Nokia 8 Sirocco hands-on: Dodgy ergonomics, but still a valiant effort from a confident Nokia
It’s surprising how far Nokia and its parent company HMD has come in a year. Just over 12 months ago the brand was nothing, and now its using MWC 2018 to release more phones than pretty much anyone else. The Nokia 8 Sirocco is its latest flagship and while it on paper looks great, having had an opening play with it, I found it to be an odd device that’s both unique and frustrating.
The Nokia 8 Sirocco will be available for €749 in April. UK and US pricing hasn’t been confirmed.
Nokia 8 Sirocco design and features
Out of all the confusing things about this phone, the name is probably number one. This curvy, metal-and-glass slab has almost nothing in common with the fairly modest Nokia 8 from last year, and much likenesses to the rumoured Nokia 9. It feels like Nokia is doing it a disservice by not giving it its own number, and is underselling it in the process.
Unlike most other Nokia branded phones that have appeared since the HMD partnership began, this one ditches the tough aluminium for a body that’s made 95% out of vacuum moulded Gorilla Glass 5. While it looks eye-catching, it feels like the HMD design teams didn’t think much about how this feels to hold. The sides all taper down to leave just a 2mm stainless steel edge and it’s ridiculously sharp.
Another downside of that super-thin body is the death of the headphone jack, which they say simply wasn’t possible to include. What you do get though is wireless Qi (and PMA, for those that still use that standard) charging – something I think will become a whole lot more common now Apple has added it into the iPhone line.
It’s also an odd shape – almost square and vaguely reminiscent of the Blackberry Passport. If you’re used to bigger phones, the iPhone 8 Plus or Google Pixel 2 XL for example, the squat dimensions and fairly small 5.5-inch display will require some adjustment. Having a small phone is far from a bad thing though and I know a lot of people who will prefer this size to anything bigger.
Saying that, the Sirocco (it means ‘a Mediterranean wind that comes over the Sahara’, obviously) is still a good-looking phone. The edges of the plastic OLED display droop over the sides like a Dali painting, while the minimal bezel enhances the modern feel.
The screen itself boasts a quad-HD resolution and looks good from first inspection. Nokia wouldn’t divulge who provided the panel – LG or Samsung – but it didn’t seem to possess the blue tinge that hampered the Pixel 2 XL so much. Another nice addition, and one that’ll feature across the whole range of Nokia phones this year, is that it’s running Android One. This means you’ll get a stock version of Android 8.1 Oreo on the phone, quick updates for two years and security patches for three. The best thing about Android One though is the complete lack of duplicate apps or bloatware. In fact, the only app Nokia has tweaked is the camera.
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Sitting on the back of the Nokia 8 Sirocco are the same pair of cameras you’ll find on the Nokia 7+. Considering that phone costs nearly half the price, that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. The main camera boasts 12 megapixels and an f/1.7 aperture, while the secondary 13-megapixel camera has telephoto capabilities for improved zooming.
The final camera sits on the front and packs 10 megapixels, though Nokia said these are ‘super pixels’ which I assume means they’re slightly larger. Each camera has been made in partnership with Zeiss. Having used the camera on the Nokia 8 a fair bit I don’t have high hopes for the optics here, but I’ll need more time with it to really know how well this performs.
Underneath the glass shell is a Snapdragon 835 mobile platform, 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. The lack of an 845, Qualcomm’s flagship mobile platform for 2018, is apparently down to time constraints with Nokia not having enough time to properly test it in time for the April release. The 835 is still a perfectly capable chip, though.
For a brand as young as the new Nokia, the Sirocco is a seriously confident move. Releasing a €749 phone when the majority of your other devices sit below €400 is an unexpected tactic.
Whether anyone will actually buy this device remains to be seen – especially with an unproven camera and dodgy ergonomics. But I have to commend Nokia for even trying.