48 hours with the Nokia 7.1

nokia 7.1 first impressions

If you’ve lost track of all the Nokia smartphones that have been unveiled this year, you’re not alone.

Although HMD Global’s naming scheme is functional if not spectacular, we’ve seen more than ten Nokia phones debut in 2019.

While there’s talk of even more, including the Nokia 9 with its five rear cameras, today I took temporary ownership of the Nokia 7.1.

It’s the smaller, newer baby brother of the Nokia 7 Plus, a phone which I still firmly believe is an unsung hero in the 2018 smartphone catalogue.

But can the 7.1, with more focus on style, continue that momentum?

As it’s always interesting to see how opinions change over time, here are my initial, rough thoughts after using the smartphone for two days.

The oh yeahs

  • The day I got the phone for review the Android 9.0 Pie was ready and installed.
  • With Pie, this phone is hella snappy.
  • Nokia’s phones are no longer boring slabs of metal. The 7.1 has some real design flair with its metal trim and clear back.
  • This phone feels remarkably premium for a modest price.
  • For a 5.8 inch screen, the phone feels compact in hand but surprisingly light too.
  • It’s easy to hold and use with one hand, but you will need to change your grip to do so, especially if you have smaller hands.
  • Headphone jack? Tick.
  • For an LCD display, it’s really one of the better screens in its price range. Colours are bright and the backlight beams through bright sunlight.
  • On initial use, the 12MP/5MP rear camera is excellent. It does suffer with dynamic range in bright scenes, but there’s plenty of details to work with in post. Snaps are sharp too. More thorough test incoming.

The umm okays

  • Like most phones with notches, the Nokia 7.1 also has a rather large chin.
  • HMD Global’s brought the 3GB/32GB version to South Africa. Would’ve loved to see the 4GB/64GB spec, giving it a chance to compete with more premium competition. At this price, it’s just another mid-range device in an overcrowded market.
  • The phone does boast some HDR10 savvy, but I’ve yet to test it.

The hell nos

  • While I love stock Android, there are a slew of niggling usability issues. Google forcing you to install its apps to remove a notification is one. And while there isn’t any bloat, apps like Duo are pointless for people using other chat apps.
  • The Nokia 7.1 is definitely a looker, but there’s little chance of you ignoring the notch. And yes, I’ve yet to get used to them.
  • Google doesn’t include an option to hide the notch either. While I wouldn’t select it on an LCD screen device, simply offering that solution would be appreciated.
  • During initial setup, I found battery life to be middling at best. Battery drained around 60% while installing about 30 apps, this with the screen off and timeout set to 30 seconds. (Note: standby battery life seems to be much better, especially thanks to Pie).

The Nokia 7.1 will be given tougher treatment as our review period progresses. Expect a detailed report coming to Gearburn in the coming weeks.

Feature image: Andy Walker/Gearburn

Andy Walker, former editor


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