Nokia's hardware guardian, HMD Global, has released a full portfolio of devices in the year that it's been releasing phones. Aiming to deliver Nokia quality with pure Android benefits and priced affordably, there have been some interesting devices.
The message so far has been about durability and reliability, looking to pick-up on that ideal of the old indestructible Nokia phones of the 90s. Offering metal unibody phones at affordable prices has won the company fans - and shifted over 70 million phones in 2017.
What was always lacking was something at the real premium end. The Nokia 8 Sirocco is exactly that device: an expression of the high-end, a phone that says that HMD Global can cut it alongside the big names in smartphones.
Nokia 8 Sirocco is all about design
- Gorilla Glass 5 front and rear
- Stainless steel core
- 7.5mm thick
- IP67 protection
While the Nokia 8 notionally sat in flagship position in 2017, there were always rumours of another device - the Nokia 9. This looked like a fan wishlist and early schematics that leaked showing a curved display like the latest Samsung Galaxy seemed too good to be true.
It was with some surprise that we found the Nokia 8 Sirocco to be exactly that: the manifestation of what looks like Nokia phone fandom. Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer at HMD Global, even described it as "the ultimate fan phone" when introducing it to us.
The core of this phone is stainless steel for added strength over aluminium. The notable other phone that's used stainless steel recently is the iPhone X for the same reason. HMD say that this is the most robust Nokia phone that they've made.
The reason for the steel core is that the front and back of this phone are glass - Gorilla Glass 5 to be exact, with curves running into the edges for a look reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S8. At only 7.5mm thick at its fattest part, Nokia has certainly created a striking device.
It also feels like great quality in the hand, although like all such glass devices, it attracts plenty of fingerprints, so it will need a regular clean, but it also carries an IP67 water and dust protection.
It's impossible then to not liken this phone to those from Samsung. We've seen a number of phones apeing Samsung's design recently - like the Porsche Design Mate 9 or Huawei Mate 9 Pro - and that's perhaps a testament to just how iconic Samsung's phone is.
But for a Nokia fan, there's plenty to celebrate: this phone is more lustworthy than the Nokia 8 that it's based on, rather more unique in many ways.
Nokia 8 Sirocco curved display
- 2650 x 1440 pixel pOLED display, 543ppi
- 5.5-inch inch, dual curve edges
The display will likely be the talking point in the Nokia 8 Sirocco, with those curves to the edges. It's not quite as infinite as Samsung's Infinity Display, retaining a little bit more of a border around the edges to the extreme ends of the curve.
But you do get that luscious edgeless feel as you use the phone. Swiping around the device your fingers don't hit a hard edge as they do on so many flat phones and again we can't help feeling that it brings a sense of quality to the experience.
The panel is plastic OLED or pOLED, which essentially means its based on a plastic substrate rather than glass, so it can be flexibly formed into different shapes. It's something that LG has been showing off on its devices - the LG G Flex is one example - but with LG Display showing off flexible form OLED, it's well known how this all works.
Nokia hasn't declared who the panel is from, but we suspect it's LG rather than Samsung.
It carries a quad HD resolution, so 2560 x 1440 pixels spread across that 5.5-inch size. There's a lot of screen crammed into this body and initial impressions leaved us impressed with the detail and the deep blacks - that's what OLED is known for.
Admittedly we've not had enough time to really experience the full range of what this display will offer, but we'll be sure to really test its skills in a full review as soon as we can.
Nokia 8 Sirocco hardware specs
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 6GB RAM
- 128GB storage
- Wireless charging
Sitting at the heart of this new Nokia 8 edition is the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 guts as the regular 2017 phone. Using the outgoing platform might be seen as a minor negative, although we can't complain about the performance we've had from the 835 over the past year.
Yes, Snapdragon 845 is the latest and greatest, but both sit on the same 10nm architecture, so you shouldn't feel so hard done by - not when you take price into account.
That said, the Snapdragon platform is boosted with 6GB of RAM and a base level of 128GB storage. That's rather more rare, but not uncommon in this sort of step-up device that's being pitched as something special.
We don't currently know what the battery capacity is (we'll update as soon as we know), but this phone does support wireless charging. That's something that Nokia's other devices haven't been able to offer because of the aluminium unibody.
Otherwise, it's fast charging through the USB Type-C, which will also have to provide your wired music because there's no 3.5mm headphone socket. That's right, in the drive to make this as slim as possible, the old connector was something that had to be removed.
At this stage, we can't judge how well the phone handles as it was a pre-production device with pre-release software. Fingers crossed that the battery has the stamina to give this phone some endurance.
Nokia 8 Sirocco dual camera
- Dual Zeiss camera offering wide and telephoto
- 1.4µm pixels and f/1.7 aperture for low light capture
- Bothies, bothies, bothies
If there was one area that the Nokia 8 struggled, it was in the camera. That's not because Nokia's approach was bad, but because the standard is so high elsewhere, with everyone pouring everything they have into the cameras on phones.
The Nokia 8 Sirocco adopts the dual-camera unit of the new Nokia 7 Plus. This new camera system gives you twin Zeiss lenses, a normal lens and a zoom lens, very much picking up the skill set laid down by Apple and Samsung's dual cameras.
So this feels like something of a rethinking of the Nokia 8 camera, but rest assured, you can skill take bothies, using the front and back cameras to take yourself and your subject in the same frame.
The main rear camera offers 1.4µm pixels, which are pretty large, and has an aperture of f/1.7, both with the aim of letting in as much light as possible for better low light results. We've not been able to test this, so the jury is still out.
What we do like is the lossless optical zoom however. The 2x zoom is just a tap away, very much like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, meaning you can get a little closer to the action without a downgrade in quality.
The regular Nokia 8 used its dual camera for quality, pairing a monochrome and RBG sensor - but here it feels like you're getting more immediate practical functionality from that camera, which is always a good move.
There's a portrait mode in the form of live bokeh, again using the two lenses to give you a depth map and choose how much of that background blur you want. It seems easy enough to use, but we've not had time to examine the results.
There's also a full pro mode in the camera for those who want control over all the different elements that the camera offers and the camera app is all Nokia.
We'll give it a full and comprehensive testing closer to launch day.
Nokia 8 Sirocco is an Android One handset
- Pure Android Oreo
Nokia has committed to Android One, essentially formalising that relationship with Android that it set out with in 2017. That means that its phones are pure Android with no added apps, no additional services and no bloatware.
For Android fans, this is a great position. While the Android One badging might be confusing, what you really need to know is that Android One doesn't remove anything from your phone - it's pure and unadulterated, with the only changes from the manufacturer being in the camera department - as we outlined above.
So apart from Nokia's camera app, everything else is pure Android. The aim is to give you a "pure and secure" phone and let's face it: Nokia basically spanked everyone else when it came to the Oreo update. The phone that this device apes - that Galaxy Note 8 - is still on Nougat, while Nokia moved the Nokia 8 to Oreo months ago.
Android One guarantees you 2-years of OS updates as well as monthly security updates, so this phone will roll into Android Pecan Pie and Android Quince Jelly (ok, we have no idea what they might be called).
While some may argue that Nokia's lacks the software functionality of Samsung or LG, for those who baulked at the price of a Pixel 2, Nokia might be offering you something interesting here: this is a premium handset, loaded with good hardware for a price that's cheaper than many. And that's not to be dismissed.
HMD Global's message from day one on Nokia phones has been about design and quality. For the regular Nokia devices, it's all about that aluminium block starting point, so you have a strong phone. It's great to see that in this special version of the Nokia 8, that's also being accounted for.
We really like the results: if you were waiting for something striking from Nokia to hold out and show-off, then the Nokia 8 Scirocco is very much that phone. Yes, people will immediately say it looks like a Samsung and that's the elephant in the room here.
What we don't yet know is how the pros and cons will stack up against that smartphone giant Samsung. Will the Sirocco camera deliver? Will the software run fast and furious? Will it deliver the experience you expect from a €749 smartphone?
This phone has its advantages in that clean Android software and it has specs that don't leave you feeling like you're missing out. It's a Nokia flagship and that's a brand that still has huge smartphone value - and for those reasons, we're hugely excited about it.
The Nokia 8 Sirocco will be available in April 2018, priced at €749. We don't know exactly where it will be available, but we'll update as soon as we know.