Nokia 6.1 Plus is still a fairly new phone. HMD Global launched it back in August this year. I have been using it for the last couple of weeks now and thought I would share my experience with it.
Most of you who have followed me here, and on social media, would know that I am currently using iPhone XS Max as my primary phone, having previously switched from iPhone X couple of months after using that phone for the most part of last one year.
While I use iPhone as my primary phone most of the time, I do switch to competing Android-powered phones from time to time to see how’s the progress been made on Android side of things.
This review, of course, is by no means a comparison between an iPhone and Nokia 6.1 Plus. The two can’t be compared because of the massive price difference and the fact that both phones target different kinds and segment of users. But there are of course similarities between the two, and since there are a lot of people out there who can’t afford the newer iPhones but still want some of those looks and features on extreme budget, I thought it was worth sharing my experience of using Nokia 6.1 Plus for them.
Let’s get price out of the way first. The phone is available to purchase unlocked for around £290 in the UK (approx $300 in the US), around 250 euros in the EU, and around 15,999INR in India. You can get it from here if you like.
The display is the reason why the front of the phone looks so similar to iPhone X’s or XS’ design. It features a 5.8-inch 2280×1080 IPS LCD 432ppi Gorilla Glass 3 panel with a “notch” on top. Unlike the reason for notch on iPhone X/XS/XR, the notch here doesn’t serve any real purpose as there are no complicated TrueDepth-like sensors for facial recognition and is just there for the sake of being in the trend these days.
In practical use, the display is pretty sharp with decent brightness levels. It shows pretty accurate colors both in indoor and outdoor conditions. Honestly, the quality of the display actually surprised me. I haven’t seen a display on a $300 phone which produces such good sharpness and colors in almost all conditions.
Powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 636, Adreno 509 GPU and 4GB RAM, while the specs on paper aren’t too bad for a budget phone, the performance in my experience was average at best with Android struggling to keep programs in memory for long and more often than not refreshing apps in the background. There was also occasional lag here and there when moving quickly between apps but that is probably to be expected from 636 SoC.
Design & Build Quality
As mentioned earlier, both the front and back of the phone are made of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 with aluminum frame sandwiched between the two glass frames. Because of this, build quality is pretty good with no feeling of cheap parts on the exterior. As for design, the front has a notched-display with a very unsightly chin bezel at the bottom featuring Nokia logo. While the notch is smaller than iPhone X due to no presence of Face ID-like sensors, and the side bezels are also same as the one on iPhone X, the bottom chin bezel is very unsightly and really kills the purpose of having a notched-display in the first place. The reason why most phones, especially the ones on budget like this one, has chin bezel at the bottom is because it houses display connectors and is very difficult to hide. Apple hides it with complicated and expensive process which involves folding of the display, more info on which can be found here.
Nokia 6.1 Plus features non-removable 3060mAh battery. While that spec is nothing to write home about as far as phones in the Android world are concerned, some of the software optimization in the phone means I was able to easily get 4-4.5 hours of screen on time on average with my moderate to heavy use, which I think is pretty acceptable for a phone that costs just $300. The good thing is that it supports fast-charging via Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 so topping it up quickly wasn’t too much of an issue for me.
Camera is where this phone falls short. While day time photos turned out just fine – like they do on most phones – night time photography and portrait mode is where it all falls apart. Just look at some of the sample photos I shot with it below.
Some day and night shots from Nokia 6.1 Plus side-by-side:
And here is the portrait mode photo (called Bokeh mode on Nokia 6.1 Plus):
Compared to Portrait mode on iPhone XS Max:
Now I know this is not a fair comparison but I thought I would put the two photos in here just so that you know what kind of camera you’d get with a phone that costs $300 compared to one which costs $1000+.
Given the price, I wasn’t expecting a great shooter in there but I have seen ~$300 phones performing better in camera department than this so I was definitely disappointed with how the above results turned out. For those keeping a note of specs, the rear camera is of dual-lens configuration with 16MP on the primary and 5MP on the secondary. The front-facing selfie shooter features 16MP lens.
As for video, the rear camera can shoot up to 4K@30fps while the front shooter can only do up to 1080p@30fps.
As of November 2018, Nokia 6.1 Plus is powered by Android 9 Pie (Android One) and this is probably the best feature of the phone in my opinion.
The fact that it’s running latest and greatest version of Android with no skins or bloatware on top makes it a joy to use, something which I cannot really say about other Android phones in this range.
Besides the software, another highlight of the phone is the fact that it features USB-C port, something which is hard to find on phones that costs this less. The phone also features rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and is positioned very appropriately below the dual-lens camera. I had no trouble unlocking the phone but I am not a fan of rear-mounted fingerprint scanners in general so there’s that.
Additionally, the phone also features Bluetooth 5.0, 4G/LTE support, dual-SIM functionality, microSD for expanding built-in 64GB storage, and yes, the 3.5mm headphone jack as well!
While Quick Charge 3.0 fast-charging is also present, HMD Global – just like Apple – does not ship required adapter to take advantage of that feature. You will need to buy a separate QC3.0 compatible charger to take advantage of fast charging.
I have been using wireless charging since the release of iPhone 8 (and then iPhone X) and have been absolutely spoilt by it. I love the convenience of having to top up my phone wherever I am sitting, be it my bedside, living room, kitchen, office or in car, I charge my phone using wireless charging more than 95% of the time and not having it on this one was a big bummer, especially considering that the phone has glass back and perhaps HMD Global could have added it.
Another feature I really missed not having was lack of Face ID-like secured and seamless unlocking experience.
The phone also lacks any sort of waterproof rating but that’s not something I personally crave for in a phone but your needs might be different so it’s worth keeping that in mind.
Concluding Remarks & Rating
Make no mistake about it. For a ~$300 phone, the Nokia 6.1 Plus packs A LOT and really excels at a lot of it, which is not a small feat in my opinion. While it’s not a phone made for everyone, it’s certainly a great option for those on tight budget and I would highly recommend it over cheap, Chinese alternatives in the same price range.
RP Rating: 7/10
- USB-C + fast charging
- Good build quality
- Android 9 Pie
- No wireless charging
- Mediocre/below average camera
If interested, you can purchase Nokia 6.1 Plus from Amazon here.
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