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printed November 22, 2017
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Review: Nokia 6 with Amazon Prime Exclusive Ads

Hardware Software Wrap-Up Comments  1  

Aug 21, 2017, 6:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

HMD Global's first significant handset is the Android-powered Nokia 6. This device straddles the border between entry-level and mid-range smartphones thanks to its refined design but outdated specs. Consumers can pick it up from Amazon for $50 under retail as long as they agree to view lock screen ads. Here are Phone Scoop's thoughts on the Nokia 6 from HMD Global.

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Is It Your Type?

The Nokia 6 is an elegant slab that represents a tentative first step in Nokia's long road to rebirth. It is an unlocked, inexpensive Android smartphone that might be a good option for travelers or those pining for the days when Nokia was the cellphone king. The Amazon Prime Exclusive variant, which we reviewed, has a lower price tag thanks to some Amazon tie-ins.

Body

Simplicity has virtue. As much as I appreciate the high design of curvy handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S8, there's something to be said for the clean lines that form the Nokia 6. It's a metal and glass slab from (essentially) an upstart company that puts some seasoned phone makers to shame.

The Nokia 6 is not designed nor is it made by Nokia, at least not the company you remember. A small Finnish company called HMD Global — launched by former Nokia employees — designed the phone. It's manufactured by a Chinese company. HMD Global is the sole licensee of the Nokia brand. I point this out because I want it to be clear that the Nokia 6 is nothing like the Lumia series devices from the old Nokia; it's an entirely new endeavor. HMD hopes to capitalize on the Nokia brand name in regions where it was popular, particularly across Europe and Asia.

The phone has a fine aluminum frame that's paired with a metal rear plate and a 2.5D curved glass panel. The frame is painted dark gray, but polished chamfers along the edges give it some chrome-y sparkle. The rear panel is mostly flat and tucks into the frame with slight curves that mirror those of the opposing piece of glass on front. I like the flat-edged design of the outer metal frame, which gives the Nokia 6 a sharp profile. The chamfers really help define the phone's shape.

It's a tall piece of hardware. At more than 6 inches long and 3 inches wide, it'll be a handful for those with smaller hands. I could just barely get away with using the phone one-handed; my guess is many people will need both hands to really operate the Nokia 6 comfortably. It's slender at just 7.8mm thick, but the metal build puts the weight at a hefty 6 ounces. The flat rear panel and flat edges do make the phone less comfortable to grip than a handset with a more rounded design. The phone will fit in most pockets, but the sharp edges dig into your leg from time to time. It may wear out your pocket lining quickly.

HMD Global and its manufacturing partner did an excellent job selecting materials and assembling the phone. The metal construction is far classier than anything Nokia itself produced under the Lumia brand. All of the components are fitted together perfectly, all the seams are tight, and the phone conveys a feeling of quality and strength.

Nokia 6  

The Nokia 6's face is stark simplicity. A huge piece of glass covers the entirety of the front with subtle curves sloping into the frame. The large slit for the earpiece is the most visible element of the phone's face. The Nokia logo, painted under the glass, is just barely visible to the right of the earpiece. HMD was able to keep the side bezels in check, but the forehead and chin bezels are each thicker than I care to see.

The chin holds a slim fingerprint reader that doubles as a home button. It is indented ever-so-slightly which helps your thumb find it by feel. The capacitive back and app-switcher buttons flank it on either side. All three are positioned about as close to the bottom edge of the phone as possible, which sometimes makes them awkward to reach.

You'll find the SIM card tray near the top of the phone's left edge. The tray accommodates one SIM card and one microSD memory card, or two SIM cards. HMD stuck the screen lock button and volume toggle on the phone's right edge. The screen lock button is the lower of the two. It's small, but it has a really good profile and excellent travel and feedback. The volume toggle also has a good profile and feedback. Both buttons have a smooth texture.

The 3.5mm headset jack is on top and the microUSB port is on the bottom. I'm disappointed to see microUSB rather than USB-C, though I'm not all that surprised. Many budget phone makers have so far eschewed USB-C. Two small slits in the bottom edge signify the location of the speakerphone.

Black paint covers the rear metal panel. The paint has a matte, gritty look to it that I rather like. The blue color option is really appealing. Other than the camera module, the rear panel is mostly a blank slate. The camera module is a long, raised oval with the lens at one end and the LED flash at the other. The module is framed by a chrome finish that sets it apart visually. The Nokia logo is etched into the metal and coated with a glossy black paint so it stands out a bit. The rear cover (and battery) cannot be removed.

The phone is not rugged, waterproof, nor water resistant at all.

HMD Global designed and manufactured a fine piece of hardware in the Nokia 6. It's not for everyone, and it doesn't necessarily have the presence of Nokia's Lumia handsets, but this no-frills phone is a breath of fresh air.

Screen

The Nokia 6 has a fairly typical screen. It measures 5.5 inches across the diagonal and offers full HD (1080p) resolution. It's an LCD panel and sticks to the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio. The pixel density is good enough that spotting individual pixels is more or less impossible, but it wouldn't be great for VR. Text, graphics, and icons on the display are smooth around the edges. The LCD panel pushes out a significant amount of light. You won't have any trouble using the phone indoors or out, at least as far as luminosity is concerned. The display is prone to collecting fingerprints, which obscure the screen under a sunny sky. Viewing angles are good for an LCD, with only a small amount of obvious blue shift when the phone is tilted to and fro.

Signal

Here's where things start to get a little dicey. The Nokia 6 supports LTE Bands 2, 3, 4, 7, 12, 17, and 28. The important ones here are Bands 2, 4, and 12, which are used by AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. While it's good that the Nokia 6 supports these bands, it provides limited service from both carriers as it ignores their newer LTE bands, such as 5, 29, 30, and 66.

I tested the phone on AT&T's network in the NYC area and wasn't that impressed. To start, the phone stayed on AT&T's HSPA 3.5G network most of the time. In fact, I can't remember a moment when it displayed the "4G" or "LTE" indicators on the screen. This means slow data speeds when out and about. It was noticeably slower than branded AT&T phones tested in the same areas. The Nokia 6 was fine for syncing email and checking Twitter, but Facebook and Instagram performed sluggishly. Streaming music or video over the network was not a great experience.

As for voice calls, the Nokia 6 did fairly well. It connected the majority of calls on the first dial. It held onto calls at highway speeds, dropping only one over a course of 20 miles. The Nokia 6 did not miss any calls while I reviewed it.

Sound

The Nokia 6 is a solid voice phone. I was generally pleased with voice quality across the board as tested on AT&T's network. The earpiece puts out plenty of sound, of that there's no doubt. I had no trouble hearing calls via the Nokia 6 in noisy coffee shops, busy shopping malls, and of course at home or in the car. Quality is very good. I didn't notice any distortion at high volumes, and voices typically had a warm timbre. Those I spoke to through the Nokia 6 said I sounded "right next door."

The speakerphone is decent, but not the best I've encountered. It delivers a good jolt in the volume department, but clarity suffers a bit, particularly at high volumes. It works in the car very well, as long as you don't mind some choppiness.

Ringers are loud enough that they should always get your attention. The vibrate alert was strong enough to make the phone dance its way across my desk.

The Nokia 6 includes stereo speakers and Dolby Atmos sound. The phone doesn't have two front-firing speakers; instead, it uses the earpiece as one speaker and the speakerphone (mounted on the bottom) as the second speaker. Together these produce a full range of sound. When holding the phone sideways, it does create stereo playback when watching videos or listening to music. The earpiece leans towards more treble-y tones and the speakerphone leans towards more bass-y tones. The effect is still better than mono sound.

Battery

HMD Global opted for a 3,000 mAh battery for the Nokia 6 and it does a fine job. I was able to push the Nokia 6 from breakfast to bedtime most days I tested the phone. Only on one occasion did it crap out early, and that was a day I spent a bit too much time watching YouTube TV and other video programs on the phone. Even then, it made it through dinner and well into the evening. My guess is most people will be satisfied with the Nokia 6's battery life.

Like most Android handsets, the Nokia 6 includes the stock battery saver tool. It helps a little.

The Nokia 6 does not include wireless charging, nor does it support rapid charging.

Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi

I didn't run into any problems with the Nokia 6's ancillary radios. The Bluetooth radio, in particular, worked really well. It paired with headsets and speakers almost instantly. It spoke to my car's hands-free system more fluently than R2D2 could patch into the Death Star. It loaded my call / contact history into my car in a blink, which is many blinks faster than most other phones I've tested recently. Call quality via car or headset was quite good.

The GPS radio performed flawlessly. It pinpointed my location in 1 or 2 seconds, to within 10 feet. More importantly, it kept up during real-time navigation between points in Google Maps.

The Nokia 6 doesn't include NFC, but the WiFi worked really well.

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Comments

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pantrychef

Aug 22, 2017, 11:06 AM

No NFC? How about 5GHz WiFi?

PhoneScoop's review of the Nokia 6 indicated no NFC functionality yet product specs indicate otherwise. I would like to know whether the typo is in the review or manufacturer specs.

Also, manufacturer specs indicates Wi-Fi support on the 5GHz band. Would the reviewer kindly confirm?

Thank you.
 
 
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