Nokia 8 Review: The Verdict
The Nokia 8 is an impeccably made but uninteresting Android flagship. Its unique features will only apply to a niche audience, while an inconsistent camera and tight battery life are sure to be red flags for others. The Nokia 8 is fine, but it doesn't do enough to standout from either cheaper or more expensive smartphones.
What we love
- Great build quality and display
- Fast performance
- Pure version of Android with regular updates
What could be improved
- Camera can be inconsistent
- Battery life is tight
- No water resistance
What is it?
The Nokia 8 is Nokia's first Android flagship smartphone. Rather than entering the world of Android guns-blazing, Nokia opted to start with a number of lower-end phones, but it's now ready to show us what it can do with a top of the line device.
While the Nokia 8 might be a flagship phone, it’s not quite going toe-to-toe with the latest from Apple and Samsung in terms of price, retailing for $899 outright.
Key specifications for the Nokia 8 include a 5.3-inch Quad HD display, a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, IP54 splash resistance, three 13MP cameras (two on the back, one on the front), and a 3090mAh battery.
The Nokia 8 builds on the brand's legacy for solid design; it looks like a generic smartphone, but it feels fantastic. Heavily pillowed edges give the phone a small, slender feel, while the aluminium build has a reassuring heft to it.
I would have liked to see slightly smaller top and bottom bezels; the Nokia 8 has the largest "chin" I've seen on a high-end device lately. Nokia's use of a somewhat unconventional 5.3-inch screen does however mean the phone never feels excessively large.
While the size is a little unusual, the Nokia 8's display is top-tier. It's sharp, vibrant, and bright enough to use in sunlight with any issue.
The Nokia 8 is powered by the increasingly common Snapdragon 835 processor, which is the top dog when it comes to smartphone chipsets and bloody fast. We've found a noticeable improvement over last year's processors; most day to day tasks feel just a little bit faster. You're only saving a couple of seconds here and there, but if you're coming from a phone that's two or three years old, the difference could be much more pronounced.
As with Nokia's other Android smartphones, the Nokia 8 runs a "pure" version of Android free from bloatware, system modifications, and preinstalled third party apps. More importantly, Nokia has committed to giving all of its new phones two years of software and security updates on Google's monthly release schedule. While this is more impressive on Nokia's cheaper devices (where some commitments are almost unheard of), it's still nice to have that assurance on the high-end.
What's not so good?
Despite a rekindled partnership with German lens manufacturer Carl Zeiss, the Nokia 8's camera is an unfortunate Achille's heel. It's possible to take great photos with the Nokia 8, but you can't do so reliably. Shutter lag and slow autofocus seem to key culprits, and can result in flubbed shots even in optimal lightning conditions. Motion only makes matters worse; I found it almost impossible to get a good photo of a dog. Even the smallest of movements would result in blur.
Shooting still subjects has it problems too; they're not explicitly blurry unless you view them at 100%, but photos won't look crisp unless you manage to perfectly nail the shot. This is achievable, but I found I rarely got my desired result in one take.
Better lighting did result in better photos, but didn’t universally address the Nokia 8's camera problems.
While the Nokia 8 runs a "pure" version of Android, there are some slight changes to the camera app, mostly to do with the phone's three 13MP cameras. When shooting with the rear-facing cameras, you can opt to use just the monochrome lens for a black and white photo. You're also able to use the both rear-facing cameras in conjunction to simulated shallow depth of field in a portrait mode that works alright.
One unique twist is the ability to shoot photo or video using the both front-facing and rear-facing camera at the same time, to take what Nokia refers to as a "bothie" or dual-sight mode.. Framing and focus can be a bit tricky, given that you're dealing with two completely independent cameras that will move in inverse directions when you reposition the phone.
I also feel like I'm too old to be to the target market for this feature, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I genuinely have no interest in seeing my face in photos I'm taking of things that aren't my face; thanks for reminding me how tired I look, bothie.
If you're so inclined, you're able to live stream video directly to Facebook or YouTube through the Nokia 8's camera app. The experience really isn't too different to what you'd get from the respective apps, although it does appear to be the only way to broadcast using the bothie camera configuration at the moment.
Battery life is the other potential area of concern; you'll get a day of usage out of Nokia 8, but just barely. I found I was getting down to around 10% around the end of a fairly standard day. If you're a heavier user, you might find yourself needing an afternoon top up.
The Nokia 8 has some splash resistance, but isn't water-resistant. The IP54 rating means the phone is certified against splashes, but not against pressurised jets or accidental submersion. This isn't shocking at the price-point, but similarly priced devices such as the HTC U11 and the Sony Xperia XZ are now offering IP67 and IP68 water-resistance at under $1,000.
Who is it for?
"Who is the Nokia 8 for" is actually a bit of a tricky question. The Nokia 8 is a good phone with fantastic fit and finish and a reasonable price tag, but it almost feels like the only real point of difference is the Nokia brand name.
The camera is too inconsistent to be a real selling point, battery life is fine but not amazing, and features like the "bothie" will only appeal to a very niche market.
A phone doesn't have to be interesting to be good, but it has to nail the essentials. The Nokia 8 comes close, but given that camera and battery life are two of the key features we tend to look for in smartphones, it doesn't quite hit the mark.
In some ways, you could look at the Nokia 8 as a cheaper alternative to the Google Pixel. It has the same kind of premium build, it runs stock Android, its fast, and it gets software updates on time.
If you're not too fussed about taking photos with your phone, and just want a fast, reliable stock Android phone for under $1,000, the Nokia 8 could very well be the device for you. Just be aware of the compromises.
What else can I buy?
Huawei's P10 technically retails for same price as the Nokia 8 (although Vodafone is now selling it for $200 less) and offers similar functionality in a smaller package. The P10's key strengths include a more reliable camera and a stronger battery life, while the heavily customised take on Android may put some off. The P10 has a splash-resistant nano-coating, but no official IP certification.
Spending $100 more gets you HTC's stunning U11, which is one of our favourite Android flagships on the market. The camera is one of the very best that money can buy right now, and you also get the IP67 water-resistance. The U11 does however run HTC's lightly customised take on Android rather than a pure take like Nokia.
Moto Z2 Play
Retailing for $699, the Moto Z2 Play is a solid midrange phone with an excellent battery life, a clean take on Android, and a decent camera. Even if you're not interested in the Moto Mods ecosystem the Moto Z2 Play still represents good value for money.