HMD Global knows how to do mid-range phones. The formula up until now has been simple: clean software, great build quality, and few gimmicks. The Nokia 7.2 continues a lot of that succesful strategy, but in reaching for higher ambitions also makes a few sloppy errors. Here's our full review.
- Stock Android
- Timely software updates
- Build quality
- Camera flexibility
- Confusing notch options
- Battery life
- No IP68 water resistance
- Competition is better
Nokia 7.2 release date and price
HMD Global came to the IFA 2019 in Berlin this year with two new mid-range smartphones that look almost identical. The Nokia 6.2 and 7.2. The more premium of the two, the 7.2, is available for pre-order now on Nokia's website and Amazon. The version with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage that we tested costs €299/£250. The Nokia 7.2 comes in three colors: Charcoal, Cyan Green and Ice. In the United States, the Nokia 7.2 costs $349 directly from the manufacturer.
HMD Global's pricing is sometimes a little confusing. The Nokia 8.1 that I really enjoyed using back in February is now £280 directly from the manufacturer. I'll dig a little deeper into this problem later in the review but, aside from itself, Nokia's competition for the 7.2 is smartphones such as the Realme X2 (€299), the Redmi Note 8 Pro (€299) and the Motorola One series (€230 - €350)
Trendy design tropes
The one thing you can be sure you are getting when you buy a mid-range Nokia is good craftsmanship . The Nokia 7.2 is no different in that respect. There's 2.5D Gorilla Glass glass on the front and back, something that is becoming less of a novelty in this price range, but the frame is unfortunately not aluminum. HMD Global is calling this a "vacuum-metalized polymer composite", but to my hands, it feels like plastic. It doesn't feel cheap or flimsy at all. It just doesn't feel quite as good as metal.
On the front we have a 6.3-inch IPS panel with a Full HD+ resolution. The screen size is up quite considerably from the Nokia 7.1 (5.8 inches) and the screen-to-body ratio has also been improved to what is now 82 percent. The bezels around the display could be slimmer, particularly at the bottom where the bezel seems large only to incorporate the Nokia logo.
Moving around to the back we immediately notice the trend that seemingly every manufacturer is following in 2019, the circular camera module. We first saw this design on the Mate 30 Pro and more recently on the OnePlus 7T. Now, Nokia has its own circular camera configuration for the mid-range. It houses three sensors and an LED flash, along with the Zeiss logo to represent the partnership we've become accustomed to on these phones. It protrudes a fair amount from the back of the phone, but means that the body of the device stays slim. It's also light at 180 grams.
I would be satisfied with the build quality and design of the Nokia 7.2 if I'd spent 250 quid on it
One thing I do really like about the design of the Nokia 7.2 is the fact that HMD Global managed to keep the notification LED alive despite opting for a small dewdrop notch. The solution is a slim strip of light integrated into the power button. The white light glows and throbs against the dark frame of the phone. It's been a while since I used a phone with a notification LED and the 7.2 was a nice throwback, especially as there is no always-on display.
HMD Global has also included the dedicated Google Assistant button we saw introduced on the more affordable 3.2 and 4.2 Nokias. There's no way to remap the button to another function like Samsung now allows with its unpopular Bixby button, but you can at least turn it off. I generally find these digital assistant buttons a pain and disable them immediately after quickly checking that they work. Overall, I would be satisfied with the build quality and design of the Nokia 7.2 if I'd spent 250 quid on it, but it doesn't feel as sturdy and well-made as the Nokia 8.1, which has a really nice aluminum frame. There's no IP68 water resistance on the 7.2.
A big, bold display
The 6.3-inch LCD display is one of the strong points of the Nokia 7.2 . The resolution of 1080 x 2280 pixels (401 ppi) is perfectly sufficient for everyday use and multimedia consumptions and the 19:9 aspect ratio will feel familiar to those who have been with Nokia-branded phones before. Maximum brightness is up to 500 nits, the contrast ratio is 1:1500, and it supports HDR10 and has the ability to convert SDR content to HDR. All of this leads to a more-than-pleasant experience. HMD Global's PureDisplay tech is back once again too.
I do have one small complaint about the display on this device though. Whether you love or hate the notch is a polarizing subject, but one thing all smartphones users can surely agree on is that customization options are never a bad thing. HMD Global's very own 'notchgate' has been, and still is, a bit of a mess. After killing the ability to hide the notch on the Nokia 6.1 Plus and then reinstating it again, the situation has only gotten more baffling.
When I reviewed the Nokia 8.1 back in February, the notch was hidden by default. Some users, however, reported having the option to choose from the Advanced section of the Display Settings. Others had to enabled developer options and then find it there. Others had to wait for an update first before one of the two options showed up. On our Nokia 7.2 test device, the option to hide the notch is nowhere to be found. This could change with an update once the phone is actually released, of course, but why is this so complicated? The issue seems to differ from region to region, too. I'm ambivalent about notches in general, but if you feel strongly one way or the other, you might want to wait to see how this one pans out.
Android One software for quick updates
The Nokia 7.2 is further evidence of HMD Global's commitment to delivering swift Android updates. Nokia finished delivering Android 9 Pie to its smartphones back in June, even down to the sub-100 euro Nokia 1, and the brand has already announced its roadmap for Android 10.
Part of the Android One program, you can rest assured that you won't have to wait too long for the latest Android software on the Nokia 7.2 . Android 10 will start rolling out to HMD's flagship phones, such as the Nokia 9 PureView, as early Q4 2019. The upper-mid-range devices won't be too far behind.
Aside from that, there's not a lot more to say about Android One software these days. It's clean, free of bloatware and is about the closest you can get to the software experience on a Made by Google device as is available. The only real downside to Android One for phones from manufacturers like HMD Global is that you don't get any of the special gestures or clever additions that the likes of OnePlus and Motorola like to sprinkle on top of their near-stock Android user interfaces.
Performance has been sacrificed
When I first glanced at the spec sheet of the Nokia 7.2 I was worried about performance. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 in this was embedded in smartphones in 2017. Combine that with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage and the Nokia doesn't exactly look like a racer on paper. Unfortunately, this was confirmed when using the phone. Performance was a major issue with the Nokia 7.1, but then things dramatically improved with the launch of the 8.1, which has a Snapdragon 710 SoC. It seems like Nokia has taken one step forward and two steps back here. I can't help but think that you are paying for price for that fancy camera setup with a loss of regular performance.
Having that, the experience is not terrible. For daily tasks and a little light social media usage the 7.2 will be just fine for most users. Things take a turn for the worse when you start to multi-task and, in particular, try to switch between apps quickly. I also had some issues with slight chugging and slow down even when trying to do the simplest of tasks like opening a new tab in Chrome. The camera app froze up on me once. These are things that could be ironed out with software updates, of course, but it's a shame that it feels like this out of the box. I really thought Nokia had turned a corner in this department.
As you can see in our benchmark results below, the Nokia 7.2 scores lower than all of its main competition including the Nokia 8.1. Realme is killing HMD Global on performance at this price point .
Nokia 7.2 benchmark comparison
|3DMark Sling Shot Extreme||3DMark Sling Shot ES 3.0||3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0||3D Mark Sling Shot Vulkan||Geekbench 5 (Single/Multi)||PassMark Memory||PassMark Disk|
|Realme 5 Pro||2091||2990||28541||1980||321/1498||12595||67088|
Long live the headphone jack
There are also sacrifices to make on the audio side. The Nokia 7.2 does not support hi-res audio streaming. You do get Qualcomm's aptX audio technology on board, but not aptX HD. The difference is only marginally noticeable though to be honest if you are streaming music from Spotify or another platform. You'd notice a much bigger difference in quality if you were to play your own audio files from the device. Still, at least you get a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top of the smartphone to plug in your own high-quality headphones and get your audio goodness that way.
Camera creativity over quality
The camera is HMD Global's big gamble with this Nokia 7.2. The gameplan is clearly that whatever this phone lacks in performance it can make up for with a cool, feature-rich camera. Before even hitting the shutter button I was worried that this would be a risky strategy. Time and time again we have seen manufacturers focus on the camera in the mid-range and fall short. My concern here was that Nokia is making you sacrifice quite a lot to get this camera setup for 250 English pounds. If it doesn't deliver, the whole package makes no sense.
I have to say that the Nokia 7.2 camera gamble is one that hasn't really paid off.
The quad-camera setup on the Nokia 7.2 is as follows:
- 48-megapixel, f/1.8, (wide-angle), 1/2", 0.8µm, PDAF
- 8-megapixel, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide)
- 5-megapixel, depth sensor
- 20-megapixel, f/2.0, HDR
There's a new night mode that combines up to 20 individual images in order to deliver a noise-free low-light photo. Nokia says that it can deliver usable images at 0.1 lux. It's pretty successful for the price, but with mid-range devices like the Google Pixel 3a around, it's far from market-leading. In the United States especially, where the price of Google's phone and the Nokia are closer than in Europe, it's hard to see why someone would go for the 7.2 if they were really into low-light photography.
The main 48-megapixel sensor does that pixel-merging trick we've seen before to create very nice 12-megapixel shots. There's no optical image stabilization though, so it's easy to end up with blurry photos, especially when using the night mode. The integrated Pro mode is more successful than auto mode with a little effort and skill, but this is a feature that few tend to bother with in this era of snap and post smartphone photographers. The main camera shoots video in 2160p or 1080p at 30fps. There's some gyro electronic image stabilization on board to help keep things from getting blurry, but you'll still need a steady hand for good results.
Overall, I have to say that the Nokia 7.2 camera gamble is one that hasn't really paid off . The camera is no doubt fun, and there are a lot of options such as the well-known Dual and Picture-in-Picture modes for those who can't bear to take a picture that does not have their own face in it. But it's the same old story for a mid-range camera here. Good photos in good light, for the money, but not good enough to compete with anything in the 300-500 bucks price range. Considering you have to take a hit on performance and a metal build, I can't say I would recommend this unless you were only looking for a fun, affordable camera phone and didn't care about the rest.
Disappointing battery life
The Nokia 7.2 packs a 3,500 mAh battery and supports fast-charging up to 10 Watts . This is the same size battery that's in the 8.1 (although support for up to 18W fast-charging is on offer there). I was disappointed with the battery life on this smartphone. Once during my first few days of testing, I managed to drain almost 40 percent of the battery with just 1 hour 40 minutes on screen time. Things picked up once I went to work on the background apps and battery settings, but still, that's poor.
The PC Mark Battery test also showed that not every 3,500 mAh cell is equal. The 7.2 achieved a result of 8 hours and 43 minutes. The Nokia 8.1, for comparison, scored 11 hours and 7 minutes. As ever, better software and the update to Android 10 should improve battery life on the Nokia 7.2, eventually.
I really wanted to like the Nokia 7.2. I've been a fan of HMD Global's recent output and I even didn't dislike the Nokia 9 PureView as much as some others in the industry. The 8.1, in particular, I thought was great. So it is with a bit of a heavy heart that I have come to the conclusion that the 7.2 is a backward step for the brand. For just thirty pounds more you can have a Nokia 8.1 with a better processor, better battery life, a more easily disguisable notch and a build-quality that just feels way more premium. Things look even worse for the 7.2 when you look at what other brands such as Realme are offering for around the same money.
The Nokia 7.2 is a smartphone for the kind of user who wants a fun, feature-rich camera to play around with but does not really need the best quality results from their shots. Add to that, this customer must be willing to sacrifice everyday performance, be willing to forget about the most demanding games, and not mind charging their phone every eight or nine hours. Does that consumer really exist in 2019? I'm not so sure.