High-end flagship phones today are differentiated primarily by their design and camera quality. There isn’t a lot that manufacturers can do when it comes to processor speeds, and we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns in terms of the amount of RAM and storage that can be stuffed into a phone. Nokia’s flagship for last year, the Nokia 8, marked its return to the very top of the smartphone market – while this phone did perform well overall, we weren’t completely blown away by its design or overall level of features and capabilities. One year later, at MWC 2018, we have the refreshed Nokia 8 Sirocco, which aims to fix exactly that.
The timing of Nokia 8 Sirocco's launch is somewhat curious, since most companies will be trotting out brand new top-end models based on Qualcomm’s freshly launched Snapdragon 845 processor and the new Nokia 8 Sirocco still uses last year’s Snapdragon 835. Hopefully, that means we can expect a lower price point, but HMD Global might be hoping that people will fall in love with this phone’s design.
Rather than aluminium which a lot of companies are now using, the Nokia 8 Sirocco is carved from a single block of stainless steel. This is touted to be two and a half times as strong as aluminium, and it definitely gives this phone a slick look and feel. The original Nokia 8800 Sirocco was a stainless steel special edition of one of the company’s highest-end and most expensive models, and was created for people who wanted their mobile phones to be status symbols. It’s a neat callback to Nokia’s old days, but not one that will be as highly recognised as, say, the reinvented Nokia 3110 and 8110 4G.
Despite the emphasis on stainless steel, 95 percent of the outer surface of this phone is glass. It’s incredibly slick, but picks up smudges and fingerprints from the moment you first pick it up. Within two minutes, our demo unit was absolutely covered in them, and we had to wipe it constantly. Black is the only colour option and that makes them all the more prominent.
The screen of the Nokia 8 Sirocco curves very slightly around the sides of the front, much like what we’ve seen from Samsung and BlackBerry for more than a year now. It’s a 5.5-inch POLED panel with a QHD (1440x2560) resolution, which means that it’s still 16:9 but you do lose a little bit of screen space because of the curves, and it could be hard to focus on full-screen videos and games.
The body is 7.5mm thin, but it gets a lot thinner at the edges and we weren’t always completely sure of our grip on this phone when handling it. One of the casualties of the slimness is that there’s no 3.5mm audio socket, though you’ll get a Type-C to 3.5mm dongle in the retail box. This is also the only one of Nokia’s new launches to support Qi wireless charging thanks to the glass back.
You get a pair of cameras on the rear developed in conjunction with Zeiss. One is a 12-megapixel sensor with a wide lens and f/1.75 aperture, and the other is a 13-megapixel sensor with a telephoto lens and f/2.6 aperture. There’s also a 5-megapixel front camera with an f/2.0 aperture and 84-degree field of view. HMD Global is now calling its “bothie” feature Dual Sight, and it lets you superimpose two shots taken with both the front and rear cameras. There’s also the Pro Mode with manual control over multiple camera parameters high-end Nokia smartphones have become known for.
Performance with a Snapdragon 835 processor was as good as we expected it, though without many apps to run we won’t have a better idea of how well this phone runs till we conduct our full review. There’s also 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but no support for microSD cards. You get a 3260mAh battery and Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0. Other high-end touches include Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5, NFC, high-speed LTE, and 24-bit audio recording with three microphones.
By the time HMD Global launches the Nokia 8 Sirocco (May in India), there might be quite a lot of 2018 flagships powered by newer hardware, boasting of newer capabilities when it comes to entertainment, AI, security, and more. Still, it’s quite likely that people will be attracted to this phone as a statement piece. It looks great, feels good in the hand, and is still pretty high-end. It’s a worthy improvement over the Nokia 8, but of course we’ll reserve final judgment till we can review this phone in depth for ourselves, so stay tuned to Gadgets 360.
We spoke about all the big launches of MWC 2018 on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.