limitations are apparent. There’s some lag while switching between apps when multitasking extensively. That said, the gaming performance is all okay and there’s no stutter while playing graphics-intensive games. They do take a few seconds extra to launch, though.

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There’s 32 GB of internal storage, which can be expanded up to 128 GB using a microSD card. That should work for most people, unless you are a multimedia hoarder and need a device with 64 GB of storage on-board.

The Nokia 6 packs in a unremarkable 3,000 mAh battery – I didn’t expect any special endurance from it, but the smartphone can easily last a full day and then some. The only downside here is that there’s no fast-charging, and the phone takes over two hours to go from zero to 100% battery.

The Nokia 6 sports Dolby Atmos sound enhancement that offers loud and clear audio. The difference is quite apparent if you turn it on or off and it’s actually pretty impressive.

One critical yet often ignored area where the Nokia 6 excels is latching on to cellular networks. Even in weak spots where some other phones struggled, the Nokia 6 would keep the network bars lit up.

Hardware

The home button on the front doubles up as a fingerprint scanner as well. While the fingerprint authentication works flawlessly, it is awkwardly placed towards the very bottom edge of the phone. It’s not a deal breaker, but it takes some time to get used to.

The Nokia 6 includes a hybrid tray, so you can either use two Nano SIMs, or one SIM and a microSD card. It uses micro-USB for charging instead of the new USB-C type port, which is a tad disappointing.

Camera

The Nokia 6 sports a 16 MP rear camera with 1.0µm pixel size and f/2.0 aperture, along with dual LED flash. As expected, it manages to take good photos in daylight with a high level of detail. The contrast is great, and the photos come out sharp. But the colors lack punch and are more muted than what I would have liked.

In low light conditions, the details suffer and the experience is below-par. In the absence of a light source, some of the shots would just come out black.

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With the phase-detection autofocus, the camera is quick to lock focus though it takes a while for images to be captured and saved. The 8 MP front-facing camera does a good job with selfies in good lighting conditions, but not so great in low light.

HDR mode is pretty dramatic and inconsistent, and photos take a while to process. The Panorma mode though is pretty good. The details are great, and stitching is flawless in most cases.

While the camera app is pretty basic, there are handy features like a level and a compass, along with a Manual mode that lets you configure metering mode, white balance, exposure, and so on.

The Nokia 6 records video at 1080p/30fps. It’s nothing exceptional, but the videos manage to capture pleasant contrast and vivid colors, which is a little odd considering colors in photos can be muted.

Overall, the Nokia 6 has a decent camera, but certainly not the best in the business in its price segment. My primary issue with the camera was the inconsistency in performance. As a Nokia offering, I was hoping for a better imaging experience. That said, the software updates during my experience with the device have definitely enhanced the camera performance.

Software

In its grand comeback, Nokia’s primary pitch focused on ‘pure and up-to-date’ Android. With Android 7.1.1. Nougat out of the box, the company promises regular and timely Android updates. And it looks like HMD Global is not slacking off, with updates coming through during my review period. The company has also promised the Android Oreo update for the entire Nokia lineup.

One note for the purists: there are custom icons on board. There are also a few pre-loaded apps such as Amazon and the entire suite of Google apps, including Photos, which is the default app for photos on Nokia 6. There’s Google Assistant too.

The phone allows you to perform actions with supported apps by simply long-pressing the icons for launcher shortcuts. As in Android Nougat, there’s a split-screen mode, although the two simultaneous apps can only open as two equal halves only, without the option to resize them.

Specifications

Display 5.5-inch IPS LCD
1920 x 1080 resolution
403 ppi
Processor Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430
GPU Adreno 505
RAM 3 GB
Internal Storage 32 GB
Expandable up to 128 GB with microSD card
Cameras Rear: 16 MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture, PDAF, dual-LED flash

Front: 8 MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture

Battery 3,000 mAh
Non-removable
Quick Charge 3.0
Software Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Dimensions and weight 154 x 75.8 x 7.9 mm
169 g

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

The Nokia 6 is a good enough device for a lot of people, but not for everyone.

The Nokia 6 is a conflicting device. There’s a lot to like about it, especially its premium design and solid build quality, but it’s only an average performer. It feels underpowered, especially for what many power users would expect. For those, there are better performing smartphones in the market available in the same price segment.

The camera is unfortunately pretty inconsistent too. I liked it initially, but some of the sample shots were disappointing.

At ₹14,999 ($231) in India, the Nokia 6 is a tad expensive for the internal components it packs. But the stylish and durable chassis with stock Android could be just fine for a lot of people, especially those that aren’t too fussed on high performance and premium photography. It’s a pity there are few misses here and there that keep this device from being the overall well-rounded package that one would’ve liked it to be.