Nokia Android phones ready for release in India
New Delhi, April15:HMD Global is gearing up to launch its new Nokia Android phones in India. There is no launch date yet. But it is happening soon, and definitely before June end. There are three phones to start with. The Nokia 6 is already selling in China. The global rollout, including launch in India, will be before the end of Q2 this year, which in other words means before the end of June. Along with the Nokia 6, you will also see the Nokia 6 ARTE Edition, the Nokia 3 and the Nokia 5 coming in the Indian market in the next two months. The question now is what are these new Nokias bringing to the table. And are they worth the wait?
It will be a while before we get to truly get to try the Nokia Android phones. It’s only when they are out in the market we will be able to compare them with the rest. Will Nokia be better or Xiaomi? Right now is not the time to tackle this question. Nokia is still hard at work, polishing its new Android phones to a perfection so the best way to judge the Nokia 6, Nokia 5 and Nokia 3 will be once they are out in the market and have a proper price tag on them.
The phones right now are as good as any out there in the market, but the design may change in subtle ways ahead of the launch. Then there is the software, which Nokia is still optimising. But even at this early stage — HMD executives love to say that the company is just four-five months old — there is a lot of promise and potential the new Nokia phones exhibit. They truly seem to mark the return of the prodigal.
Ajey Mehta, an ex-Nokia and Microsoft executive with over 10 decade of experience in the smartphone industry, is the man leading the charge for HMD in India. For months now, he is using a Nokia 6, while occasionally swapping it for a Nokia 3 or Nokia 5. And he can’t stop talking about how his Nokia 6 is different compared to whatever else that is out there in the market. Essentially, he says, there are three basic pillars that HMD has used to build its Nokia Android phones.
Impeccable design and build quality: This is one area where Nokia has been traditionally strong. HMD wants to keep the legacy intact. That is why the company has paid a special attention to the design of its phones. In a market where almost every phone looks like a clone of an iPhone or an HTC 10, the Nokia phones look different.
The Nokia 6, for example, is boxier compared to most other phones in the market. In a way, it is somewhat similar to the Lumia 950 and others, also understandably so given the fact that most of the people who worked with Microsoft Mobile are now part of the HMD. The Nokia 6 ARTE edition is in a class of its own with its black piano finish (it will also collect smudges and scratches very easily). The Nokia 5 has a quality premium finish despite its seemingly more affordable price tag, and the Nokia 3, even with its plastic back cover paired with a metal frame, has a personality that stands out in the crowd of similar-looking smartphones.
The build quality of the phones too is good. They are made, says Ajey, by Foxconn, the same company that makes the iPhone and many of the Xiaomi phones. Foxconn, incidentally, is not just a manufacturer for the new Nokia Android phones. It is a stakeholder in the whole “bring Nokia back” program along with HMD and Nokia, the network company that still owns the brand Nokia.
For now, I don’t know how well the Nokia phones will hold up when they are into the hands of consumers. Will they be the same old “unbreakable” Nokias of old? I don’t know. But the Nokia 6, the Nokia 5 and the Nokia 3, are well built phone. And they look good. In fact, they look better in hands than in images. And they feel incredible, especially the Nokia 6 with smooth metal body that seem to have silky smooth finish. All three also have curved glass on the front, as well as really sturdy metal frame, and that too adds to how these phone feel in hands.
Rich experience: This again comes from the old Nokia. The company has this legacy of offering phones with good screens, good cameras and good speakers. Basically, the idea is to give users great experience, instead of just some specs and hardware. Ajey says that the same idea continues with the Nokia 6, the Nokia 5 and the Nokia 3. Although, this is a claim that India Today Tech will be putting to a test when these phones launch here in India, the Nokia 6, the Nokia 3 and the Nokia 5 do seem like the devices that will deliver on their promise.
Pixel-like experience is indeed what you see on the Nokia 6, Nokia 5, and — even more remarkably — on the Nokia 3. All three phones run Android 7.1.1 aka Android Nougat right now. This is an Android that is unmodified
Ajey highlights that to ensure consumers get good experience with the Nokia 6, the company has equipped it with stereo speakers. That is a rarity in a phone that is supposed to sell around Rs 20,000. This is also the phone that comes with two different SIM slots along with a dedicated slot for mmicroSD card. “We don’t want consumers to opt between a SIM card and microSD card in this phone. They can use two SIM cards as well as a microSD card,” says Ajey.
The Nokia 6, the Nokia 3 and the Nokia 5 that I checked also has pretty good screens, at least that is the impression I got in the brief time I spent with them.
Pure Android: This is the trump card for Nokia. Ajey says that so focussed is HMD on delivering clean and fast Android experience to consumers that it is working with Google to optimise Android for the new Nokia phones. It has also decided that all new Nokia smartphones will run pure, or in other words, unmodified version of Android. The HMD is aiming at Google Pixel like experience for consumers in the Nokia Android when it comes to software, says Ajey.
Pixel-like experience is indeed what you see on the Nokia 6, Nokia 5, and — even more remarkably — on the Nokia 3. All three phones run Android 7.1.1 aka Android Nougat right now. This is an Android that is unmodified. It has the same clean interface that is part of the Google Nougat, which you get on a Google Nexus or Google Pixel phone. Same notification shade. Same app drawer. Same Android Now. Same Google apps. Same clean colours, the vibrant colours place atop fresh white layers.
It also looks well optimised. In my brief time with the Nokia 6, Nokia 5 and Nokia 3, I didn’t see any lag on these phones. The animations were smooth. The apps opened without any stutters. Though I must add that the phones were not connected to the internet, and there wasn’t much going on in the background. The real test for the Nokia Android phones will be when people use them, the way they use them.
Another benefit of pure Android, says Ajey, is that Nokia will update the phones quickly. The security updates that Google issues will come to the new Nokia phones come within days. The big OS updates that Google makes for Android too will be rolled out to the Nokia 6, the Nokia 5 and the Nokia 3 in a timely manner. HMD says that it has already created an ecosystem that will be geared to offer fast Android updates. “Everyone is on board, from Google to Qualcomm. We are working with all stakeholders, including telecom companies, to ensure that Nokia Android phone users get fast updates, whenever there are updates from Google,” says Ajey.
Move over specs
The year 2017 is turning out be the kind of year when the specs and hardware details are taking a backseat. The LG G6, despite using last year’s processor, is shaping up to be a fantastic phone this year. OnePlus may take the same route with its upcoming OnePlus 5. In a way, even the mighty Galaxy S8 this year is focusing more on the overall experience instead of flaunting its hardware specifications. The Nokia phones look similar.
If you go by the specifications, the Nokia 6, the Nokia 5 and the Nokia 3 look odd ones out in the crowded smartphone market. But pick them up and hold them, and chances are that you won’t be bothered with the specs of these phones. There is something unique about the Nokia phones, in a good way. And no that uniqueness is not just the nostalgia part. There are phones that are more than the sum of their parts. Motorola’s Moto G phones have been like that for years now. The same was true of the HTC A9, which was a phenomenal phone despite its seemingly average hardware specs sheet.
The same looks true for the Nokia 6, Nokia 3 and the Nokia 5. When I used them, I was impressed enough by their clean Android, good design, nice screens and overall feel to care about their specs. Although at this early stage, I must also sound a word of caution. I have not used the cameras in these phones. I haven’t taken them out and looked at their screens under the sun. I don’t know right now if they will heat up or not. I have no idea about their battery life.
Yet, while using them I was impressed with all three of the new Nokias. For most users, these are the phones that may make them forget about specs. The design, software, brand name Nokia, the promise of timely updates seems like a good enough mix that will likely appeal to consumers who want clean Android experience without the fluff and junk that phone makers nowadays put in their devices.
Nokia 6, Nokia 5 and Nokia 3 India launch and prices
The only bit that is certain about the Nokia 6, the Nokia 5 and the Nokia 3 India launch is that these phones will arrive before the end of Q2, 2017. HMD’s idea is that the company should have sizable stock of the phones when it launches them. These phones will be available online as well as offline both and HMD will have service centres in at least 250 Indian cities for these phones.
Given that the launch date is somewhat away, the prices too are not clear for now. Globally, the price of the Nokia 6 is Euros 229 and the ARTE edition carries a tag of Euros 299. The Nokia 5 has a price of Euros 189 while the Nokia 3 has been priced Euros 139. India prices of the Nokia 6, the Nokia 3 and the Nokia 5 are expected to be similar, but a lot is going to depend on the prevailing exchange rate when these phones launch here in India.