“If the gods of technology have any sense of justice, they will let our Nokia return one day into our pockets.” And the gods really were just. The above quoted plea that Tomi Ahonen, a long term Nokia analyst that predicted the whole Nokia-Microsoft saga right, said after Microsoft acquired the historic Devices & Services business, perfectly summarized my feelings about the acquisition, because Nokia was the only company that really connected to people, alongside helping us connect one with the other. Now, Nokia is back on the market via an interesting scheme that includes Foxconn and HMD global, and down below, you can find our full review of the first smartphone of the „new“ Nokia, the Nokia 6.
The Nokia 6 is HMD’s first Nokia-branded Android smartphone that was announced for the Chinese market in January 2017 and was released the same month. A global version was announced at MWC2017 in February, and after keeping the fans and customers waiting for over 5 months, the 6 was finally available globally in July/August for an average price of €229.
The phone was designed to look and feel like a flagship, but with mid-range specifications and a competitive price tag, at least in terms of big brand smartphones, that Nokia surely was. Check the full specifications of the device down below.
Dimensions: 154 x 75.8 x 7.85mm (8.4mm with camera bump), 169g
Display: 5.5″ IPS LCD, 1920 x 1080, 403ppi
SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 430
CPU: 8 x Cortex A53 @ 1.4GHz
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, A-GPS, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, MicroUSB, FM Radio
OS: Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Camera: 16MP PDAF, 1080p, dual LED flash
Front camera: 8MP AF, 1080p
Other: Fingerprint sensor, Stereo speaker
Model number: TA-1033
·Design and build quality
·“Pure” Android with 24 months update guarantee
·Low(er) end SoC
·No notification LED or Glance screen or other way to notice notifications
·Sharp edges of the device
·No fast charging
Nokia 6 is HMD Global’s first Nokia-branded smartphone that was introduced in January 2017 for the Chinese market and in end February 2017 at MWC17 globally. The device was broadly available outside China since August 2017, and retails for an average global price of €229. For the precise price tag in your country, contact your nearest retailer.
The 6 comes in an aluminum unibody that has flagship-like build quality. The 5.5-inch FullHD screen is also above average for its price point, alongside with stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos technology that are among the best out there.
HMD’s first smartphone runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 platform, which handles everyday tasks very good, mostly thanks to “Pure Android” 7.1.1 Nougat HMD decided to use on its phone(s). The hardware also includes 3 or 4GB of RAM, and can handle games as well, but loading times and menu navigation can be problematic. The most famous titles, like Clash of Clans, Clash Royal, Candy Crash, etc., that are also best optimized, run well. HMD promised Android Oreo upgrade, and that’s one of the big advantages Nokia 6 has compared to the competition.
The camera of Nokia 6 scores an average result in its price segment, with good daylight photos and video recording. Low(er) light photos have more noise, and the flash tends to turn subjects yellow.
Battery life is also the average in the industry. The 6 will need a charge once per day, and the duration of full charge is a little longer than expected, 2 hours and 25 minutes. Phone calls made with the 6 sound great, as well as the signal reception.
HMD opted for somewhat unusual way of packaging their devices. From the first iPhone all the way to this moment, most manufacturers use compact, usually quite boring boxes with few exceptions. Nokia 6’s box is quite compact as others, but it comes with an interesting art style on the front. HMD remade the iconic “handshake” that was well known from older Nokia devices. The handshake on the 6’s box is more like two people holding hands, signalizing unity. The moto of HMD’s new line up is “Unite”, so no wonder they HMD is cleverly using the old Nokia symbol for contact (as in connecting people) to bring up some nostalgic feelings in “older” Nokia fans and to make the first impression better by providing a more beautiful box than what we usually find. But, after all, it’s just a box, the content is which matters (more).
On the sides, there are legal information printed as well as the “Nokia 6” name and a little Android robot. The back of the box is reserved for a picture of the device from all sides, as usual; and basic specifications and key features. Few things that stand out are “Aluminum” unibody, cleverly printed with the chemical symbol of Aluminum (“Al”); Qualcomm Snapdragon logo, Android logo and Dolby Atmos logo.
If we put it in the context of size of the device, the box is approximately the same height and 1.5x the width of the 6. First thing that is noticed when opening the box is of course the Nokia 6, and the all black front panel. The all black front cover has been since 2012 the trademark of all Nokia (Lumia) smartphones, and design-wise, maybe the most important feature HMD is not giving up on, and that’s fantastic for Nokia design fans.
Beneath the phone we find the little SIM/MicroSD tray ejector, and paperwork. On the other side, in a separate white box, we have the MicroUSB2.0 cable, wall adapter and headphones.
Design, Build Quality
The field in which Nokia was undoubtedly the “King” of the industry is design and build quality. Over the years, most innovative, ridicules, modern, and productive looking device were coming from Nokia’s workshop, ranging from the failed “taco phone” NGage to the probably most beautiful ever created – the N9. HMD’s most demanding goal with the 6 was to make a phone that will have the same quality that old Nokia was famous for. As a new player in the field that licensed the name (and technology) from Finnish Nokia, the stigma that the new Nokia phones will be just generic devices made in China with a Nokia sticker was alive and kicking, until HMD introduced the 6. Not to mention that HMD is based in Finland and most workers that work there have worked at Nokia.
Nokia 6 comes in an aluminum 6000 series unibody. HMD says that it takes 55 minutes to machine the 6’s housing from a solid aluminum block. After that the 6 receives 2 anodising processes taking over 10 hours, and being polished no less than 5 times.
It’s instantly noticeable when holding the device that HMD really did invest a lot in construction of the 6. The device feels solid, but the edges are somewhat sharp. The back and front of the device are lightly curved, which helps a little bit when holding the phone. In comparison to Nokia 5, the 6 feels more solid, but less comfortable in the hand, thanks to 5’s pillow like design. The sides of the 6 are somewhat sharp, and it’s noticeable after a longer usage of the device, but thanks to rounded corners the phone is comfortable in the hand when making calls.
On the front, we have the polarized 5.5-inch FullHD screen with a 70% screen to body ratio; two capacitive buttons around a fingerprint scanner that acts as the capacitive home button. Above the screen we have the earpiece, usual sensors, 8MP front facing camera with autofocus and the Nokia logo, classically placed in the upper right corner.
The fingerprint scanner works very well. It is easy to setup, scratch resistant and in less than a second unlocks the device. In everyday use, maybe 1 in 20 times the scanner doesn’t recognizes the fingerprint, but it has a lot to do in the way you set up the fingerprint first time. For this price class, the scanner is a good addition.
The device’s right side, as always, is clear, without any buttons, but we find the Hybrid SIM trail. On the left side, we have the volume rockers and the power button positioned quite high and near one other, so few days of getting used to is necessary, unless you use the fingerprint scanner for unlocking. The volume buttons and power button could have also been a little more elevated.
On top there is a 3.5mm headphone jack positioned approximately above the Nokia logo, and antenna lines. The same lines we find on the bottom of the device, but also a microphone, MicroUSB2.0 port and the dual-speakers that support Dolby Atmos. The 6 doesn’t use the front earpiece as a second speaker for stereo sound, but both speakers are located right one near another powered by TFA9891 amplifiers.
The back is reserved for the 16MP camera that is built in an elliptical(?) camera housing, also featuring LED dual-tone flash and a microphone above the camera. The camera housing stands out a bit (0.5 mm), and could cause the phone to move when using on a flat surface, especially by touching the ends of the display.
The rest of the back is clean, with the antenna lines ruining the picture a little bit. The reviewd device is the Silver variant, and it looks premium. The silver color tone changes noticeably with the change of lighting, thus ranging from almost golden tones inside to pure silver outside on the sunlight. It’s also prone to not much fingerprints, but it easily picks up dirt.
Without exaggeration, the device feels like a flagship when you hold it in the hand. For today’s flagship there is too much bezel, comparing it to offerings from Samsung and LG in the high class, but for a midrange device, it’s standard, maybe above average in terms of unused front estate.
It’s thin, robust, and steady, and it can’t be bend. For some it will be heavy, with the 169g. The 6 is also easily repairable, and thanks to JerryRigEverything we found out that HMD used a central metal plate to make sure the device can survive normal handling, and occasional falls that are part of this normal usage to every user. A fun fact is that Nokia 6’s codename was plate.
All in all, an amazing device in terms of build quality and design.
At the first glance, the Nokia 6 reminds us instantly of the Nokia heritage. The all black surface we saw on all Lumia devices is present on the 6, as well as on other HMD smartphones – the 3, 5 and 8. The device features a 5.5-inch LCD screen in FullHD (1920×1080, 403ppi) resolution, that is covered with a polarized layer, before known as ClearBlack. The polarized layer, alongside helping to create a seamless black surface, is there to increase the readability on direct sunlight. The 6’s LCD screen is capable of reaching 520cd/m2, even though the declared value is 450; and that’s a respectable result for an LCD screen on midrange device.
Under real life usage in direct sunlight, the readability is very good, if not excellent. HMD brags that the display is a “hybrid in-cell display”, basically meaning that the layers of the display are thinner and put more together, resulting in more precise color reproduction. There is no light bleed on the LCD screen, but in a dark room and under right angle the light can be seen around the power and volume buttons, at least on our review unit.
Hardware, Performance & Connectivity
Nokia 6 runs on the Snapdragon 430 platform, coupled with 3GB or 4GB (Chinese version and Arte Black) of RAM. The two years old SoC, that consists of 8 Cortex A53 cores with a clockspeed between 0.7 and 1.4GHz, is falling behind the rather high end housing and screen. HMD decided to invest more in those aspects, and use an older and lower end processor, which a lot of folks who want the best SoC for money won’t like.
The usage of a lower end Snapdragon platform is partially compensated by opting for Pure Android. Thanks to no bloatware, custom skins or modifications, the Nokia 6 runs smooth on low(er) end hardware. Sometimes there are some problems accidental app crashes (90% of which is Gmail for some reason), but it’s far from lagging or unstable. In contrary, I used the Chinese TA-1000 version for 4 months now and the performance has been overall good, especially for an average user and with turned off Google Assistant.
Gaming is also possible on the 6, but the performance will vary depending of the game. For example, Heartstone and TES Legends take some time to lead and the performance isn’t smooth every second of the gameplay. Asphalt 8 loads in acceptable time, but the navigation through the menus is hell on earth, thanks to so much ads and the weak SoC. The gameplay is smooth, though, but that’s because the game optimizes graphics setting for the hardware on board – that’s why Asphalt looks better (more animations, etc.) on higher end phones. Clash Royal and Clash of Clans run without any problems.
The good side of the aluminum housing is the minimum temperature rise during usage. The phone stays cool almost all the time, and the feeling of a cold aluminum phone in morning is one of the best things on the phone to me personally. Others could disagree.
Another hardware-related aspect of the phone that is really interesting are the speakers. HMD uses a stereo speaker with 2 TFA9891 amplifiers made by NXP, and with Dolby Atmos on board. Having a stereo speaker on a low to mid range device is an amazing thing, especially considering that much higher phones, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or HMD’s own Nokia 8, do not have that feature.
Dolby Atmos is a great addition and it enhances sound through phone’s speakers, headphones or external speakers. Words can’t describe what a video can, so take a look at a short video demo of Dolby Atmos down below.
From the connectivity technologies Nokia 6 has NFC, that works the same as on Lumia devices, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, LTE Cat. 4 (150/50MBps, test variant TA-1033) and also a MicroUSB2.0 port and 3.5mm headphone jack. From sensors we have: accelerometer (G-sensor), ambient light sensor, e-compass, hall sensor, fingerprint sensor, gyroscope, and proximity sensor. And let’s not forget the FM Radio.
The quality of the phone calls made with the Nokia 6 is great. The Dual SIM variant of the 6 supports max. 4G on the main nano-SIM and max. 3G on the second nano-SIM. Nokia 6 Dual SIM variant features a hybrid slot, meaning you can either put 2 SIMs or a SIM and MicroSD.
For some reason, HMD explained to us, the global variant of the Nokia 6 does not have a LED indicator for notifications. The phone relies solely on sound and vibration for notification delivery. Turning the screen on is a must thing to do to see if any new notifications arrived. Making an option like Glance Screen available on the 6 (and 5 and 3) would solve this problem, but at the moment there is none.
The software on the Nokia 6 could be described as a double-edged sword. HMD decided to use Pure Android in the 7.1.1 Nougat version, meaning that there is no bloatware on the device, apart from two apps HMD made – Nokia Support and Nokia Camera. The usage of Pure Android allows an smooth and simply experience that most people will like, and HMD can push updates much faster to such devices. All of HMD phones regularly receive software updates and no Android manufacturer can say that about their phones.
I wrote double-edged sword, because the lack of modifications and features other vendors regularly integrate to enhance the experience and stand out on the market, could be a negative thing for some. HMD’s phones don’t have a File Manager app, even though you can access files via settings. There is no custom-made Gallery or Music Player, but instead there are Google Photos and Google Music. The settings are also scares of extra features, it’s just pure Android. Most people will like it, because they will appreciate the simplicity, smoothness and software updates, but the poweruser segment will want more, and that group of customers could find the 6 a little limited. Of course, there is also the whole Google Play Store with apps that can do the job you need them to do, but a proprietary solution is almost always better. HMD also promised to unlock the bootloader so that powerusers can modify their device.
Few things Android 7.1.1 natively supports are multi-window, app shortcuts and the Google Assistant is there, too. Multi-windows, the option that lets you run two apps on the screen, works great on the 6, as well as app shortcuts, that are activated by a long press on an icon of an app that supports the feature.
One of the two apps I mentioned HMD made for their devices is Nokia Support. The app allows you to contact the support, see warranty, locate nearest Care Center, read guides, tips and access the Nokia Community Forum. About the camera app more will be said in the part about camera.
A huge thing about Nokia 6’s software side is the fact that the device will receive Android 8 Oreo by the end of the year.
In June this year, I bought a Nokia 6 TA-1000 from China and the device features different software compared to the global one. The global variant runs on Pure Android, as stated above – without any HMD additions apart from the camera and support app. The Chinese TA-1000 variant has it’s file manager app, music player, gallery, clock, dialer, contacts and more. The settings are also more feature rich, and there are more personalization options. As I was using both, the global and Chinese variant for the last 10 days, I can say that even though the Chinese variant has 1GB RAM more, the global Nokia 6 runs more smoothly. It’s not a big difference, but the Pure Android with Google Apps compared to the modified Android with custom apps works better. HMD personalized the Chinese variant mostly because of government regulations. Take a look at some UI screenshots from the Chinese variant down below.
If you want to download the official file manager app from the Nokia 6 TA-1000, you can do it by clicking here. Other apps like the gallery or music player cannot be installed on the global variant (at least we couldn’t do it), but if you Know a way to do it or want to try, you can find the APK’s here.
Nokia 6 comes with a 16MP back shooter, featuring an f/2 aperture and 1 micron pixel size. HMD also included Phase Detection Autofocus and a dual-LED flash. The front camera is 8MP with the same aperture, but larger, 1.12 micron pixels. The front shooter features autofocus and 84 degrees of camera angle.
The built-in camera app is, alongside Nokia Support, the only app HMD made exclusively for the device. The user interface is fairly clear and simple in the automatic mode. The options for switching cameras, turning on flash or accessing taken photos are easy to recognize and overall good positioned in the UI. The panorama, slow-motion and timelaps video recording options are also amazingly well implemented.
The big downside of the app are the manual controls. The way they are implemented in the UI is quite the opposite of the approach Nokia had in the Lumia Camera UI. To activate manual controls, you have to open settings and locate “Capture setting” and turn the manual controls on. It would be much more convenient to have a shortcut for manual settings directly in the main camera UI. But it’s not just the way you activate manual controls, it’s the controls themselves that are problematic, at least from the perspective of a former Nokia Lumia user. They are more like few predefined settings for the camera, then real manual controls like we had on Lumia Camera. Hopefully, now that HMD owns the right to the Nokia Lumia Camera UI, we will see an updated camera app.
The photo quality of Nokia 6’s shooter in daylight is very good, if not excellent. In most cases we have accurately produced colors wit good contrast and sharpness. Sometimes, under direct sunlight, colors fade a little bit. In low(er) light conditions, pictures do have a significant amount of noise. A lot of times the dual-LED flash will be needed, but the flash sometimes tend to leave the subjects yellowish. The HDR mode works well in terms of photo quality, but it is sometimes slow. The front shooter is of decent quality, and the screen can be used as flash.
The 6 is capable of recording 1080p videos with both cameras. The quality of the recorded video is pretty decent, with good details, sharpness and contrast. The shift in focus and exposure as camera moves is a little slower than expected. The absence of optical image stabilization is noticeable, but OIS isn’t really the feature expected on devices in the 6’s price point. Sound recording quality is OK, but we had problems with a review unit of the Nokia 6 that couldn’t record sound normally. We included videos made with the defected 6 down below, because the quality of the video is representative, it’s just the rear microphone that’s off. Our other Nokia 6 records sound normally and those recording are including down below as well.
All in all, the 6 features a solid camera for the average user. Social media post and reproduction quality on small screen will be handled great by the Nokia 6, but further inspection of the photo quality shows that the shooter isn’t for folks that want to do photography in a serious matter on their device. I personally expected a little more, because Nokia spoiled us with superior camera in every price range on Lumia devices. Hopefully the partnership with ZEISS and Nokia Technologies will help improve the imaging of new Nokia devices in every price segment, and not just high(er) end.
Note:Pictures (down)sized to FullHD (16:9) or 1200p (4:3) to conserve server space.
Check more pictures in full resolution on our Flickr profile.
Following videos are from the unit that doesn’t do sound recording right, but the quality of the video is representative.
The Nokia 6 has a 3000mAh battery, that will an average get you through a day. Depending on the usage, the autonomy could vary between 8 and 14 hours, with an average at 10-12 hours. In other words, at the end of a work day, approximately 20% of Nokia 6’s battery should be left. The standy time is excellent, with at most 1% gone during a night.
Charging, on the other hand, is a little problematic. The phone chargers from 0 to 80% in 75 minutes, but then it takes 70 minutes to charge from 80 to 100%. Summed, that’s 2 hours and 25 minutes – a lot by today’s standards. Most argue that for the longevity of the battery the optimum is to keep the battery loaded between 20% and 80%. HMD’s slowdown in charging after 80% could be to protect the health of the battery, but that could be better solved with fast charging for the first 50% of charging, but unfortunately there is none.
HMD had troubles in delivering their first phone to the global market, and because of that delay there is an argument that the 6 is outdated, hardware wise. I could partially agree, because the two-year-old Snapdragon 430 can’t stop ageing, but the promise of 2 years of updates, alongside with Android Oreo coming by the end of the year, keeps the Nokia 6 well alive.
The positive sides of the device are the build quality, screen, Pure Android and stereo speaker, with the negative being older Snapdragon 430, no notification LED, average camera and no fast charging. Is hard to give an overall conclusion, because market conditions are different in every country. In China and India the 6 faces a huge competition, where local players offer the same specifications for a lot of less money. In Europe, US, Australia and similar markets the 6 is more competitive, even though it could be higher priced, but there are still cheaper options with the same processor and number of GBs of RAM.
If your priorities on a device include build quality, stereo speakers, screen, software support and Pure Android, it’s hard to find a device at the €200 price point that would be better than the 6, but you settle for an average camera, battery life and performance, compared to other options. All in all, it’s a good device, if not great for an average user, and the folks that care more about the things I mentioned above, won’t regret buying a Nokia 6.