The latest addition to the smartphone market will arrive next month
Nokia 8 offers consumers the familiar rather than the spectacular
When the new Nokia 8 arrives next month, it will find itself in a marketplace saturated with products but surprising light in innovation. It is a peculiar time for mobile phone manufacturers who are experiencing something of a lull in their industry. Foldable flexible screens and new power sources may be touted for the future but, in the immediate here and now, manufacturers are looking for unique ways to make their hardware distinctive.
The result, it’s fair to say, has been a succession of novelties and the kind of functionality you never knew you wanted. For a while, Samsung tried hard to convince people that the curved displays were the future, but that was always the case of a manufacturer searching desperately for a real-world application for cool new tech. Whatever the popularity of its Edge devices, they never changed the industry. The same is true of fingerprint scanners and pulse monitors: neat and occasionally useful but not all that groundbreaking in the way, say, the move to the touchscreen was in the original iPhone. Near Field Communication was one of the few notable successes, especially once it made electronic payments possible, but, again, the “electronic wallet” only takes us so far in the search for the next big thing.
The logic, then, suggests that new phones should not be all that exciting. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. When technology plateaus, companies find time to perfect the state of the art and that’s what we might be looking at in the form of the new Nokia 8.
The specs are seemingly impressive, but also what you’d expect from a high-end phone in 2017. Performance should be there in the form of the Snapdragon 835 system on a chip, combined with a more-than-healthy 4 or 6 gigabytes of RAM, depending on the model. The heat produced by this kind of processing power is dissipated across the phone’s aluminium body by water-cooled heat pipes that we have already seen on previous Nokia phones. Externally, the phone follows the slim curvy design aesthetic that is now quite common. It means, at first glance, the Nokia 8 looks like many other phones out there but that is not a bad thing. This is about finding that sweet spot in current design as well as tech. Metrics about the 5.3-inch Gorilla Glass 5 screen (hardly the biggest) or the 7.9mm thickness (meaty compared to the competition) become, in a sense, less important than the refinements and it’s here that Nokia looks like it might be on to a winner.
For a start, Nokia has sensibly chosen to provide a stock Android 7.1.1 (Nougat) experience, promising a quick upgrade to 8.0 (which Google has codenamed “O”) when it arrives. That might sound uninspired, but the result should be a true Android experience, not compromised by the various skins, launchers, and other “bloatware”.
This emphasis on what the user experiences is commendable in an industry that too often tries to dictate how we use our gadgets. This is becoming one of the emergent trends of recent years. It’s certainly the kind of self-awareness that comes with maturity. Apple, for instance, has quietly gone about refining its hardware line by reducing functionality of its software. It has recently introduced ProMotion to its iPads, producing 120hz refresh rates that translate into smoother scrolling and increased responsiveness as users swipe, move, and otherwise interact with the interface.
In terms of the Nokia 8, the emphasis on the user experience produces a phone that looks to what the user wants and needs. There are, for example, two 13-megapixel cameras on the rear, with Carl Zeiss providing the lenses. This might seem like overkill but the second camera is designed to work in monochrome, giving improved results for users shooting in black and white. It’s not clear that users will find the phone’s much-touted #Bothie feature useful (combining images from front and rear cameras into a single side-by-side shot), but what is key here is that content producers will find a lot to like about the Nokia 8, not least the ability to stream live to Facebook or YouTube. This focus on content production explains why the audio is similarly high spec, with Nokia’s Ozo Audio using three microphones to capture 360- degree surround sound.
It surprised few when Microsoft sold Nokia to HMD Global in May 2016, given the company’s Windows Phone had made minimal impact.
The latest Nokia perhaps shows that Microsoft made the right choice.
Not because the phone is any sense bad, but because so much of it is simply familiar. Android is now a mature OS and deserves to be shown off with hardware that follows its improved design.