With impressive hardware abound these days, with thinner and thinner bezels and outstanding camera options, the smartphone world is becoming more exciting than ever before. The leaked information regarding the upcoming iPhone looks almost as drool-worthy as the new Android devices being launched. If anyone really fancied making a dent in this area they really have to “bring it” as they say.
Nokia, unfortunately, isn’t “bringing it” but I have to add “yet” because we know that this is just the beginning of things for the Finnish smartphone partners Nokia and HMD Global.
In fact, while people are not exactly swooning over the latest handset from them (the Nokia 8), things do look as if they have some potential, even if the current devices aren’t mind blowing. The Nokia 8 is capable and attractive. But for many, those two aspects of a “flagship” just aren’t going to be enough to sway them away from the likes of Apple, LG, and Samsung.
I haven’t had any hands-on experience with the Nokia 8, but I hope to soon. But as it stands right now, I’m not going to buy one to replace my Samsung Galaxy S8, nor will I opt for a Nokia 8 for my next phone. We are going to be spoiled for choice soon with the iPhone “8”, LG V30, Pixel 2, and the Samsung Note 8. All of these phones will have true “wow factors” regarding the screen quality, cameras and unique features like the Note’s S-Pen. It feels like Nokia are playing it safe right now, which is fine, just don’t expect me to go rushing out to buy one.
So why not a Nokia? Well, for one thing, the good folk at HMD Global seem to have forgotten to ask Nokia what Nokia fans want and why they bought their previous devices in years gone by. For example, I used to swing my Nokia N8 from 2010 in front of friends’ faces just to show them the ever-useful Sleeping Screen (known these days as Always On Display). Now, the Nokia 8 has this feature but it’s a cheap version of it, with the display timing out after a maximum of 20 minutes if you’re not moving the phone. I understand that this saves battery life (and that LCD screens aren’t ideal for this kind of feature) but it’s no good to you if you want to see if you have any missed messages or want to glance at the clock from across the room and your hands are covered in wet pastry. (I suppose you could always nudge the thing with your nose?)
Also, in 2012, Nokia released their Lumia 920, the first phone to feature Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and wireless charging using the Qi standard. And even though the 920 had an LCD screen, the Glance screen (Always On Display) could be set to “always on” so you wouldn’t miss any information that was displayed. Again, it wasn’t perfect because you really do need an AMOLED display for a Glance screen to work brilliantly, as Samsung and others have shown us in the years since.
In the months and years after the Lumia 920, nearly all Nokia flagship phones came with these excellent features, and even if they didn’t (like the Lumia 1020) wireless charging shells could be purchased to utilise those charging pads you had dotted around the house if you so wanted.
Coming from a long line of impressive and exciting Nokia smartphones in the past seven years, I can’t help but wonder if I would even give the Nokia 8 a second look if it wasn’t a Nokia branded phone. There’s something to be said for nostalgia and longing for more of what you were used to years ago, but this time I’m not hankering after that famous five-letter logo.
I hope Nokia can up their game as we head into the last part of this year and then into 2018. Perhaps the Nokia “9” might have those design cues taken from Nokias of old, the much-loved features such as double-tap-to-wake (as first seen on the Nokia N9 in 2011), wireless charging and a proper always on screen. Nokia also need to bring us something special; I’m certainly not talking about the gimmicky “bothie” camera mode which, on the Nokia 8, allows you to take simultaneous shots or videos using the front and back cameras. I’m talking about those features that immediately made me drop everything and run to my computer to find out more; the 41MP cameras, jaw-dropping designs, unique unheard of and useful features, and those things that kept me fully immersed in the Nokia community for so many years. The Nokia 3, 5, 6, and 8 are all fine devices, with capable and useful features and designs, and that would please many average consumers.
The reason Nokia fans bought Nokias in the past wasn’t because we wanted to be average users. There were iPhones for that. The reason we bought Nokias was that they were different, more exciting, and had features and capabilities other phones simply didn’t have.
Nokia should try to remember this as they sit down to design the next Nokia flagship with the guys at HMD Global.