That comeback has been in the affordable end of the market, where Nokia has released a lot of phones, avoiding direct competition with the flagship giants. Mass-market appeal remains a key aim of the company - as is clear with the Nokia 7 Plus.
This phone is really about offering the latest trends - there's an 18:9 display on the front and a dual camera on the back - competing with the cheaper likes of the Honor 7X (£249) or Moto G6 Plus (£269). Price ignored, however, and the Nokia brings lots of advantages.
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Nokia 7 Plus gets premium design
- Aluminium unibody design with exposed highlights
- Ceramic feel thanks to six layers of paint
- 18:9 aspect ratio display
- 158.4 x 75.6 x 7.99mm
The Nokia story is centred around design: the 7 Plus is carved out of a block of 6000 series aluminium, creating a solid handset.
This is a large phone, as its name suggests, packing in a 6-inch display, but moving to an 18:9 aspect ratio. This is very much the trend for 2018 - although this is Nokia's first 18:9 phone, so it doesn't bear much resemblance to the Nokia 7 that originally launched in China.
Despite that big display, the frame is only 75mm wide - and incredibly slim at 7.99mm - so it doesn't feel like such a big phone. Such is the 18:9 advantage and the reason this new format is becoming popular.
But Nokia hasn't quite hit the screen-to-body ratio that some of the best examples of this new format. There's still a chunk of bezel above and below the display, if not so much to the sides. If you want a more compact 18:9 phone then you don't have to look too far to find one. We angled the same criticism at the Google Pixel 2 XL too: if you're going 18:9, be careful not to create a really tall phone.
Not only is the 7 Plus a solid phone thanks to that metal bodywork, but HMD Global has poured attention into the painting it gets too. It gets six layers of paint, with the aim to create a ceramic feel, which feels highly accomplished.
Display: A new view
- 18:9 aspect, 6-inch LCD panel
- Corning Gorilla Glass finishing
- Full HD+ resolution (2160 x 1080, 403ppi)
It's a Full HD+ phone, meaning its 1080 vertical lines can't outsmart the 1440 pixels of some more flagship Quad HD+ phones available. However, as companies like Huawei and Honor have demonstrated, it's not always about packing in those pixels for the best or most balanced results.
For everyday use there's a lot to like about the 7 Plus' visuals. The display is bright enough to deal with sunny conditions and detailed enough to not feel like you're missing out. Yes, pay more and you can get more detail and greater visual impact, but at this price Nokia serves well.
There's some red ghosting when you scroll in night mode, however, but this seems to be something that affects a wide range of LCD devices. Apart from that, we're happy with what we see.
Mid-range hardware specs meet a big battery
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage + microSD
- 3800mAh battery, fast charging
- Fingerprint scanner
Sitting at the heart of the Nokia 7 Plus is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 platform with 4GB RAM. That outlines the 7 Plus as a mid-range handset, but using impressive hardware. It's a small step-up from the Nokia 6.1 that was announced alongside this device - although in practice both devices run smoothly.
Although the 7 Plus doesn't feature flagship-grade hardware, it has no problems serving up the latest games like PUBG Mobile. Having played many hours and spent many of them winning, it's clear that having a mid-range device is no disadvantage. Of course, higher power hardware gives things a little more snap, but this tier of devices is much cheaper.
There's a generous 64GB of storage supported by microSD, meaning easy expansion if you want it. Given the phone's price, it's nice to have hefty storage. Only the £399 Honor 10's 128GB storage as standard outsmarts it.
The Nokia also sports a 3800mAh battery, which is very capacious for this size of device. Nokia says it'll deliver two days of use - and while we couldn't get it to go quite that long, with fast charging also available, we've not felt the need to recharge every night. So, yes, you can get through the day and into the next if you're not pushing the phone too hard - although when you do fire up those games they work the hardware harder and drain the battery a little quicker than on flagship devices.
The Nokia also has a rear fingerprint scanner, which is conveniently placed, and that works quickly to unlock the phone. We've had no problems with it.
The Nokia 7 Plus positions itself as quite an attractive phone for media consumption with that big display. However, its speaker performance is weak, as it has just the single speaker on the bottom of the phone. With all the bezel space, it does feel like the audio performance could be better. Still, at this price you can't really complain.
Serious Zeiss camera skills
- 12-megapixel 1.4µm f/1.7 main Zeiss camera
- 13-megapixel 1.0µm f/2.6 2x zoom Zeiss secondary camera
- 16-megapixel 1.0µm f/2.0 front camera with pixel combining
There's a new dual camera system packed into the Nokia 7 Plus - the same camera array that's being fitted to the new high-end Nokia 8 Sirocco. This gives you a pair of Zeiss cameras, with the second camera designed to give you 2x optical zoom.
The main camera has a nice wide aperture and pretty big pixels, hitting the same sort of specs that you'll find on much more expensive phones, like the HTC U12+. In good light, therefore, the Nokia 7 Plus will give you some great pictures - and there's plenty of balance in lower-light conditions too.
What the Nokia 7 Plus seems to lack is the same skills in processing that you find on higher-level phones. In low-light it's easily foxed with a tricky scene and the HDR (high dynamic range) performance isn't as strong as you find elsewhere, meaning that photos can be a little flat compared to its rivals, especially in overcast conditions.
Switching to the zoom lens is quick (it just takes a tap on the 2x button) and in most situations the second lens is used. That's not the case when it's quite dark, though, in which case the camera uses the main lens with digital zoom instead - to give you better overall quality (this is common practice, Samsung does exactly the same in the S9). Basically, avoid trying to use zoom in dark conditions.
Being able to get closer to the subject is a real advantage from the 7 Plus' 2x lens - and this is one of the most affordable phones around offering a zoom, meaning it's lossless, although this lens' pairing with a narrower aperture and smaller pixels means it's not as capable as the main camera, thus you'll witness a little less contrast and sharpness as a result (see our chicken photos, for example).
The Nokia 7 Plus can use the information from both cameras to create a depth map to give more advanced features, such as bokeh or portrait modes with adjustable background blur effect. Note that it crops in when you use these modes, so you might have to take a step back.
A portrait mode is available on the front camera, too, which works pretty well - although it's not quite so positive on finding edges, which is the problem with these software-generated bokeh solutions. That said, if you're just flicking out a selfie to Instagram, it's a perfectly strong performer.
Overall, you're getting a lot of camera for the money and the quality here is worth commending. However, the camera is a little slow to open, often having a hiccup and a frame freeze for a moment before you can get to shooting. This is either an indicator that the app needs optimisation or that it needs a little more processor power.
Pure Android One software
- Android One
- Pure and secure Android Oreo
Nokia has announced that it is fully invested in the Android One programme, so this handset carries that branding on the rear. What this indicates is that it runs a pure version of Google's Android Oreo operating system - i.e. there are no added apps, no additional services; it's just Android and Google services by default. The only exceptions are a support app and Nokia's own camera.
Android One gives you two years of updates to the core operating system - so that'll see it stepping through P and Q in the future - while also guaranteeing 3 years of monthly security updates. We'll eat our hat if Nokia isn't one of the first to roll out Android P; indeed the Nokia 7 Plus was one of the first phones on the public beta.
The software dovetails with the hardware - and we're now at a level where Android and this mid-range Qualcomm hardware gives an experience which is, on a day-to-day basis, not far removed from that of a flagship phone. The exceptions are with small details: the camera being a little slow to open, and the keyboard being a little slower, too. Otherwise, from daily emailing and calls, through to social media and smart home control, there's very little compromise in this mid-range handset.
There have been some reported bugs, however. We've seen the 7 Plus reboot when connected to weak Wi-Fi networks. The phone is absolutely stable on a cellular connection, but has rebooted when asked to connect to a weak Wi-Fi network. We know it has affected others and on revisiting the phone it appears to have been corrected, as a week's worth of use a month after we originally reviewed the phone, all was well. We've also heard of some touchscreen problems, but we've seen none ourselves.
The Nokia 7 Plus is one of Nokia's biggest phones, physically. And, arguably, one of its most important phones. It's positioned towards the middle of Nokia's pack, offering a little more than the Nokia 6.1, but not reaching up to the flagship Nokia 8 grade.
By embracing the 18:9 aspect ratio, the 7 Plus delivers that modern display, although the design isn't as tight and aggressive as it could be, being a little taller and bezel-laden than it could be. That the additional space hasn't been used to boost something else, like the poor speakers, seems like an oversight.
Otherwise there's a lot to like: there's plenty of power for the price, while battery endurance is respectable and fast-charging certainly useful. The pure Android One software is great to use (aside from that small Wi-Fi issue - which which we think has been fixed).
That's all matched with a great dual cameras combination. This is one of the most affordable 2x zoom smartphones on the market and, generally speaking, it delivers a solid experience, providing more than cheaper dual-lens systems that only offer bokeh modes.
The Nokia 7 Plus benefits from such zoom additions, which are needed to justify the price. Ultimately, you can get handsets with a similar spec for a touch less cash. With that said, the 7 Plus is a good handset. We've been happily using this phone for a couple of weeks without feeling that we're missing out on a premium experience. On balance, we think it'll be worth leaning towards the Nokia for many prospective buyers.
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Alternatives to consider
The Honor 7X is a mid-range phone, aggressively priced, offering a dual camera setup and an 18:9 display. So far, so similar. The Nokia 7 Plus has the advantage of being newer and escaping Honor's EMUI software, while also offering 2x zoom, so many will find the camera experience more compelling. The Honor is some £100 cheaper, however.
Motorola Moto G6 Plus
Motorola has long dominated the affordable end of the market, but that position is changing slightly, with the G series now offering more mid-range appeal thanks to its glass-backed finish. The Moto G6 Plus gives a fairly clean Android software experience, much like the Nokia proposition, but can't muster quite the same battery life or hardware. What holds the Nokia back as the outright winner is that current Wi-Fi rebooting issue.