Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Nokia 9 PureView with Android 10

The Nokia 9 PureView was given the review treatment back in June 2019 here and aside from the lousy optical fingerprint scanner under the glass I was reporting many good things about the HMD-produced Nokia flagship with wacko camera arrangements! I'm back here now in 2020 as, good as their promise, they dropped the Android 10 update for those who wanted it installed.

As a reminder, the specs of the phone are pretty good. It's an Android One device made from a glass/aluminium sandwich, IP67 rated with a bright 6" 1440p 18:9 P-OLED screen producing 538ppi and an always-on display option. It's powered by the SnapDragon 845 chipset with 6GB RAM and houses 128GB of storage, though there's no microSD option. The USB-C for data/charging is HDMI-Out compliant and USB-OTG works well. The battery is 3320mAh and QC3 is offered with an 18W brick along with fast 10W Qi wireless charging. The single mono speaker is very good but there's no 3.5mm audio-out, so dongles at the ready. When you get there, however, 24-bit audio is produced and it sounds great, wired or Bluetooth, supporting v5, LE and aptX. The phone is all about that camera though - or bunch of Zeiss cameras - a ring of 5x 12MP f1.8 shooters, 2 mono, 3 colour, a TOF 3D and OZO audio recording for good measure! Last but not least is the 20MP selfie, round front. There's Adobe Lightroom chucked in, RAW option and a special Depth Map mode which records 1200 levels of depth, in all good time, images from which can be focused to great effect after the event.

That's about the bones of it. It always felt a bit like an experiment, but good to their word, the company have pushed out the updates and seem to still have a commitment to the project. At least for now. There was talk of a 9.1, then 9.2 with improved specs and fixes for what couldn't be done in software, but there's nothing actually on the table for us to see just yet. So in the meantime, we have the Android 10 update. Much is good but some not quite so well!

The clean version of Android is still a joy for me to return to as I meander away from the path now and again reviewing other Android phones. It does enable me to understand the Apple fan's point of view about nestling inside the walled-garden, knowing what's what and getting what's promised, when! Everything as it should be, as designed by those creating the system. So we have Android 10 and November 2019 Google Security. We're hoping that a December 2019 or January 2020 update might also roll in some fixes for some of the following.

The Gestures approach to Navigation works beautifully, pretty much just like on a Pixel. Whole-side swiping for Back on both sides and one Moto-style 'long-pill' whenever you're away from the homescreen at the foot. Legacy Navigation can be selected if you prefer, 2 or 3 button. The Dark Theme gets the user dark pretty much everywhere that the Pixel can with odd exceptions, like Google Rewards and bizarrely, the Google App itself!

In terms of security, the optical under-glass fingerprint scanner remains the worse implementation I have used. It's not fit for purpose - just doesn't work without constant moistening of fingers, rejiggling position, getting the digit upright on the scanner, top of phone to bottom. My average attempt time is just like it was before which makes it clear to me that this problem can't be fixed in software and won't go away. Most people, like me I think are now simply turning it off so as not to get annoyed using an otherwise very capable phone. Fortunately, the face-scanning for unlock works pretty well. I even think that since this update it works a tad faster. It doesn't compare with the likes of Samsung's, but it's just fine in use. A look, a pause, you're in. It's the method I use the most along with my pattern/code when it's dark. This is no Pixel 4 Soli!

The battery testing demonstrates around the same kind of performance as before, over a number of days and mixed use. My 10% reading test is returning about an hour and a half, which is more than acceptable, and average day for me can return 22-26hrs between charges with 5-7hrs SoT, Adaptive battery and Brightness engaged. Some have been complaining about battery since Android 10 but I can't see a difference really. The camera looks like it's been untouched by this update and one complaint from Keith Bartlett is about the volume in the Maps Navigation which, when directions are being read out, reduces the volume to a level it shouldn't reflect. I can't seem to replicate that here - but then I'm not a big Maps user.

Immediately after the update I did experience some problems with USB-OTG in that the phone was crashing when I plugged in my 2TB SanDisk Extreme SSD, but I tested it again during the last few days and it seems to be fine now. Similarly, the reading of microSD Cards in the slot via adapter seemed very slow, but again, now fine. Whether something was fixed by Google during that time, I don't know. There have been no further updates from HMD, so maybe that one will remain a mystery.

There are some very broadly-reported problems with the Glance Screen. It's certainly working fine but there are rogue icons often. Notification icons when they shouldn't be there. Particularly persistent is the Voicemail one, which everyone seems to be getting randomly, sent via the phone/Carrier, presumably. Nobody seems to know. I often also get the 'download' icon, suggesting that something has finished downloading when it hasn't. Myself and others have tested the four Glance options available, Legacy x2 and Stylish x2, and it doesn't seem to matter which. So certainly something needs fixing there.

So that's my latest observations. It remains a great phone to use but it would be good to get that Glance thing sorted out. Generally, most else looks good. Everything being Dark Themed makes a huge difference to enabling the user feel like Nokia are with the programme, especially inside GMail. I shall keep prodding and poking but if anyone else has questions of observations, I'm sure that the handful of owners here will be pleased to feed back. Thanks Keith Bartlett and Lawrence Wills.

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