Hands-on: Is the new Nokia 7.2 a pretender or contender in the mid-range segment?
While flagship smartphones get most of the headlines, the mid-range segment of the smartphone market has been getting better and better in recent years. In fact, for most users, there is little need or value in getting a flagship smartphone if you’re not going to properly tap into the power user features on offer. Of course, regardless of this sort of advice, there are always people who are simply going to buy a flagship smartphone simply for the status. These types of users really aren’t doing themselves or their wallets any favors when there are devices like the newly released Nokia 7.2 on the market that can deliver 80 or 90 percent of the flagship smartphone experience but cost 50 to 70 percent less.
Nokia smartphones these days are produced by HMD Global who has licensed the Nokia name following the ultimately doomed takeover of the original Nokia smartphone division by Microsoft. HMD Global, however, is comprised of many former Nokia engineers but this time around instead of trying to make a fist of it with a homegrown OS, they have carved out a solid market niche on Nokia devices enrolled in Google’s Android One program. This means Nokia devices run a version of stock Android very similar to the Android OS you will find on Google’s Pixel devices. It also means that Nokia phones are among the most up to date smartphones on the market, which is a huge plus.
The Nokia 7.2 is an all-new design that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a flagship Android device from 2018. It is an all-screen design with a teardrop notch and a relatively narrow bottom ‘chin’ and for a device in its US$349 price range. Speaking of its screen, it is a 6.3-inch IPS LCD type with an FHD+ resolution of 2160 x 1080 pixels for a pixel density of 401 ppi while it also supports HDR10 with SDR upscaling. Colors pop and it is more than bright enough for use outdoors thanks to Nokia’s PureView display tech that offers 96 percent coverage of the DCI-P3 color gamut and 1:4500 contrast ratio. You’d have to be a real nitpicker to complain about it, particularly at the price point. Text looks razor-sharp, which given Apple dubs a Retina display with anything that has a 326 ppi density, shouldn’t surprise while video playback is also excellent.
The Nokia 7.2 also looks and feels surprisingly premium for a device in its category; although it is reflective of just how highly competitive the mid-range Android smartphone segment has become. It is built on a sturdy metal chassis that is wrapped in a “high-tech polymer composite that’s double the strength of regular polycarbonate, but half the weight of aluminum”. The rear, like the display, is covered in 2.5D Corning Gorilla in a frosted matte finish. Overall, it feels nice in the hand although it is a little on the large side with dimensions of 159.92 x 75.15 x 8.25 mm and weighs in at 180 grams. It is worth picking one up in a store to try it out to make sure you will feel comfortable using it in the long term.
The triple-rear camera array looks a lot more seamlessly integrated into the overall look and feel of the device than much more expensive devices on the market like the iPhone 11/Pro range. As per Nokia tradition, the cameras have been made in partnership with Zeiss optics for the lenses. Here you will find Sony’s ubiquitous 48 MP IMX586 1/2-inch sensor that utilizes a pixel binning technique where four pixels combine to act as one larger pixel. This produces high detail photos with an effective resolution of 12 MP. This is joined by a 5 MP depth sensor for portraits and an 8 MP camera with an ultra-wide 118-dergree lens. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it is more than adequate for the average user.
If there is one potential weakness in the Nokia 7.2 it is the choice of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC. It is fabricated on a 14 nm process and was first announced back in mid-2017, so it is now around 18 months old. It’s not a bad performer – in fact our testing shows that it lands somewhere between a Snapdragon 821 and 835 in performance terms, but it drops off quite a bit in terms of graphics performance compared to these two former flagship chipsets. However, Nokia 7.2 is fine for casual gaming and everyday use, but it can struggle a little with all media features turned on in apps like Twitter with subtle stuttering while scrolling noted. Our test model pairs the Snapdragon 660 with a 4 GB/128 GB configuration although there is the option of a 6 GB/128 GB configuration in some markets which is what we’d recommend. The chipset in either model is mated to decently sized 3,500 mAh battery we found enough for a solid day of use and can be fast charged with a QC 4.0 charger, but this is not included.
What are you missing out in opting for a device like the Nokia 7.2 compared to a flagship device aside from the obvious performance and battery life gains? Not a lot in real terms but some deal breakers could include a lack of waterproofing, a lack of wireless charging, and smaller details like a lack of support for hi-res audio streaming -- it does support aptX, but not aptX HD, for example. Its camera performance is good for this class of device, but it will not challenge the best smartphones on the market. It is not the most cutting-edge design out there, but it is surprisingly classy and does not look out of place with the best designs coming out even at the high end. The addition of a dedicated Google Assistant is also a nice touch that is also quite useful in practice.
The most obvious competition for the Nokia 7.2 includes the Moto G7 Plus, the Pixel 3a and the new Reno2 Z. That is some pretty stiff competition, but the Nokia 7.2 mostly holds its own and, like the Pixel 3a, it runs stock Android. If you’re more adventurous and willing to spend an extra US$25 or US$50, the Reno2 Z is worth a look, but you will have to contend with Oppo’s Color OS skin. At the same time, too, customers in this price segment are also quite pricing sensitive. If it’s all about the photos, then you’d have to go with the Pixel 3a, but if you want a nice balance between overall style, value and performance the Nokia 7.2 is worthy of your attention.