Nokia 7 Plus review: Come for the value, stay for the excitement

Nokia 7 Plus
Nokia 7 Plus (Image credit: Nokia)

Nokia's comeback tale has been a success so far, with HMD Global's move to focus on the budget segment paying off handsomely for the brand. The Finnish manufacturer launched a total of six Android phones last year, primarily targeted at markets like China and India, countries where the Nokia name still has a lot of brand cachet.

Four out of the six devices HMD launched last year were budget phones, with the Nokia 8 and Nokia 7 being the exceptions. Of the two, the Nokia 8 was the only device that was available in global markets, but HMD is making amends this year with the Nokia 7 Plus.

The phone is the first from HMD to feature an 18:9 form factor, and currently it is the only device in the Finnish manufacturer's portfolio to do so. HMD made a few missteps last year — the Nokia 6 had lackluster specs, and the Nokia 8 didn't see much momentum in the high-end segment. But this time around, HMD nailed the basics with the Nokia 7 Plus.

HMD is once again making a strategic play by launching the phone initially in key markets like India. The Nokia 7 Plus is now up for pre-order in the country, and will go on sale starting April 30 for ₹25,999 ($390). While India's budget segment sees intense competition, the ₹20,000 to ₹30,000 segment is underserved.

The Redmi Note 5 Pro and Moto G5 series own the sub-₹20,000 category, and the OnePlus 5T dominates the premium segment, with the manufacturer picking up a market share in excess of 48%.

The Moto X4 is the only legitimate contender to the Nokia 7 Plus, but Motorola's track record when it comes to software updates isn't what it used to be, making the X4 a tough sell. So at a first glance, it looks like the Nokia 7 Plus is the perfect $400 mid-ranger for 2018. It's time to find out if it lives up to the hype.

About this review

I (Harish Jonnalagadda) am writing this review after using the Nokia 7 Plus for over two weeks in Hyderabad, India. The phone was connected to Airtel's 4G network, and received an OTA update bringing Android 8.1 Oreo, the April 1, 2018 security patch, a new camera interface, and numerous stability fixes. HMD India provided the review unit to Android Central.

Nokia 7 Plus review

Nokia 7 Plus Design and display

Think of the Nokia 7 Plus as HMD's take on the Pixel 2 XL. The phone has a similar design up front with the curves around the edges, and the six-layer ceramic coating at the back is akin to what Google has done with its flagship. The white version of the Nokia 7 Plus (opens in new tab) in particular shares a lot of similarities to the panda Pixel.

That's not to say that HMD hasn't added its own unique touches to the design. The most distinctive design feature of the Nokia 7 Plus is the copper accents around the periphery of the screen, the camera module, power and volume buttons, and the midframe. The copper highlights certainly add flair to the device, and its sheen glints off under sunlight.

It definitely makes the Nokia 7 Plus stand out in a sea of unibody aluminum designs. The Nokia logo is displayed prominently at the back, and to the right of the front camera module. The ceramic coating makes the Nokia 7 Plus very grippy, and the device is built like a tank.

There's a reassuring heft whenever you pick up the phone, and nothing about the device feels cheaply made. Overall, the fit and finish of the Nokia 7 Plus is top-notch, just as you'd expect from a Nokia-branded device.

With HMD committing to Android One on all of its smartphones, the Nokia 7 Plus comes with Android One branding at the bottom, along with a "Designed by HMD Global Oy" tag. The latter, however, is beginning to wear off after just two weeks of use.

HMD doesn't do dull phones, and the Nokia 7 Plus is one of its best designs yet.

The camera module protrudes from the body, but it is a minor bum and doesn't really affect usability. The fingerprint sensor is a little higher up on the body and slightly above where your index finger usually rests at the back, but the indentation makes it easy to locate.

Rounding out the design, there's a USB-C charging port at the bottom, and a mono speaker is located to its right. The power and volume buttons are on the right-hand side, and the positioning, as well as the tactile feedback, is spot on. You also get a 3.5mm jack at the top.

The 6.0-inch IPS LCD panel has a resolution of 2160x1080, and it is protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass 3. Colors are vibrant, viewing angles are great, and I didn't have any issues reading the content on the screen under harsh sunlight.

There's also an ambient display mode that allows you to preview notifications without switching on the screen. You can also adjust the display scaling options as well as the font size, and you get a blue light filter that can be configured to kick in at a specified time (or from sunset to sunrise). There's a double tap to wake the screen option as well.

Nokia 7 Plus review

Nokia 7 Plus Hardware

The Nokia 7 Plus is one of the first phones launching globally to feature the Snapdragon 660 — it is the first in India to offer the chipset. Qualcomm released the chipset last year, but the first wave of devices powered by it didn't make it outside of China.

The Snapdragon 660 is notable as it is the first chipset in the 6xx series to feature Qualcomm's custom cores. For instance, the Snapdragon 630 in the Moto X4 has the standard A53 cores that go up to 2.2GHz, whereas the Snapdragon 660 comes with semi-custom Kryo 260 cores that are based on the A73 and the A53.

Similar to other octa-core designs, the Snapdragon 660 has four performance cores based on the Cortex A73 that are clocked at 2.2GHz, and four energy-efficient cores based on the A53 that go up to 1.4GHz.

The result is that you get performance that's on par with flagships from just a few years ago. For CPU-intensive tasks, the Snapdragon 660 is equivalent to that of the Snapdragon 821, but the Adreno 512 GPU isn't quite on the same level as the Adreno 530 in the Snapdragon 821.

The Nokia 7 Plus is just as fluid as the Pixel 2.

The Nokia 7 Plus also offers 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, and yes, there is a hybrid SIM card slot. You can use the secondary slot for either a SIM card or a microSD card, but not both. There's also Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi ac, an LTE Category 12 modem, VoLTE, NFC, and an FM radio tuner.

When it comes to day-to-day usage, I didn't notice any slowdowns whatsoever, and the Nokia 7 Plus was just as fluid as the Pixel 2. The simplicity of Android One combined with the hardware on tap makes the phone one of the fastest in this category.

I don't normally care about the haptics on a phone, but the vibration motor on the Nokia 7 Plus is one of the strongest out there. Call quality is also decent, but there are times (particularly when you're outside) when you feel that the earpiece doesn't get loud enough. The same goes for the built-in speaker — it doesn't get sufficiently loud for calls.

The mono speaker is decent for viewing multimedia content, but the phone would have benefitted from a stereo setup, particularly given that there's enough room on the bottom bar for a second speaker. That said, I'm glad there's a 3.5mm jack on the phone, and HMD even provides a pair of earbuds in the box.

Network connectivity is great as well, and I witnessed similar speeds as that of the Galaxy S9+, both on cellular and on my home Wi-Fi network.

Battery life

Nokia 7 Plus review

The two key areas that Indian customers prioritize when considering a phone purchase is battery life and camera quality. Unlike Western markets, a phone is the primary gateway to the internet for hundreds of millions of Indians, and as such their usage habits differ from customers in other countries.

The single biggest contributor to the change in usage habits is the arrival of Jio. The carrier launched last year, and essentially gave away 4G data to hundreds of millions of subscribers for the first six months. Its launch catalyzed the video streaming market, and boosted viewing times on platforms like YouTube and Hotstar.

The end result is that Indian users are viewing significantly more multimedia content on their devices than just a few years ago, and they're doing so primarily on cellular. That means a phone either needs to have a massive battery or be optimized to make that battery last an entire day.

Motorola took the optimization route with the Moto Z2 Force, somehow making the 2700mAh battery on the device last a full day. With the Nokia 7 Plus, HMD is going the Xiaomi way and including a huge 3800mAh battery.

You'll easily get two days' worth of usage from the Nokia 7 Plus.

It's clear that HMD also optimized the phone to be as frugal as possible when it comes to battery usage, because the Nokia 7 Plus manages to deliver two days' worth of usage consistently.

There wasn't a single scenario over the last two weeks where the Nokia 7 Plus ran out of charge before the end of the day. Even on days when I had to travel, the Nokia 7 Plus managed to last well over 20 hours with over 20% charge left.

I usually take two phones whenever I'm traveling for event duty — one with a great camera and the other with a massive battery life that's used primarily as a hotspot. The first phone usually ends up being a Pixel 2 or a Galaxy S9+, with the latter inevitably being a Xiaomi phone.

The Nokia 7 Plus has a camera that works great in low-light conditions (as you'll see below), and the battery life is spectacular. And when you do need to top up the device, fast charging (9V/2A) is available.

Nokia 7 Plus review

Nokia 7 Plus Camera

The primary camera on the Nokia 7 Plus is of particular interest as it uses the same imaging sensor as the Pixel 2. There's a 12MP primary camera with an f/1.75 lens and 1.4-micron pixels that's joined by a secondary 12MP telephoto shooter with f/2.6 lens and 1.0-micron pixels.

The phone has Carl Zeiss optics, and HMD is bringing its Bothie feature — which shoots images from both the front and rear cameras simultaneously — to the device. There's a pro mode as well, and the phone offers three microphones through which you'll be able to record 360-degree audio.

The camera is fantastic — both in daylight and low-light scenarios.

The camera interface itself is clean, and you have toggles for HDR, flash, timer, Bothie mode, beautify filter, and optical zoom. You can switch between photo and video modes, and the slide-out menu on the left lists the shooting modes available — Photo, Panorama, Pro, Live Bokeh — and access to the settings.

The pro mode is similar to what Nokia included in Lumias of old, and lets you tweak the white balance, ISO, shutter speed, and enables manual focus.

Images taken in daylight are full of detail, with a wide dynamic range and accurate colors. The Nokia 7 Plus didn't have any issues focusing on a subject, and there wasn't any delay in saving the photos to the gallery. The camera shined in low-light shooting scenarios as well, and while some of the images are grainy, the camera is a far sight better than most devices in this category.

The only issue I have with the camera is with the portrait mode — the Live Bokeh shots were too grainy in artificial lighting. Aside from that, the Nokia 7 Plus did a magnificent job both in daylight and low-light shooting conditions.

Nokia 7 Plus review

Nokia 7 Plus Software

The Nokia 7 Plus comes with Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box, but you should see an update to Android 8.1 Oreo during initial configuration. HMD is currently leading the pack when it comes to updates, and the Android 8.1 Oreo OTA also includes the April security patch.

Overall, the software experience on the Nokia 7 Plus is similar to what you'd find on the Pixels — fluid, functional, and fast. The phone handled everything I threw at it with ease, and not once did I get the feeling that it was sluggish. You also get a few gestures, like the ability to swipe down on the fingerprint sensor to pull down the notification shade, lift to wake the display, double press the power button to launch the camera, and so on.

The phone is guaranteed to receive updates for three years, and the shift to Android One means the Nokia 7 Plus will be one of the first devices to get new security patches and platform updates. If you care about fast updates, there isn't another phone in this category that comes close to the Nokia 7 Plus.

The software experience is fluid, but there are a few bugs.

However, as good as the software is to use on a day-to-day basis, it isn't without its issues (and there were several of them). The sound profile would automatically switch to vibrate mode for no reason, and I had to restart the device to go back to my preferred settings.

There was also a glitch with YouTube where the videos wouldn't play — the screen would go blank, with just the audio playing. Once again, a restart fixed the issue. The device intermittently disconnected from my home Wi-Fi network and reconnect.

I'm willing to give HMD the benefit of the doubt here as the phone is still running a non-final software build. I'll update the review in ten days' time and see if the lingering issues have been ironed out ahead of its formal release. If you've pre-ordered the phone, get ready to install a few day-one patches.

Nokia 7 Plus review

Should you buy it? Yes!

I've often heard from manufacturers that if a product takes off in India, it will automatically be a success in global markets. The Nokia 7 Plus certainly has a lot going for it, and the camera quality combined with the two-day battery life make it the phone to beat in this segment. HMD says it received a lot of feedback from customers in India last year, and it's clear that the manufacturer implemented a lot of those suggestions to make the Nokia 7 Plus stand out in this category.

The phone has an interesting design, the display offers vivid colors and is readable under sunlight, and the camera is one of the best you'll find on a $400 phone today. Then there's the two-day battery life, the promise of quick updates, and the uncluttered user interface.

HMD hasn't put a foot wrong with the Nokia 7 Plus, and it's safe to say that this is one of the best phones of the year.

See at Amazon India (opens in new tab)

The Nokia 7 Plus is now available in India and the UK. As stated earlier, there really aren't a whole lot of devices in this category, and while the Moto X4 is available for ₹22,999 ($350) (opens in new tab), you're getting much better hardware as well as a vastly superior camera with the Nokia 7 Plus.

The Good

  • Exceptional battery life
  • Evocative design
  • Uncluttered software
  • Great cameras
  • Quick updates

The Bad

  • Availability
  • Software glitchy at times

4.5 out of 5

The Nokia 7 Plus is available for purchase in the UK for £349 ($490), and while the price isn't as competitive as India, you're still getting a great phone. Should HMD decide to bring one more device to the U.S. this year, it has to be the Nokia 7 Plus.

See at Amazon UK (opens in new tab)

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

  • I regret getting my Huawei mate 10 pro over this. Yes it has great battery life and waterproofing and front facing speakers over the Nokia 7 plus but Huawei are bad at sending out security patches in a timely manner. Nokia 7 plus is a much cheaper alternative and guaranteed updates for 3 years. Not a hard sell at all to give up my Mate 10 pro unfortunately.
  • I think the thing with phones now is you don't need to look at the top of the range. I own a Sony xz premium which for me has been a great phone but cost me a bit. My other half really liked the Moto z play 2 and got this on a low contract after her iPhone contract finished and I have been nothing but impressed with it. We swapped phones the other day as she takes more pictures than me and the one thing that is better on the Sony is the camera but for me apart from the camera being better I have not really noticed that much difference in the two phones running Android and for me it will make me look at a lower phone when my contract is next up.
  • So much this. I used to buy nothing but Flagships but now that I have tried Midrange phones a few times aside from the GPU (assuming you play games on your phone) and the camera there is a minimal difference from what I see. Budget phones are working great now and even my $200 phone can compete with phones twice as much.
  • I currently own the Mate 10 (vanilla). The P20 Pro makes me furious and the fact that it has the Oreo 8.1 even more so. However, the way Huawei has been pushing updated software to Honor phones makes me a little optimistic about the update situation with the Mate10 considering that Mates and P20s are going to be the highlight for the Kirin 970 which represents an important step for Huawei. Also, for the camera, I think the Mate can blow even Pixel2 out of the water at some occasions (using manual mode ofcourse). Also, just try consuming some HDR content on the Mate. It will hook you so bad, you'll despise other screens.
  • Wow, sounds like they did a great job and I would not mind owning this phone. I love the copper accents, but my main concern would be low audio volumes. This was a problem in my last Sony phone, and it was frustrating to use in noisy environments. I also curious how it performs under heavy gaming with that SOC. I know the SD 835 handles it without breaking a sweat.
  • I have the same curiousity!
  • Hey Harish! "Guaranteed to receive software updates for 3 years" can this be verified officially? I haven't seen any promo/marketing material saying that.
  • I think it means 2 years of software updates and 3 years of security patch updates because Nokia making all its new Android phones part of the Android one program.
  • It's two platform updates, and patches for three years. That's true for all Android One devices.
  • Well, I really can't wait to pick up my preorder unit now.
  • I have the same Youtube glitch with my Pixel 2 xl... Probably caused by Android 8.1
  • Really really really hope this thing makes its way to the states.
  • Same!! This phone checks off so many things on my list and would love to own it.
  • Sounds like a winner, especially for the price and all it's offering.
  • And it's not coming to USA is it?
  • Nope
  • I would love to get one, but it isn't on sale here. Nor are any of the affordable Android one phones save one.
  • The UK Amazon blurb implies this phone only connects to 3G. The review says it was tested on a 4G network.
  • I have the phone and I'm on a 4G connection right now, so that Amazon blurb is incorrect.
  • That clears that up then. Thanks.
  • Nokia 7 Plus has some variations, if you get the Chinese one you can't connect to 4G in Europe(e.g. B20 band) as it's not supported :D
  • I have 3 points against the phone:
    1. The screen resolution.
    2.WiFi ac only.
    3. The price
    When the Nokia 8 receives the camera update it's going to be better value for fo money imo.
  • I have no issues with screen resolution as this is an upper midrange phone, it also means less tax on the GPU. It's the same resolution used on plenty flagship phones.
    Price is fine compared to midrange phones from major manufacturers, but as the reviewer points out, the SW, design and camera experience is better than those.
    Nokia 8 is a great phone, only let down by lackluster exterior design
  • Just my opinion but I think this is potentially the phone of the year. Headphone jack, no notch, good price point, Great CPU, Vanilla Android, good camera, consistent updates, excellent build quality, good display, plenty of RAM and storage, this literally checks off nearly every box I want. If I didn't already have the Huawei Mate SE I would import this phone.
  • Really don't care about "the notch" but all the other points are valid.
    If half as good as it looks it will be one of my phone's of the year for sure.
  • Thanks Harish I just hit the pre order button, can't wait to have a Nokia in my hands again.
  • Oh, it's so good to use a Nokia phone running Android One.
  • I really like the latest Nokias, especially the copper 8 and 7 Plus. I'm hesitant about getting another glass phone, so I love these aluminum options.
  • Please bring it to the states. 😢
  • I owned 5 Nokia's with Windows Phone, and almost gave another shot for one more, Nokia 6.1 (available in the states). Bad camera reviews held me back
  • I'm really looking forward to this. My Moto g4 plus is really playing up. Had the 7 plus on preorder for a while and my Moto is slowly dying so hope it makes it till I get the Nokia. I Like a lot about this phone but the 2 year warranty really appealed (after the problems I've had with the moto and only one year warranty!)
  • From your review: "There's also an ambient display mode that allows you to preview notifications without switching on the screen."
    I would just like to clarify: By that, do you refer to what nokia calls the 'glance screen', e.g. an always-on-screen? I'm trying to get a definitive answer on that since the announcement (and the guys from the retail store wouldn't let me switch on the device today, to let me check it for myself)
  • It isn't quite like Glance Screen in that it isn't on all the time. HMD is said to be working on a build to enable that and face unlock though (the build is live in China), so I'm guessing the feature will arrive in other markets soon.
  • after my LG G3 died I almost went for Nokia 6.1 (because only Nokia available in the states). But then I saw/read that camera wasn't good and went for LG V30 3 days ago. I love it so far but I'm so afraid to drop it (I never dropped phone before)
  • I use T-Mobile and this phone doesn't look to be able to work on it. Bummer.
  • Wow, this looks like a fantastic phone. The camera now seems good too.
    Regretting buying a Mi Max 2 just a few days back. This would've been so much better with just 11K extra. Even less since pre-orders have a cashback of 10% :(
  • Looking to potentially upgrade my OP3 and definitely consider the Nokia 7 Plus. Only three (potentially) blockers: 1) Hardware buttons?
    2) Off-screen gestures?
    3) I'm in the US
  • The last one is always the deal breaker.
  • I have these questions .. Harish, if you can answer them.
    I know Nokia 7 plus looks premium but i am confused about its performance as performance is everything in a smartphone right?I have just lost my OP5.
    i have had hands on experience on nokia 7 plus. I didnt find any stutter on it .. mind you, OP5 had intermittent lags and stutter and camera was also bad and yet the OP team were finding solutions to the above mentioned issues. to top this , the update cycle was irregular. which phone will be as fast as OP5?
    Is nokia 7 plus as fast as Op5?
    OR should i just buy OP6?
  • "The phone is guaranteed to receive updates for three years, and the shift to Android One means the Nokia 7 Plus will be one of the first devices to get new security patches and platform updates. If you care about fast updates, there isn't another phone in this category that comes close to the Nokia 7 Plus." I like my Nokia 7 Plus, and I don't regret changing from HTC U Ultra to this phone.
    However, as of today (9th November), I am still on Oreo 8.1 and the August security update.
    I bought this phone specifically because it should get prompt upgrades, and it seems that we've been let down.
    At least I haven't received a newer security patch - that would point to the Pie update being withdrawn altogether.
    It's still too new to be messing about with sideloading the Pie update, but next year, if the same thing happens again, I guess that is an avenue we'll have to explore.