Friday, 5 June 2020

Nokia 7.2 (Android 10)

The Nokia 7.2 is the big brother of the 6.2 with a couple of core difference which may, or may not, be of any importance to the buyer. It's a cheap'n'cheerful budget phone with aspirations of being more, as is the trend these days, often led by Motorola. Thankfully, Nokia keep their lines more simple than Moto, so we have some chance of knowing which model is which!

We'll get the differences between the two out of the way first, then press on to consider the 7.2 more fully. The 6.2 has a SnapDragon 636, the 7.2, 660. The 64GB models available in the UK mainstream offer 4GB RAM on the 6.2 and 6GB on the 7.2. The main camera on the 6.2 is a simpler 16MP unit whilst the 7.2 hosts the widely-adopted now 48MP Quad-Bayer unit from Sony and Zeiss-branded optics. The Selfie on the 6.2 is a lesser 8MP against the 20MP of the 7.2. So, if none of that matters to you, save yourself £20-30 and get the 6.2. Real world prices at time of writing are around £200 for the 7.2 and £170 for the 6.2. As always, shop around though.

So, on with the 7.2 and the model was released in Autumn 2019 initially for £249. I bought it in the spring of 2020 when it was already down to £229, but was awaiting Android 10 to drop before reviewing, which has now come around. The first impression is how premium it feels in the hand. The unit I have here is Cyan Green and with the glass back which shimmers in the light, it looks like a Mediterranean blue/green sea. There is plastic and not metal holding the two glass surfaces together, but again, it really doesn't look anything less than first-rate aluminium.

Sticking with the back, there's an AndroidOne logo, a Nokia logo right in the middle, sideways, a round capacitive fingerprint scanner and just above it, a camera-island which looks very much like Motorola designed it. On the circular island there are four elements, which we'll come to, and a Zeiss name in the middle. The island stands proud of the back by a millimetre or two but because it's central, it doesn't rock when placed on a desk, for those who can't afford to buy a cheap TPU to keep it flush and prevent any chance of damage. There's no case included, at least in the UK. The phone is not the lightest at 180g, neither the smallest, being actually slightly taller than the Nokia 9 PureView (which I consider to be quite big). It seems that this is the trend, bigger is better. Maybe.

On the left side there's a Dual SIM Card Tray with another slot for a microSD Card, pokey-tool provided to whip it out. Underneath that is one of the two main feature buttons on the phone - this one being a dedicated Google Assistant button. Nonassignable for anything else, but it can be turned off. On the other side is a volume rocker and underneath that, a power button with another neat trick - there's a white light inside it which acts as a Notification Light. This can be turned off and on in Apps and Notifications in Settings. It's a global setting and pulses when Notifications arrive and until they're dealt with. I like it! Down the bottom there's a USB-C port, speaker grille and microphone and up-top another microphone and 3.5mm audio-out socket.

Gorilla Glass is used for both back and front flat surfaces and the latter has a teardrop notch making way for the Selfie camera, up front and central. The lens intrudes by about half, the rest of it resident inside the forehead bezel. The bezel is only a couple of millimetres or so and down the sides, about the same. The chin is a bit bigger with the NOKIA identifier sitting in the middle. I seem to be alone these days in preferring to have some bezels around the screen whilst it is so popular to have none at all. I remain of the opinion that it gives the user somewhere for fingertips and swipes, particularly with full-screen Gestures under Android 10.

The 6.3" front panel is a 1080p IPS LCD with a 19:9 ratio. This returns 400ppi and is perfectly sharp enough, I contend, for all but the youngest hawk-eyed users! It's super bright for my eyes. Colours are rich and saturated without being over-the-top, but for those who want to fiddle there's a Setting for PureDisplay which allows tweaking of how the display looks on a per-app basis, no less - or for the rest of us there's Dynamic Mode! As usual with these tools, I don't really see huge difference - especially in isolation. Put two alongside each other then, yes, maybe. Out in the bright sunshine, it's not the best, but remains usable.

There are apparently various hardware options available in different regions but in the UK we seem stuck with the 64GB storage version - annoying when we know there's a 128GB version out there somewhere! At least there's a microSD Card, which is working well with my 512GB card and the unit passes the 2TB SSD test as well. No need to mention I guess that HDMI-Out doesn't work! The SnapDragon 660 performs acceptably for most people in the demographic likely to use this phone. It's not the fastest when pushed. Gaming and intensive downloading tasks are often causing the UI to slow down, but once settled down it feels alright again, assisted here by the 6GB RAM which ensures that only the least-recently used apps are no longer available without restart.

The capacitive fingerprint scanner on the back is quick to register and works near-perfectly every time, much like the Face Unlock. Working together they ensure fast and (presumably) secure access to the phone. The Google Assistant button on the left works in exactly the same way as long-pressing the Home button of Android 9, or under Android 10, sweeping up from either of the two bottom corners. So just press and the Assistant comes up on the screen ready for interrogation on general information but not secure information behind the lock. If the phone is open and in use, a double-press invokes the 'listening' screen so you can just ask or command away. If there's no security engaged on the phone of course, this can also work from screen-off. I'm much more likely to use the Assistant with this button present.

The Nokia 7.2 is part of the AndroidOne scheme which, as we know, means a guaranteed upgrade to two OS versions (so 10 and 11) and three years of Google Security Updates, offering owners safety until at least Autumn 2022. It also means a very clean UI, no bloat beyond a couple of useful Nokia additions - a near Vanilla software experience. In this case, the Camera app, FM Radio and Nokia's My Phone (support app). Even cleaner than the Motorola models. Nokia do have a good track record for pushing out Security Updates. Most people don't chase those each month, but even for those who do, it's not long to wait usually. As I type the unit has Android 10 and May 2020 Google Security and it's only just June 2020. The main benefits for me of Android 10 were the Back Gestures from either side and the global Dark Theme. There are loads of other benefits under the hood and beyond, but those two made it feel like yes, we're up to date!

The Always on Display Nokia claim is included really isn't! It can be set to briefly come on when Notifications come in, along with the Notification Light in the power button, but otherwise it's off. Double-tap to get a few seconds to look at what's waiting, clock, date etc. but this really is not anything like Always On. A nudge or lift-to-wake doesn't even work, unlike like some. Shame on them for this outrageous claim!

The mono loudspeaker at the bottom is perfectly functional. It's surprisingly loud but really not very good in terms of quality. There's no system-wide audio controls, no sniff of Dolby or the like, so what you get is what's here. It's really not bad for casual listening, even of YouTube videos and music, depending on the files involved of course. If you want to enjoy music, it's really time to break out a third-party Music Player with Equalisation. This enables the bass to be upped of course, the treble reduced, for an improved sound. At the expense of volume, as always. It's a reasonable payoff and the target audience will be fine with the speaker output, is my guess.

There is always the option of headphones via the 3.5mm audio-out socket. Tested here with my neutral reference headphones and the sound really is very good to my ears. It's too loud for me, bass'y, clear and well defined. I plugged in a £2.49 pair of market-stall earphones and we're back to good-enough for casual listening. So I guess most earphones people will use with the unit will be somewhere between my two extremes, so quality variable. But generally speaking it feels as though it punches above its weight. Turning to Bluetooth and testing with AirPods and Freebuds 3 here. Bluetooth 5 is on offer supporting LE and aptX. Pairing was quick, connection solid and reliable with both. The sound is excellent for quality and volume, even when tested flat, with these reasonably good quality buds so again, most people using this phone for private listening won't have much to complain about. The FM Radio is functional at best, there's no recording capability, only auto-scan and Favourite marking. Once the 3.5mm audio-out socket has something plugged into it the sound can be switched to the speaker but in my tests here, against how other phones perform under the same local circumstances, the connectivity is not very good and easily broken up. I'm testing here under the same conditions as others, but given a good signal I'm sure it would at least perform better. To be honest the whole app feels like a bit of an afterthought.

Connectivity seems good in other respects. WiFi pickup and hold seems strong, cellular connection likewise and phone calls seem good enough with earpiece working well and GPS finds position quickly. I was not able to test the NFC with Google Pay but I am informed by other reviewers that it works as expected. The Nokia 7.2 comes with a 3,500mAh Battery built-in. There's no fancy Fast Charging here and the supplied wall-plug is a 10W slow one, 2A. Of course, there's no Qi Charging here at this point in the market, though these firms might have to start considering that as even the $339 Unihertz Titan which I reviewed this week included that functionality. In my usual round of testing I found that charging it from flat takes a couple of hours or so and a quick boost if needed does about 40% in half an hour. The next test is my 10% Reading Test which returns about 1 hour and 30 minutes, which is in keeping with other tests executed here on mid-range devices with similar battery sizes. The average use between charges, again, for my usage - against other devices I have treated just the same - is pretty good at 26-30hrs with Adaptive brightness/battery and 5-7hrs SoT. The battery performance is decent enough to get most people through a busy day, as long as they are not caning the phone with extended video shooting or film watching. As always, it's a subjective call and depends on usage - which is why I offer my figures based on consistent yardsticks for me.

There are three cameras on the back of the phone. That fourth place was taken by an LED Flash. One of the lenses is in fact a Depth Sensor, 5MP f2.4, which supports a very similar Depth Map option which can be turned on in Settings, for Photo shots only with the main camera, present in the Nokia 9 PureView. I loved playing with that in the latter and I was really surprised to find it here. I wonder if it was added in software update since release. Anyway, yes, it's great fun. It means that when engaged the main camera sensor works with the depth sensor and allows the user to tweak the point of focus after the event via a slider embedded into Google Photos Editor. Now, with the Nokia 9, this was always a painfully slow process but here, it seems quicker for the camera app to process the shot. Still as long in Google Photos to apply a re-focus and save, but at least the shooter is not held up for so long before s/he can take the next shot. The first time I tried it however, it crashed the phone during processing the depth map! Hasn't done that again, but I'm watching!

The main camera is, as I said earlier, another of these 48-into-12MP Quad-bayer units, here f1.8, there's an 8MP f2.2 wide-angle lens and then that Depth one. So no telephoto in terms of an Optical Zoom, but of course dreadful digital is available up to 10x for emergencies! At least some of the optics carry the Zeiss branding and actually, the results seem to be fine to me, for casual users, posting to social media etc. The camera app has a Portrait Mode, though I'm not quite sure why when the Depth Map function available, a Pro Mode to tweak things manually, Night Mode which offer the usual payoff in terms of gathering light and so on. You know the drill. The camera and video functionality on the phone are just fine for the 95% of us doing the 95% of things with our photos and videos, but for those who are expecting cameras in phones to perform anything like proper cameras they will be disappointed. Pixel peep away and leave us to enjoy the fun! The star of the show for me though is the Depth Mode, which is quite addictive! Again, the 20MP f2 Selfie camera on the front seems perfectly good enough to me. The 20MP is also quad'd down to 5MP unless you specifically set the camera to shoot at 20MP and then only use the main camera and not wide-angle.

In summary, the Nokia 7.2 is a cracking phone with lots of positive attributes. It's a bit of a hard sell when pitched against similarly priced Motorola handsets, particularly the Moto G8 Plus. It does however have a cleaner UI and AndroidOne with the benefits described above. It's a nicely designed phone which feels premium for the user and holds that unique combination of LED Light in the power button and Google Assistant button the other side, always ready. The camera could be better, but battery life is good enough and it's (now) well priced. The LCD panel is bright and speaker does a good enough job for most. The Depth Mode in the camera is a peach to play with, don't forget. It's a great phone for the price and deserves to be up there contending with the others in that bracket - above budget, with good features approaching mid-range. Recommended on that basis. Available now at AmazonUK.

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