- Solid battery life
- Added fast charging
- Metal shell
- Camera struggles with low and mixed lighting
- Non 18:9 screen
- Annoying buttons and finger scanner
- Review Price: £199.99/$283.99
- 1080p LCD display
- Metal body
- 16-megapixel camera
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB storage w/ microSD
What is the Nokia 6?
The Nokia 6 is a higher grade of budget phone, similar to the Moto G6.
It costs £229/$325, which is cheap enough for many to afford SIM-free, and lower than expected given the 279 Euro cost elsewhere. You’ll even find it for free on some mid-price contracts.
This is the second Nokia 6, but you wouldn’t be aware of this unless you’re a close follower of the phone market. It’s certainly the version to get, since it adds fast charging, a newer CPU and improved battery life even though the capacity remains the same.
However, its 16:9 screen will likely appear “out of date” fairly soon and it doesn’t have the best camera in this class.
Nokia 6 (2018) – Design
The Nokia 6 is one of the better-made phones you’ll find at this price. Like the previous version of this device, the design isn’t particularly exciting, but it feels solid.
Its back is a unibody piece of aluminium; the front Gorilla Glass 3 with 2.5D curved edges. That curve is just there for the look, though. The aluminium parts your hands actually touch feel quite hard and sharp.
Just under a millimetre of each edge is bevelled, with bronze highlights shining through to stop the Nokia 6 becoming a sea of featureless black aluminium. It’s more subtle than the way in which phones such as the Huawei P20 Pro try to stand out.
This newer Nokia 6 isn’t as long as the older version, reducing some of the border above and below the display. However, the phone’s surround isn’t slim and its shape actually makes the device appear quite squat.
I’ve no doubt that I feel this way because I’ve been using a lot of 18:9 phones recently, but this is an issue with most new 16:9 models – they’re likely to look more dated with each passing month.
Elsewhere, the handset is up to date. The Nokia 6 has a USB-C charging socket along its bottom edge, and there’s a fingerprint scanner on its rear.
Bizarrely, this scanner performs worse than that of the old Nokia 6. It sits too low for comfort, resulting in you having to reach down with your finger. It makes you wonder whether Nokia’s partnership with Zeiss demands a certain degree of logo prominence. But even then, there’s plenty of blank space on the camera housing between the Zeiss logo and the scanner.
The Nokia 6’s side buttons aren’t great either, requiring too much force to initiate an action. Are these significant concerns? Of course not – they’re minor niggles that you’ll soon get used to – but it’s wise to jot them down if you’re totting up a list of pros and cons.
Nokia 6 (2018) – Screen
One of the most notable parts of the Nokia 6 is the screen – as a result of what it lacks. This is a 16:9 screen, and it arrives just as every other phone is switching to 18:9.
The Moto G6, Huawei P Smart and Honor 9 Lite all have the latter, and we expect others to follow. Such phones simply add an extra 240 rows of pixels to alter the shape, and you end up with a screen that fills up more of the front.
However, since Nokia has also trimmed down the top and bottom borders on this device, it’s more an issue of the device’s overall look than anything else.
Actual display quality is solid. The Nokia 6 has a 1080p screen that looks super-sharp, even at 5.5 inches. I was also pleased by how well the backlight holds up in bright, sunny conditions. Outdoor visibility is sound.
Colour reproduction is solid, too, although you can’t tweak the saturation levels as you can with some rivals. Similarly, there’s no colour temperature control; the tone looks a little cool to my eyes.
The Nokia 6 does have a night viewing mode, however. Normally, these make a phone display look quite warm, but in the Nokia 6 it’s flat-out orange. The concept here is it reduces the blue light, the band that most affects your sleep patterns should you use the phone before.
Nokia 6 (2018) — Software
The Nokia 6 is an Android One phone. This is Google’s project to deliver Android as its creator intended. It aims to make updates quicker, more streamlined, and the overall Android experience more consistent.
What you end up with in the Nokia 6 is Android 8.0, just as it appears on the Google Pixel phones. However, given Android 8.1 is already out, it demonstrates that you’ll (in theory) get ‘quicker’ software updates, not instantaneous ones.
There are no pre-loaded apps beyond Google’s standard suite and a Nokia Support app. This is a manual of sorts, and lets you view extra nuggets of data such as the Nokia 6’s temperature, how much data you’ve used since your last boot, and the level of storage you have left.
The Nokia 6 has 32GB of storage, offering a reasonable amount of space for games, photos and music.
As you can see from the photos, the Nokia 6 uses five columns of icons rather than four. It makes better use of the available display space than some devices.
Nokia 6 (2018) – Performance
Performance is solid, although clearly that of a mid-range phone rather than a high-end one. Apps take longer to load than in a more expensive phone – and, occasionally, there’s a short delay before the keyboard pops up after you tap a text box.
Compare the Nokia 6 to a £700 model and you’ll see clear performance gaps. But on its own, there’s nothing wrong with how the Nokia 6 performs.
Games run just about perfectly too, with no glaring frame rate drops in Asphalt 8 at max settings. This is a solid phone for gaming, although the speaker isn’t that great. It’s too easy to block, making you flip the phone over when you play a game in landscape orientation, and it doesn’t display the beefier sound of better-sounding phones. It does cut through noise quite well, mind.
The Nokia 6 houses the Snapdragon 630 CPU, with an Adreno 508 graphics chipset. This earns 4217 points in Geekbench 4, which is about the best you can expect from a phone at this price– aside from the Honor 9. And, for the first half of 2018 at least, it looks like the Snapdragon 630 will be a common choice for phones in this class.
Nokia 6 (2018) – Camera
The Nokia 6 has no remarkable camera features outside the Zeiss branding of the lens. And without an old Nokia 6 to hand to compare it to, we can’t tell whether that’s worth anything but marketing points.
It has a single camera on its rear, a fairly high-resolution 16-megapixel unit, and an 8-megapixel front camera for selfies.
Shooting performance never gets far beyond ‘fine’, but there are a few solid points to note. The Nokia 6 is fairly quick to shoot, without the kind of shutter and post-shoot lag that can make a phone camera less fun to use. This varies depending on the light conditions, but for the most part it’s fairly responsive.
Next up, you can shoot 4K video. It’s non-stabilised and therefore isn’t going to look that great if you’re running about while shooting, but it’s good to have the option.
The detail capture of the Nokia 6 in good lighting is solid too. I’ve noticed this most when taking pictures of plants. The camera is able to render their fine natural textures well, avoiding the kind of obvious processing that often makes these details seem digitally painted or smoothed-out.
There are other areas where improvements could be made; where this device is beaten by rivals in this class.
First, despite having an Auto HDR mode, its dynamic range optimisation isn’t that good. Shoot an image with a bright, partially cloudy sky and you’ll end up with either a very dim foreground or significant blown highlights in the clouds.
To solve this problem you either need a camera sensor with good native dynamic range, or great software processing to bring out shadow detail.
The Nokia 6 doesn’t appear to have either – its sensor may have numerous pixels, but they’re of the small 1-micron variety, which is never good news for dynamic range.
While the lens is too wide for true macro photography, you can get some nice close-up detail
Auto HDR hasn’t avoided blowing out these clouds
…and Auto HDR hasn’t avoided making the foreground super-dim here
Night shooting is fairly poor too. The phone struggles to brighten up dark scenes and your photos end up soft and low in detail. You can reduce resolution if you like, but this doesn’t noticeably improve low-light sensitivity.
No phone at this price is a low-light photography master, but I expect better results from the Moto G6 Plus. We’ll find out in our full review, coming soon.
There’s a fox in this image, but he’s pretty fuzzy even though there was some lingering natural light at this point
Since there’s only the one rear camera, the Nokia 6 also lacks software background blur, which generally requires two lenses, and no optical zoom. The 8-megapixel front camera is solid, but not particularly notable.
Nokia 6 (2018) – Battery life
The Nokia 6 has a 3000mAh battery, just like the old version. However, it does seem to – anecdotally at least – last longer this time around.
There’s solid reasoning for this, too. The new Nokia 6’s Snapdragon 630 processor is made using a smaller die process, in theory making it more efficient.
After a solid day’s use, which generally includes 4-5 hours of audio streaming, snapping a few photos, up to 20 minutes of YouTube and plenty of messaging, the phone still consistently had around 30% of charge remaining by bed time.
It isn’t quite at the level of a phone entirely focused on battery longevity, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well the charge level weathers through the day. After all, there’s nothing special about 3000mAh capacity anymore.
The Nokia 6 also has much faster charging than the old model. Charging the older model would take 2-3 hours, but the true fast charger here gets the job done in 1hr 30mins. And it gains 50% charge in only 30 minutes.
This generation of the Nokia 6 also moves to using a USB-C, rather than micro-USB connector. It isn’t the reason the Nokia 6 gets fast charging – this is the result of a variable voltage power block – but it’s nice to get the newer standard anyway.
Why buy the Nokia 6?
How much do you like the idea of owning a Nokia? And how much do you like the Nokia 6’s new bronze and gold design? If the answer to both of those questions is ‘a lot’ then the Nokia 6 will be a good buy.
However, there’s plenty of competition in this area. The Huawei P Smart and Honor 9 Lite aren’t perfect but they get you an 18:9 screen and more versatile cameras for the same money or less.
And with the Moto G6 Plus incoming, those who aren’t too bothered about owning a Nokia should have a careful think before making the leap.
A solid, affordable Android with simple software – but the screen and camera may look past-it soon