HMD’s latest Nokia smartphone—one that’s actually coming to the US—is the Nokia 7.1. For $ 349 you get a mid-range phone with a few flagship-style touches that you may or may not be a fan of, like a notched display and a glass back.
First up, the specs. For $ 349 you’re getting a Snapdragon 636 SoC, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 3060mAh battery. The display is a 5.8-inch, 2280×1080 LCD with a 19:9 aspect ratio, and, like many smartphones this year, there’s a big notch cut out of the top of the screen to make room for the 8MP front camera and earpiece. Unlike many smartphones this year, it comes with a headphone jack, and there’s also a USB-C port, a rear fingerprint reader, and a MicroSD slot. The rear camera setup has two 12MP sensors, with the second camera used for bokeh effects.
We were able to go hand-on with the phone for a few minutes earlier this week, and as usual the thing that stands out with HMD phones is the incredible build quality. The phone frame is extruded aluminum, and then there’s a “die-cast metal core” making it feel about as rigid as a solid block of metal. Why you would then take this durable design and glue a glass panel onto the back is beyond me, but that’s what HMD did. So now you get the downside of a fragile glass back without any kind of benefit like wireless charging. Just leaving the back metal would have been better.
HMD talked up the ability to convert normal video to “HDR,” but this is all displaying on a cheap LCD, so the pumped-up colors don’t make a huge difference. You still won’t get the blazing color of an OLED display, but the LCD does fine, considering the phone is only $ 350. At 71mm wide, it’s on the “small” end of the phone spectrum and close in size to a non-plus Galaxy S9 or iPhone XS. There is a “Nokia 7 Plus” device in some regions, but that’s not coming to the US.
The key with HMD/Nokia phones is always the price. The Nokia 7.1 seems like a great phone, because, especially in the US, there’s not much available at this price point. Most $ 350 phones are anonymous shovelware devices like the “LG Q7+,” which almost always come with terrible skins and zero software support. HMD is basically the only company with a thoughtful, well-supported lineup of phones at various price points. Like every other Nokia phone, the 7.1 will get two years of major Android updates and three years of monthly security updates. The Nokia 7.1 launches with Android 8.0 Oreo, but HMD promises an update to Android 9 Pie by the end of the month, which will make it one of the most up-to-date Android phones on the market.
Nokia is still doing an interesting two-tone design. The main body gets one color treatment, and then a chamfered edge with a different color treatment runs around the perimeter of the device, the buttons, and the camera bump. There are two of these color options: a dark blue phone with silver accents or a silver phone with copper accents.
The $ 349 Nokia 7.1 slots in as HMD’s highest-end Nokia phone in the US, above the $ 100 Nokia 2, the $ 160 Nokia 3.1, and the $ 269 Nokia 6.1. There are higher-end phones out there like the Nokia 8 Sirocco, but so far Nokia has opted to keep the US selection mid-to-low range. The combination of a low price, excellent build quality, and stock Android with decent support really sold me on the $ 269 Nokia 6.1, but it’s hard to be as enthusiastic about the 7.1 with the notch and glass back. It looks like the goal here is “flagship-style design without the flagship style price,” but that’s assuming you actually like 2018’s flagship design trends.
As usual you’ll need to be on a GSM carrier. Presales start October 5, with units shipping October 28.