HMD Global on Thursday announced the latest addition to its smartphone portfolio in the form of the Nokia 7.1, a feature-packed mid-ranger that offers a wide variety of functionalities and capable hardware at an extremely affordable price. Much like its name implies, this is supposed to be a higher-end alternative to the recently introduced and value-oriented Nokia 6.1 which was designed to serve as yet another reliable daily driver capable of delivering consistent performance in virtually every scenario.
A $350 phone that looks like a $700 one
The Nokia 7.1 is as good as $350 smartphones get in terms of design and could easily be mistaken for something much more expensive. The metal-and-glass build of the handset is ennobled with the addition of colored edges made from dual-anodized aluminum processed with a diamond cutter, whereas the combination of its bright highlights and relatively minimal bezels add to the full-screen experience that HMD was obviously going for. Both the Gloss Steel and Gloss Midnight Blue variants of the device give a sense of depth and sturdiness that's unlike anything else currently available in the mid-range segment, except for possibly HMD's Nokia 6.1 launched earlier this year. 85-percent of the device is covered in glass, including 2.5D curved glass on the back, and its screen-to-body ratio is 80-percent, with the overall package being both compact (149.7 x 71.18 x 7.99mm, 160g) and easy to hold. The camera bump from Nokia's previous devices is still present but is also barely noticeable, protruding only by 1.152mm.
The inclusion of a display notch will likely be as polarizing Android consumers as other cutout-equipped devices proved to be, though the mass market already clearly signaled it doesn't consider notches to be a deal-breaker, as evidenced by the excellent commercial performance of recent flagships from Apple and Huawei. All things considered, anyone on the lookout for an aesthetically pleasing device on a budget will likely want to consider the Nokia 7.1 this fall because the gadget is as stylish as contemporary (non-Samsung) smartphones get.
Punching above its weight
As is the case with its design, the Nokia 7.1 is also punching above its weight in terms of specs; the only truly mid-range piece of hardware found inside this device is the Snapdragon 636, Qualcomm's reliable system-on-chip that won't be pushing 60 frames per second in Fortnite anytime soon (nothing does at the moment, to be frank) but will deliver consistent performance across the vast majority of games and won't have any issues with multitasking. While the base international model of the handset offers only 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage space, the one that's set to be available in the U.S. will feature twice as much flash memory and 4GB of RAM. A microSD card tray with support for up to 400GB of extra storage is included as well, together with dual-SIM capabilities (in a Hybrid SIM setup, meaning you have to choose between an extra SIM card and a microSD one) and a 5.84-inch display panel.
The screen of the device is touted as one of its main selling points, with HMD going as far as to give the panel its very own name – PureDisplay. This 19:9 panel features an FHD+ resolution of 2,280 by 1,080 pixels and functions as a more conventional 18:9 (2:1) screen when not accounting for its notch. It's protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass 3 and supports HDR10, which is a true rarity in the mid-range market segment. The imaging software of the Nokia 7.1 also supports real-time conversions of SD content into HDR one, delivering better contrast and truer blacks even in videos that haven't been captured with the new display technology in mind.
The return of Karl Zeiss optics
HMD once again partnered with lens experts at German optics company Zeiss in order to design the cameras on the Nokia 7.1. The result of that collaboration is a dual-lens rear setup utilizing a 12-megapixel (1.28um) sensor with an f/1.8 lens and autofocus, as well as a 5-megapixel (1.12um) module sitting behind an f/2.4 lens. The front-facing camera is an 8-megapixel affair with an f/2.0 lens and a fixed focus, though it offers a wide field of capture amounting to 84 degrees, which should make it great for group selfies. A dual-LED (dual-tone) flash can also be found on the back, with both camera setups supporting a Live Bokeh feature that's effectively the Portrait mode so many other manufacturers already adopted in recent times. Artificial intelligence advancements allowed HMD to deliver 3D masks and face filters to the front-facing camera of the Nokia 7.1, with the manufacturer referring to those overlays as "personas." The Bothies functionality that simultaneously captures content from both the front and rear-facing cameras and was part of the last several Nokia Android handsets is supported by the newly launched smartphone as well. As far as imaging performance is concerned, the Nokia 7.1 seems like one of the best performers in its price bracket and should be more than enough for all but the most demanding of users.
An average battery
While AndroidHeadlines has yet to spend any significant time with the Nokia 7.1 and the jury is hence still out on its battery life, the relevant specs in this department seem like nothing special and are one aspect wherein HMD obviously cut some corners in order to ensure it can still make a profit from such an affordable device. The handset uses a 3,060mAh cell rechargeable via a USB Type-C (2.0) port. Between maximum talk time of 19.5 hours and maximum video playback time of only eight hours, the battery of this Android handset doesn't appear to be anything to write home about given its sizeable screen, though the device should still be able to last through an entire day on a single charge due to its energy-efficient processor. On the bright side, quick charging support is part of the package, with HMD claiming you can recharge your battery to 50-percent of its capacity within half an hour.
A Stock Android experience with one of the best support pledges on the market
While HDR10, aptX, Nokia OZO Audio (and a 3.5mm headphone jack to go along with it), and LTE Category 6 support are all nice software features to have, the main selling point of the Nokia 7.1 on the firmware side of the equation is surely the fact that this handset is launching as part of the Android One family, just like every other handset HMD released in the West since early 2018. What that means is that consumers will receive a handset with Android 8.1 Oreo that will be upgraded to Android 9 Pie shortly following its release (in November, to be exact) and will also receive an Android 10 Q upgrade by early 2020. The promise of three years of monthly security patches is also included, so if running the latest and greatest software Google has to offer is important to you and you don't want to shell out a lot of money on a flagship, the Nokia 7.1 is certainly a device you should consider this fall.
Yes, it's coming to the U.S.
While many of HMD's Nokia handsets released since the brand's return in early 2017 never made their way to the United States, the Nokia 7.1 will be available for purchase in Gloss Steel and Gloss Midnight Blue from many major retailers in the country, including Amazon, B&H, and Best Buy, all three of which will start accepting pre-orders on the Android One device from tomorrow. Early buyers will begin receiving their shipments from October 28, whereas 285 Best Buy locations will also be stocking the Nokia 7.1 and allow prospective buyers to try it out from November 4. The device will feature a $349 price tag and will be released alongside a Clear Case and Flip Cover which will be sold separately, priced at $10 and $20, respectively. The base model of the handset that won't be sold in the U.S. will start at €319 in Europe, whereas the more powerful one should feature a €349 price tag.
Nokia 7.1 hands-on image gallery