Nokia 6 review: The brand is back, but this phone is full of compromises

The Nokia 6 is the first Nokia phone we’ve seen in several years. It also marks the first smartphone that’s technically from HMD Global, who has taken the reigns for producing Nokia devices.

Most importantly, the Nokia 6 is the first in a new line of Android-powered devices from the historic company, who finally ditched Windows as their choice of mobile OS. It’s mid-range, so don’t expect a Nokia branded flagship competitor to beat out your Galaxy S8, but it’s a step towards making the company relevant again.

It’s also a device included in Amazon’s program where they discount the upfront cost of a phone in exchange for preloading Amazon apps and services and displaying ads on your lock screen. We’ll be reviewing the Amazon specific version of the device to find out whether or not Nokia can step back in and compete in a crowded market, or if they’re just going to ride the brand name back into obscurity.

Design

The Nokia 6 doesn’t really look much like older Nokia phones. That’s not a bad thing, and I doubt many of us would be willing to go back to an old-school style phone, but it does ax some of the personality that Nokia still has.

The Nokia 6 is a solid device with a soft plastic back and a slick metal frame. It’s on the heavier side, but it makes the phone feel extremely well built, which is sometimes sorely lacking from devices in this price range. It’s not too thin, either, and that extra chunk can make holding the phone easier. With all of that being said, it’s really just an incredibly attractive device. Nokia was always pretty utilitarian, and that’s exactly what you’ll get here; a rounded square with decent materials and not much else.

On the right side of the device you’ll find the volume and power buttons, both of which are razor thin. It fits in with the aesthetic of the phone, but they aren’t particularly satisfying to click because of how low profile they are.

The top of the phone houses the headphone jack, and you’ll find a microUSB port on the bottom edge, along with a microphone and small speaker.

Hardware

 Nokia 6
AnnouncedFebruary 27, 2017
ReleaseSpring / Summer 2017
Display5.5-inch (1920x1080) IPS LCD w/ Gorilla Glass 3
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 430
RAM3GB
Storage32GB w/ microSD card lot
Rear Camera16MP w/ phase detection autofocus, dual-LED flash
Front Camera8MP
Battery3000mAh (non-removable)
Chargingmicro-USB
SoundBottom-facing speaker
SoftwareAndroid 7.1.1 Nougat
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.2, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, NFC, GPS
SensorsAmbient, proximity, accelerometer, gyro, compass, fingerprint
Measurements154 x 75.8 x 7.9mm
Weight169g
ColorsCopper, Black, Blue, Silver

Performance

The Nokia 6 uses a Snapdragon 430 CPU, which sits in the middle of Qualcomm’s lineup closer to the bottom than the flagship tier. It’s a slightly older chip, too, as we now have the Snapdragon 435 available to manufacturers. That’s not always a great combination.

It’s not lightning fast, and you’ll notice a tiny bit of delay when you’re launching a resource-intensive app every once in awhile. Scrolling around is smooth, for the most part, but every so often you’ll see some dropped frames sliding around the home screens or jumping over to the Google feed. Browsing the web is fine, but if you start getting into anything with tons of images or video (think Instagram or Facebook) you’re going to notice the older chip.

Gaming performance is decent, although you won’t be playing anything cutting edge with the graphics turned all the way up. The Nokia 6 has a full HD 1080p display instead of anything crazy high resolution, and that does help the SD430 from having to push a ton of pixels. It feels like maybe something slightly lower resolution would’ve helped out, though.

The phone is also equipped with 3GB of RAM, and while that isn’t quite as spacious as some brand new phones, that’s still plenty for casual usage. The phone doesn’t often have to clear out apps and browser tabs unless you’re doing serious multitasking, but that’s not likely what you bought this phone for.

The fingerprint scanner is too slow, the screen is just okay, but the speakers are actually pretty good. It’s a mixed bag.

Battery

Battery life is good, but not great, despite Nokia cramming in a 3,000mAh battery into the relatively thick device. That all ties into the Snapdragon 430 in the phone, which isn’t nearly as efficient as the 600 series and has to work overtime to handle certain tasks. That causes plenty of battery drain, especially if you’re gaming or doing heavy multitasking, like, say, listening to music and browsing Facebook while responding to a few text messages.

There’s no quick charge here, either, so when the phone dies, you can expect a delayed recharge time. Your best bet with the Nokia 6 is to plug it in when you go to bed every night and hope it lasts all day the next day. It usually does, honestly; just try not to do any binge gaming without being near a charger.

Software

If you’re a fan of stock Android, you’re really going to like the Nokia 6. If you like OEM tweaks and additions, give up now. The only thing you’re getting here is bloat.

Nokia’s version of Android is almost literally built straight from AOSP with nothing else worth mentioning. It’s more barebones than a Moto device. For some people, that’s great; less Frankenstein software means better performance and quicker updates. For others, that means there’s pretty much nothing that makes the Nokia 6 stand out from its peers, and since this is being marketed heavily by Amazon, the only really redeeming quality is the price tag.

Now if you’re a big fan of Amazon, you’ll find some of the extra apps here very useful. You’ve got all of Amazon’s core apps like Amazon Shopping, their App Store, and Alexa, plus all of the Prime exclusive services like Amazon Music, Kindle, and Prime Photos. If you’re buying this with the Prime exclusive discount, though, these are all probably going to get used. You’ll just have to deal with them residing next to Google’s versions of similar services.

And, like other Amazon discounted phones, there are lots of ads on the device. You’ll get rotating ads on your lock screen for things you’d like to buy, occasional notifications about more stuff you need, and preloaded Amazon widgets to tempt you into impulse purchases. It makes the phone cheaper, and I get that, but it feels really, really invasive to constantly get bombarded with ads all over your smartphone. It feels like the phone isn’t really yours, especially when things like the lock screen ads get in the way of customization.

If you don’t mind ads, there’s no denying this is an easy way to score a phone discount. And they’re targeted pretty accurately, so there’s a legitimate chance you’re going to see things that you’ll actually want to buy, not just random fluff. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up to you.

Camera

The camera on the Nokia 6 is on the lower end of meh. I’ve used worse, but you’ll be hard pressed to take a shot on this thing that will wow anyone. It’s a serviceable camera, no doubt, and if you’re taking mostly outdoor shots everything will turn out decently. Once you start getting into imperfect conditions, though, the phone really struggles.

Camera operation also isn’t as zippy and responsive as I’d like. This is probably just another drawback of the older Snapdragon 430 CPU, but that doesn’t make the actual experience any better for the end user.

There are some cool additions here, though. Nokia has built in a spirit level so you can line up horizons in your shots, and there’s even an easy way to add watermarks to your pictures as you take them. Nifty features that probably won’t get used much since the camera isn’t great.

Closing

First and foremost, this is a budget-friendly phone. It’s better than a cheap $50 Tracfone and will certainly give you a better experience (and will probably work for most than 6 months) but it’s still a little underwhelming, even at its lower price point. It’s $229 if you want an ad-free experience, or $179 with the Amazon offers.

For $230 it’s really hard to recommend against some other very decently priced phones, but for $180 that decision is much tougher. You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck there, but you have to live with tons of Amazon ads in your face, all the time. That’s not my cup of tea, but if you’re on a budget, give the Nokia 6 a serious look.

Buy it now: Amazon


About the Author: Jared Peters

Born in southern Alabama, Jared spends his working time selling phones and his spare time writing about them. The Android enthusiasm started with the original Motorola Droid and an unhealthy obsession with fixing things that aren't broken. This accidentally led to being the go-to guy for anything more complicated than a toaster, which he considers more of a curse than a blessing. Jared is enrolled in online classes at the University of Phoenix, and spends his spare time on video games and listening to music.


  • Arun

    Please recommend me a phone with features, build quality, a camera that wont wow anyone and pure android version in that price category. Sarcasm intended!

    • Jared Peters

      Moto G5 Plus.

      No sarcasm.

      • Bill

        G5 Plus no nfc

    • tendoboy1984

      ZTE Blade V8 Pro. Has USB-C, NFC, dual cameras for $230 unlocked.

      Or Alcatel Idol 5S. Has USB-C, glass back, dual speakers, for $280 unlocked. No NFC though.