Nokia 6 (2018) hands-on review

HMD takes the Nokia 6 from so-so to spectacular with 2018 refresh

The Nokia 6 is a delightful midrange phone.
The Nokia 6 is a delightful midrange phone.
The Nokia 6 is a delightful midrange phone.

Highs

  • Beautiful design
  • Quick-charging capability
  • Android One
  • Hefty 3,000mAh battery

Lows

  • Chunky bezels

When Finnish smartphone manufacturer HMD began producing phones under the Nokia brand in 2017, one of the first phones to make its way to the U.S. was the Nokia 6. As far as midrange phones go, the Nokia 6 was perfectly acceptable, if unremarkable. So, when we learned HMD was updating the Nokia 6 for 2018, we weren’t overly excited. Once we had a chance to try it out however, we quickly changed our tune.

The Nokia 6 is an absolutely delightful phone. Though the updates to this year’s Nokia 6 may seem modest, they greatly improve the overall user experience.

Improving an already beautiful design

At first glance, this year’s Nokia 6 looks a lot like its 2017 predecessor. When you look closer, however you’ll notice slight differences. The bezels are a bit smaller on the 5.5-inch IPS display, leading to an overall smaller form factor. While the bezels shrunk on the Nokia 6, by no stretch is this a bezel-less phone — HMD still held on to the 16:9 aspect ratio this year, which is a bit of a disappointment.

You’ll also find a similar aluminum case on the 2018 Nokia 6, but the stainless steel accent lines around the camera, display, and on the power and rocker buttons have been replaced with a very appealing copper. You’ll also find those copper accent lines around the fingerprint sensor, a feature that was unexplainably absent on last year’s Nokia 6.

Long story short, HMD refined an already good design. While the case update is definitely a conversation starter, the dated display may start an altogether different conversation.

Here comes Android One

A year after introducing stock Android on all new Nokia phones, HMD is upping the ante by joining the Android One program. With Android One, users continue to get a near-stock Android experience with the added benefit of monthly security updates, as well as quicker OS updates. The Nokia 6 will ship with Android 8.0 Oreo, but we would anticipate an update to 8.1 after its release since it is part of the Android One lineup.

You’ll find this year’s Nokia 6 to be quite a bit speedier than its predecessor. The phone packs a Snapdragon 630 chip, meaning you’ll see about a 60 percent performance improvement over the 2017 model. In our use, there was no visible lag nor problems when switching between applications, however we still need to test the phone with more apps installed to see if the performance holds up.

As for RAM and storage, you’ll find 3GB/32GB and 4GB/64GB storage options. While we’re assuming HMD created the 3GB/32GB option to keep the price of entry low on the Nokia 6, the 4GB/64GB option seems a better choice, as the RAM is a little anemic on the former. Luckily, both models feature a microSD slot allowing you to add up to 128GB of external storage.

In terms of battery capacity, the Nokia 6 comes in at 3,000mAh. While the battery capacity alone is pretty impressive for a phone in this price range, the low-power processor and inclusion in the Android One program means you should have no problem making through a day of moderate use. Unfortunately, we were unable to fully test the limits of the battery on the Nokia 6 during our hands-on.

A perfectly adequate camera

In terms of cameras, you’ll find a 16 megapixel rear shooter with Zeiss optics and dual-tone flash. The front-facing camera is 8 megapixels with a wide-angle lens that’s perfect for group selfies. While we didn’t have an opportunity to do a thorough camera test, both cameras performed well in bright light. We did notice a little noise on the front-facing camera in our low-light test shots. While the cameras on the Nokia 6 won’t rival those on the Pixel 2 XL or Galaxy S9, they perform well for the price point and shouldn’t have a problem getting a good shot.

The Nokia 6 will launch in April 2018. The 3 GB/32 GB model will sell for 289 euros ($356 U.S.); pricing has not yet been announced for the 4 GB/64 GB model. While a U.S. launch has not been confirmed, we’re fairly confident it will make a debut stateside, like its 2017 predecessor.