The new Nokia employs a pure-looking version of Android that’s almost identical to what you see on a Pixel. However, the similarities are only skin deep, because performance-wise there’s quite a big difference between a Google handset and the Nokia 8, even if they’re theoretically running almost the same software.
On the plus side, Nokia hasn’t duplicated every single Google app there is, nor tinkered with vanilla Android too much. The Nokia 8 uses a launcher that looks and behaves very much like the Pixel Launcher, complete with the Google Feed when you swipe right from the leftmost home screen. Swiping up from a home screen brings up the app drawer too, and Google’s Wallpapers app is included.
The only two Nokia apps that are preinstalled are Camera and Support. The former is a necessity because Google’s very impressive camera app is not part of Android itself but the company’s proprietary app suite that’s exclusive to its devices. The Support app (that’s confusingly labeled Nokia Mobile Care once you’re inside it) includes the phone’s user guide, a way to chat with a support rep, read through FAQs, find the nearest service center, and other related stuff – so we can’t say it counts as bloatware. Nokia’s also added a Files icon that takes you to the built-in file manager without needing to go through the Storage menu in Settings.
The Nokia 8 has already been updated to Android Oreo, though it’s the initial 8.0 release and not 8.1, which became available for Google’s handsets in December 2017. On the other hand, the Nokia 8 has received the January 2018 security patch in January, and that’s something to be celebrated because unfortunately not many non-Google devices actually get monthly security updates. So far so good on this front.
Performance, along with its cameras’ output, is probably the most disappointing thing about the Nokia 8. Not that it isn’t fast – there’s a Snapdragon 835 in there after all. It’s just not very consistent, and comparing it to a Pixel (even from the first generation) in this respect doesn’t yield very positive results for Nokia’s first Android flagship.
Most of the things are fast most of the time, but there’s the odd hiccup here and there, which you will encounter multiple times a day. Small stutters and lag are noticeable to us, and not just as one-off exceptions. The best example for this is the choppy animation you see when you swipe up from any home screen to reveal the app drawer. This one is stuttery every single time, and if you’ve used a Pixel in the past few months the lack of ‘smoothness’ that the Nokia 8 unfortunately suffers from will be very obvious to you.
The Nokia 8 has all it takes on the inside to be as smooth as a Pixel, and yet it isn’t, because although it nails the ‘big’ specs certain ‘small’ things just haven’t been properly taken care of. ‘Small’ but important for the overall feel of a device – things like touch latency, jittery animations, and once again stutters and lag now and then.
Don’t get us wrong, the Nokia 8 isn’t a bad performer by any stretch of the imagination, and its behavior is in line with many other Android phones out there at the moment. It’s just that it’s impossible for us not to compare its user experience to a Pixel since that’s quickly become the gold standard for this in the Android space, and Google’s newest generation handsets employ the exact same chipset as the Nokia 8. Once you make that comparison, the Nokia 8 definitely doesn’t come out on top. There’s an important thing to note, however, and that is the price difference between this phone and a Pixel 2 (more than €150 in most markets).
Initially battery life has been a bit of a mixed bag, with our specific usage scenario resulting in around 4 hours of screen on time before the Battery Low alert showed up at 15%. We then discovered that turning off RCS in the Android Messages app (look for Enhanced features in its Settings) improved the numbers in a noticeable way, although we’re not sure why.
We’re pretty reliably hitting at least 5 hours of screen on time now each day by the time the battery level reaches 15%. The best result we got was over 6 hours of screen on time with 15% charge still left.
Nokia 8 battery life, from worst (left) to best (right)
Note that our usage involves primarily on Wi-Fi connectivity, with around a couple of hours of 4G data use, Bluetooth always on and one or two hours of music streaming via Bluetooth. Mobile signal has been good, but if you live in an area where it’s weaker that will impact the numbers you’re going to achieve. Obviously keep in mind that every person’s usage is different, which is why it’s always tough to do an apples to apples comparison of screen on time. For reference, take into account that the Nokia 8 managed a 78h endurance rating in our standardized battery test, which is a very respectable result.
The brick included in the box supports 18W fast charging, taking the phone’s battery from 0 to 48% in only 30 minutes, which means you’re able to quickly top it up during the day if you’re more of a power user than we are. Overall we’ve been happy with the performance of the 3,090 mAh battery, and it should easily last most people from the morning until late at night.