Nokia, which is owned by HMD-Global, has seen a resurgence these past couple of years thanks to its philosophy of providing a clean, stock Android experience to users, and in devices that are well built and designed. Recent sales figures are a testament to that with the Finnish brand registering a 126 percent year-on-year growth in 2018 as compared to 2017. However, 2019 has been the year of massive competition, especially in India, where smartphones in the mid-range to budget tier become obsolete in mere weeks. Nokia has been focused on both these market segments in India and to bolster its share it has launched the Nokia 6.2 and Nokia 7.2, which take over from the Nokia 6.1 and 7.1.
The Nokia 6.2 is a story for another day, but I did manage to get my hands on the Nokia 7.2. While I’m a fan of the Nokia philosophy, my expectations from the device were kind of lukewarm. Nokia phones have never really tipped towards matching the performance and battery offerings of the competition. Sure, the phone look great on the outside, but alas, the Nokia 7.2 has not changed my opinion one bit. Priced at Rs 18,599, the Nokia 7.2 is a flamboyant device, but competitors like the Realme XT (Review) or the Vivo Z1X are offering more value at the same price point.
A premium flagship design at a lower price
If you were impressed with how expensive the Nokia 6.1 Plus (Review) looked for its price then you’ve definitely not seen the Nokia 7.2. The phone is nothing short of stunning. Its sleek, unibody metal finish with that frosted matte glass at the back holds your attention, and nothing in the price range can match that style. The phone is lightweight and easy to access with one hand. The camera housing on the back is raised from the main body and has slightly sharp edges while its circular shape and the Zeiss branding is similar to Motorola’s camera bump, which can also now be seen on the recently released OnePlus 7T (review). The raised camera hump gives the phone quite a wobble when placed on a flat surface, but that is the case for more or less all phones these days. The Ice Blue colour variant has a subtle gradient to it which is visible when you hold the device at a certain angle. In short, the phone is a real delight to look at and credit where it is due, the Nokia team has done superlative job of designing the phone’s exteriors.
There is a fingerprint sensor at the back under the camera unit along with the Nokia branding underneath. Nokia is keeping the headphone jack like most smartphones in the segment, however, the position is at the top. You get the regular volume rockers on the side of the phone along with the power button, while on the left side of the device there is an inclusion of the Google Assistant button which also doubles as the notification indicator, since it has an LED light embedded. While it is a nice touch, I’m not sure how useful this indicator will be since people don’t usually look at the side of the phone. On the bottom of the device, we see a Type-C port along with a speaker grill. Overall, I’m quite stoked about Nokia’s approach to design, which is quite classy and elegant and is definitely one of its biggest selling points.
A classy display
The Nokia 7.2 has a 6.3-inch FHD+ LCD screen and has a resolution of 2280 x 1080. The device has a waterdrop notch on the top which houses the selfie shooter, and you also spot a sizeable chin wherein you can again see the Nokia branding. Overall the phone does not have the best screen-to-body ratio compared to some other phones in the same price bracket such as the Oppo K3 or the Realme X. However, the quality of the display is generally on par with the competition.
The device comes with Nokia’s HDR PureDisplay technology giving you vivid and dynamic visuals on the screen by natively converting your SDR videos into HDR ones. I did keep the phone side-by-side with a Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review) and noticed significantly better colours and contrast on the former as compared to the latter. There is also a Dynamic mode on the phone, which will automatically adjust your display according to what you are viewing on the phone. An example of this is that while reading an ebook on your device, the display will go warmer so that it is easier on your eyes.
However great a display is, it will come with its caveats, and in the case of the Nokia 7.2, we see that it is the peak brightness of the phone. For outdoor usage, the phone’s full brightness is just not enough as I found it quite difficult to decipher anything on the screen. At night though the display can be dimmed enough for long usage without straining your eyes.
While the phone has a lot of bling on the outside, it has failed quite spectacularly on the inside, though there is a definite improvement over the Nokia 7.1 which housed the Snapdragon 636. The Snapdragon 660 in the Nokia 7.2 is not going to win any hearts when you see what the competition is having. The Vivo Z1X, Realme 5 Pro (Review) and Oppo K3 are in the same price range and have all moved to the newer, more powerful 700-series chipsets from Qualcomm and also offer more RAM. Starting at a paltry 4 GB, it was no surprise that the Nokia 7.2 could not handle multiple apps at the same time.
Benchmarks do not paint a complete picture for you but when you see scores of 340 and 1497 on Geekbench’s single and multi-core test respectively, you begin to wonder if you are getting your money’s worth. The Snapdragon 660 SoC is now quite outdated and was seen on mid-rangers back in early 2018. Since then the smartphone world has moved up a notch to Snapdragon 670, 665 and 675 chipsets. The Redmi Note 7 Pro — which is a device launched more than 8 months ago — has a single-core score greater than the Nokia 7.2’s multi-core score, which is a real testament to how far back the Nokia 7.2 is, and I really expected more from the device.
There were other drawbacks of the phone’s lacklustre performance. The face unlock on the device takes its own sweet time to work, as does the fingerprint reader. There is also a more-than-significant delay in voice-to-text output for Google Assistant. The PUBG Mobile experience on the phone was quite average and while the game defaults you to the medium graphics settings, the device quickly starts getting hot in about 20-25 minutes, and at that point, you are greeted with significant frame drops. The phone also had a tendency to get very hot during extended gaming sessions. If you are looking for a phone to game on under Rs 20,000, you should definitely skip the Nokia 7.2.
Apart from that, the audio quality on calls through the earpiece was as good, while the bottom-firing speaker gets the job done in terms of loudness and crispness.
If Nokia really wanted to sell this smartphone to a wider audience, my opinion is that they should have at least included a Snapdragon 712 chipset, which has become kind of the norm on smartphones in the Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 range.
Decent camera hardware, but it’s not the best
The Nokia 7.2 also has a triple-camera setup with a 48 MP Samsung ISOCELL primary sensor supported by an 8 MP ultra-wide lens and a 5 MP depth sensor. With the Carl Zeiss branding, something which Nokia phones have been sporting for quite some time, I was quite sure that the Nokia 7.2 would leave me impressed. While my faith was justified to some extent, I was not completely satisfied with the image quality in various lighting conditions.
The 48 MP camera holds its own in ample sunlight with the pictures turning out vivid, colourful and with good dynamic range. Most of the time, colour accuracy was on point, but in some cases, I could see that the images clicked showed less saturation than what I could initially see on the viewfinder. There was also a lot of oversharpening happening in quite a few photos, although not to the extent we’ve seen on Vivo or Oppo phones.
(Please click on each photo to view the high-resolution version)
The ultra-wide lens has a 118-degree field of view which allows you to fill much more in your frame than what you can with the primary sensor. There is an obvious drop in quality which translates to less sharpness, while the colour temperatures tends to go haywire as compared to the main lens. Comparatively, I’ve seen better photos from the ultra-wide lens in the Realme 5 Pro and the Vivo Z1X, although the Nokia’s photos are not bad either.
Night time photos leave a lot to be desired as far as the Nokia 7.2 is concerned. The phone takes an unconscionable amount of time to click a Night mode shot and the results do not justify this excessive waiting time. In conditions where a moderate amount of luminescence is coming from sources such as street lights, the phone was able to capture details, albeit with a lot of noise. In conditions of low lighting, there were little to no details and the exposure was also quite bad.
Portrait mode photos on the device were quite good though with a good background separation while the subject remained well in focus. Nokia has given you the option to choose what kind of background blur you would like such as Classic, Star, Heart and more, which I believe most people are not going to use, but it is still nice to have the option. There is also the 20 MP front-facing camera which does some oversharpening, but in general takes some nice photos with sufficient details. The bokeh mode works well on the front camera as well.
Talking also about the video-taking capabilities of the smartphone we see that it comes with OIS and can shoot 4K videos at 30 fps. There is no option to shoot in slow-mo as you can with other smartphones in this price range.
To see all the pictures taken by the Nokia 7.2 in high-res please click on the image
Software is up to the mark at least
I’ve always been a fan of the clean, stock Android experience and I’m more than satisfied with the software on the Nokia 7.2. All of Nokia’s recent smartphones have been part of the Android One program, which means that all smartphones running Android 9.0 out-of-the-box, like the Nokia 7.2, will get guaranteed Android 10 updates and perhaps even Android 11. The UI is bloat-free and quite responsive. Software is an area where I had never had a complaint from Nokia phones, and that happens to be the case here as well.
Battery is good but it’s not good enough
A lot of smartphones have standardised at least a 4,000 mAh of battery even in the mid-range to budget devices. However, the Nokia 7.2 has gone for a 3,500 mAh battery, which in my opinion is a tad bit less when you look at what the competition is offering. The Nokia 7.2 lasts just about a day on regular usage which includes browsing the net, watching YouTube videos and keeping my WhatsApp and Slack accounts active all the time. If I include heavy gaming as well, like PUBG Mobile, then the phone has to be charged within half a day. I was getting a screen on time for about 4 hours which is not bad but not very great as well. The charging speeds for the device are also nothing extraordinary as the phone supports only up to 10 W of fast charging, which fully juices up the device in about 90 minutes. Competitors such as Realme have charging speeds of 20 W.
Should you buy the Nokia 7.2?
A great software experience and an extremely flashy design aside, I believe that users will find no extra value for money in the Nokia 7.2. Yes it has decent cameras, but so does the Realme XT or the Vivo Z1X, both of which start at more than Rs 2,000 cheaper. The performance of the device will leave you wanting and while the battery on the device could be sufficient for some, competing devices will definitely offer a higher battery capacity with faster-charging speeds.
I think that the Nokia 7.2 is meant for diehard Nokia fans who will not give up on the brand no matter what, and that is understandable. Nokia has definitely delivered some quality phones over the year as part of its re-entry into the smartphone space. But I believe that just as Samsung has now learnt a hard lesson about people not wanting to pay a premium just for brand value, Nokia needs to pick up on those cues as well.
(All images were taken by Prateek Singh)