HMD Global on Wednesday announced the Nokia 8, the first high-end smartphone the Finnish company has released since it acquired the rights to the famed Nokia brand last year.
As earlier leaks suggested, the Nokia 8 has the usual slate of specs for a flagship phone in 2017:
- A Snapdragon 835 chip, the strongest Qualcomm currently offers
- 4 GB of RAM
- 64 GB of storage, with a microSD slot for more space
- A 5.3-inch display with a sharp 2,560 x 1,440 resolution
- A decently-sized 3,090 mAh battery, with support for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging standard
- A pair of 13-megapixel cameras on the back — one has a RGB colour sensor, the other has a monochrome sensor — with another 13-megapixel camera on the front
Unfortunately for American buyers anticipating another competitor in the Android market, HMD says it isn’t planning to release the Nokia 8 in the US anytime soon. An HMD representative said penetrating the US market is a “long-term ambition” for the eight-month-old company, but that it isn’t equipped to compete there with a high-end phone just yet. To date, the company has only released one phone with the Nokia branding Stateside: the Nokia 6, a budget-level device that is sold exclusively through Amazon.
For other markets around the world, the device will cost €599 and start rolling out in early September.
In any case, Nokia 8’s design isn’t likely to turn heads: It’s clean and entirely coated in aluminium, but it’s not particularly thin or light, and HMD says it’s only “splashproof,” not water-resistant. It also has big borders around its display at a time where more and more of its peers are maximizing screen space.
The phone may appeal to hardcore Android fans, though: Like the other Nokia-branded phones HMD has released in recent months, the Nokia 8 runs a virtually untouched version of Android 7.1.1.
Since there’s less superfluous software in the way, HMD is promising stronger performance and faster updates than most of its peers. (A company representative said an update to the forthcoming Android O release is currently “well into development.”) It’s too soon to say how true those claims will be, but HMD has generally done well to keep its other recent phones up-to-date with Google’s monthly security patches.
The big grabby feature HMD is touting with the Nokia 8 is a camera trick called “Dual-Sight.” In short, the idea is to let you livestream video from both the front and rear cameras simultaneously. HMD says you can stream this kind of split-screen video Facebook or YouTube natively from the camera app itself. The company is branding these kind of videos as “bothies” (a variant of “selfie”).
That’s unfortunate, but the idea is clever, and HMD says it has boosted the Nokia 8’s mics and antenna system to make the phone better handle the workload of continuous livestreaming. Still, the feature will likely have little appeal to those who aren’t regularly streaming their day-to-day lives.
Perhaps the most relevant thing about the Nokia 8, though, is the fact that it has “Nokia” in its name. HMD, which is partially led by past execs from the former mobile phone giant, acquired the rights to use the Nokia name on its phones last year. It has steadily released a number of smartphones and feature phones in the months since, all of which are aimed at the more affordable end of the market.
Nokia, for the record, is still a multibillion dollar company; it’s just left the consumer phone business after a failed partnership-turned-acquistion with Microsoft and the rise of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android platform. As a result, there hasn’t been a top-tier smartphone bearing the Nokia name since 2014.
An HMD representative said its new Nokia phones have been selling “in the millions,” but the Nokia 8 represents its first real stab at the premium market. The device should be strong enough to compete with other high-end peers, and it’s more affordable than devices like the Samsung Galaxy S8. But whether a few livestreaming tricks and a nostalgic name are enough to win over those with deeper pockets remains to be seen.