The Nokia 8 Is A Tantalising Peek At A Smartphone Future That Could've Been

Every once and a while, we get the chance to peek into an alternate timeline and see how things could have played out if a single decision had gone a different way. And with the new Nokia 8, that's exactly what we're getting.

All images: Nokia

Back in the dark ages of dumb phones, Nokia was the undisputed king of mobile handsets. It seems everyone has a story about the how their colourful Nokia block survived a car crash or 20-storey fall, but after the company partnered with Microsoft in 2011 to put Windows Phone 7 — not Android — on Nokia smartphones, the company started down a path that would see it fade in significance as companies such as Apple and Samsung conquered the world of mobile devices.

But when former Nokia execs banded together to create Finnish startup HMD Global last year and bought the rights to the Nokia name back from Microsoft, the storied brand got a second lease on life. Almost immediately the company released three mid-range and low-end devices, but those devices seemed a bit like test runs. Now we're getting a look at the company's first flagship. The Nokia 8 is a beautiful phone with the specs, and importantly, an Android OS that will let it compete with top devices like Samsung Galaxy S8. The only question is: Does it bring enough to the table to make people who don't get teary-eyed about outdated bricks actually give a damn?

In a nod to Nokia's minimalist design heritage, HMD is keeping things super clean for its new phone. The Nokia 8 features a simple but boxy body with an aluminium frame, a pretty standard 5.3-inch QHD screen, a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. (Roughly the same specs as other Android flagships including the Galaxy S8 and OnePlus 5.) Below the screen there's a home button with a built-in fingerprint reader, just as you would expect. And because HMD isn't stupid, the Nokia 8 features both a USB-C port and a headphone jack. What you won't get are things such as facial recognition or even water-resistance.

One feature with a bit flair is the dual 13-megapixel camera module on back, which features Zeiss optics and combines a typical colour camera with a monochrome sensor so the phone can capture sharper photos and adjust its depth of field. On top of that Nokia says the 8 is the first phone that can shoot and record using both the front and rear cameras to create a unique dual-sight view that can even be streamed out live to the net on YouTube or Facebook.

Audio has also gotten a little extra attention thanks to OZO Audio, which borrows tech from Nokia's $US40,000 ($50,448) 360 camera so you can capture immersive spatial sound right on the phone.

Inside, HMD is sticking with the theme of simplicity by going with stock Android, something the company says it will do on all of its upcoming phones. This is a refreshing change from the bloated handsets we get from Samsung, LG and others, which should allow for more streamlined operation and faster updates. Nokia says the 8 will launch with Android 7.1, and that an update to Android 8 will be available shortly after that.

With an Australian RRP of $899.00, it looks like Nokia isn't shying away from other Android flagships either.

But the biggest takeaway from all this is to imagine what it would have been like if Nokia hadn't lost the last six years making hardware for a platform that never really had a chance. Dual-camera livestreaming and 360 audio are neat, but features like this would have been so much further along if HMD didn't have to spend time picking up the pieces and buying Nokia's own patents back from Microsoft.

Initial specs and features look good, but we won't know truly how competitive the Nokia 8 will be until we can get it in for a full review. Stay tuned.

Pre-orders begin tomorrow at JB Hi-Fi, with a retail launch date of early September.

WATCH MORE: Tech News


Comments

    Love to see Nokia back and the specs are okay...it's the design of this phone that feels a bit "meh" so it will be interesting to see how this sells?

    At least they've got the fingerprint sensor on the front right....tried the S8 and while it's a great phone the rear fingerprint sensor just annoyed the bejesus out of me.

      Rear fingerprint is fine. It suits the more natural way the phone is held anyway. Who had a thumb of finger down the bottom normally? It's gripped with your thumb on one side, fingers on the other. Easily to have 1 in the middle to unlock. Heck, mine unlocks before it's out of my pocket due to this. Finger easily finds the slight circular recess as your are grabbing it.

        Do you never use your phone sitting flat on a desk/table? Howabout unlocking it when it's in a cradle in the car? - both scenarios make the rear fingerprint censor a pain in the rectum.

          On a desk, sometimes. Usually at work. It's unlocked because my office is a safe place.

          Car cradle, no. If I use GPS I just go from audio cues and it sits in the cupholder. There is no other reason to have your phone visible.

    "And because HMD isn't stupid, the Nokia 8 features both a USB-C port and a headphone jack. What you won't get are things such as facial recognition or even water-resistance."

    Gotta disagree there - the non-stupid path would have been to ditch the headphone jack and make it water resistant.

      It's actually IP54 anyway. So while you can't take it swimming it's still "splash resistant" like the a lot of flagships. For comparison the Pixel is only IP53 as is the HTC 10. I can't even find IP ratings for some of the phones, which implies they're not good. Don't get me wrong, I'd prefer it was higher rated like the Samsung flagships or Iphone 7 but it's not terrible.

      And you can keep the headphone jack and still be waterproof. Which I'd much prefer. Dedicated port which I can use with any of my existing headphones -v- a shared port where I need new headphones or an adapter and I can't use it while charging the phone.

        Granted, but the future's wireless for phone headphones.

          I don't think so. Since then you have battery issues. I don't see anything wrong with that being an option, but until battery life is a damn sight better I don't want to be relying on battery powered headphones.

    I might be being a tad sacrilegious, but this phone looks boring. there is literally nothing original or unique happening here. I like stock android but again the pixel and nexus range of hardware have been doing this for eons. Similarly the mono/colour camera combo on the back has been around for several years ala the Huawei P9. The spatial sound thing has also been around on dozens of phones. Hate to burst your bubble Nokia but your phone is boring

      I actually like the phone. It's a decent handset without being flashy or gimmicky. If it's priced accordingly then it's going to sell units. It's just a pity it's a few months late to the party. If this had been out three months ago it'd have done well.

      Lots of people don't want "original or unique" they want affordable and reliable.

      I don't think your being sacrilegious, the phone is exactly the same as every other phone. A rectangle with a screen, camera on the back, finger print scanner / button on the front and a operating system.

      I think companies have been very effective with their advertising to suggest that the design of their devices is somewhat magical etc etc. Never forget its is a rectangle with a screen that is similar to the palm pilot from way back, well a refined version.

        Exactly right, I had one of those Motorola touch screen phones that 3 were pushing way back before Apple did their thing with iphones. It's essentially the same thing as we have now, it was a rectangle with a screen, just clunkier and less powerful.

        It's possible that someone will come up with something that breaks that paradigm but the current design of phones isn't likely to change much from rectangle with a screen since it just works.

    There was a time when everything else felt like an evolution of windows mobile 6, and then windows phone came along with clear typography, super clean interface, and even had integrated features missing from the other.

    Then Microsoft tripped, fumbled, rebooted, pissed off their fans by cutting them off, dumped half their unique features, rebooted again while developers hadn't updated their apps in two years and Apple and Google had long ago copied the original drawcard features and moved on.

    I had no regrets going from my 3G-S to a Lumia 800, or from there to the 920 with OIS and a better camera than anyone else I knew had on their phone. But boy am I glad I didn't refresh into the second gen Windows Phone 8 or Windows 10 devices...

    Microsoft had absolutely no focus, and even now it has taken until the creators update of windows 10 on PC and the current surface line to kind of feel one.

    Its an almost. Love the understated design and stock android, but need a higher water resistance than just splash and a larger screen these days.

    Used to be a Nokia, now is just another droid. Not what I am looking for. Moving along..

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