Hands-on with the Nokia 9 PureView: A breath of fresh air from HMD Global

Hands-on with the Nokia 9 PureView: A breath of fresh air from HMD Global

HMD Global hasn’t exactly been focused on flagships for a while now, with many mid-range and low-end devices finding their way to the market as part of the Android One program. The company announced one of their first flagships in a long time, the Nokia 9 PureView, and we got to spend a couple of minutes with it at the HMD Global booth here at MWC Barcelona. Spoiler alert: this device, in my opinion, is the most beautiful smartphone made by HMD Global yet.

Nokia 9 PureView XDA Forum

The Nokia 9 takes breathtaking photos

While I got hands-on time with the Nokia 9, I never got the chance to truly try out the camera. There were photos taken on it from around the area of which the demonstrator told me he took himself only minutes beforehand, and the results were impressive, to say the least. Each camera on the back of the device has a purpose, and HMD Global has done a great job on the quality of the photo output. Each sensor has its own job, and they all combine to make great photos with excellent dynamic range and impressive depth features. Google Photos integrates perfectly with the depth map that the Nokia 9 creates in its images so that you can apply bokeh effects after you take the photo. You just need to make sure you have the depth map feature enabled.

I have heard complaints about photo taking being “slow,” though I haven’t seen it myself. However, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 is designed to “only” process three photos at the same time, but with five camera sensors that goes slightly above what’s “officially” supported by the chipset. The person I spoke to from HMD Global said that they are also using the GPU to offload some of the photo processing which helps get around that. Maybe it is slow, but I really doubt it’s slow enough that the photo quality isn’t worth it. The guy I spoke to wasn’t sure if it would outclass the Pixel 3, but he said that if it doesn’t, it would be very close. Based on the photos I saw, I’d be inclined to agree. It seemed like an absolutely amazing shooter.

The Nokia 9’s Design

The Nokia 9’s design is a weird one from the camera standpoint. The rest of the device is pretty standard, with curved edges, rounded display corners, and minimal bezel. There’s no notch here which many will be happy about, but the cameras on the back may be enough to turn someone off. I find the design quite cool and futuristic, but some people also may dislike it too. Your mileage may vary, but at least what you see in the photos is what you get. The back glass is highly reflective, and the front has a Nokia logo emblazoned on the top bezel. It’s a well-rounded device with good symmetry, and in my opinion, looks pretty nice as well.

The back curves outwards on all sides to house the cameras and is made up of highly reflective glass. The Nokia logo is present on the back, though it’s imprinted in landscape as is customary for the company’s smartphone design. There’s a USB-C port at the bottom and a speaker grille as well, along with a volume rocker and power button on the side.

Nokia 9 Software

The Nokia 9 runs Android One software, which is a variant of Android that closely resembles stock with minor tweaks. It’s what HMD Global has been pushing with all of their Nokia-branded devices, and it works a charm. It also keeps costs lower as the company doesn’t need to make massive commitments to software suites like Huawei, Xiaomi, or Samsung. Even better, that low-development requirement (comparatively) means that updates can arrive quickly, something that HMD Global has been very good at when it comes to rolling out Android Pie.

The software on the Nokia 9 is exactly as you’d expect from an Android One device – it’s clean and it works. That’s all you need. Stock Android is more than capable of handling all of your day-to-day tasks, and any functionality you may find yourself missing from another device can usually be supplemented by an app. There’s no real bloatware to remove either. Android One does not mean stock Android, it just means that it’s very close to it.

The Nokia 9 is, overall, a monster. It retails at €599, it looks good, it takes stellar photos, and it has a company with a great track record for updates behind it. The only slight against it is that it has last year’s chipset and the fact that not many Nokia phones have unlockable bootloaders. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this particular device, as it could well be one of the best devices to come out of MWC Barcelona this year.

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