Technology

Latest Nokia mid-range phone can’t keep up with Asian rivals

With a slick look but underwhelming performance, the Nokia 7.2 is a serviceable mid-range phone, but not an exceptional one.

Though HMD Global has produced some industry-leading phones in the $500 bracket over the last few years with its Nokia brand, and though the 7.2 doesn’t really deviate from the playbook of its predecessors, the space has become crowded with truly excellent budget offerings. Next to lower-priced handsets from Samsung, and especially next to the outstanding $500 handsets from Chinese companies including TCL and Realme, the $550 7.2 just ends up looking ordinary.

Physically the 7.2 packs a 6.3-inch Gorilla Glass covered LCD into a comfortably light and compact shape, with matte glass on the back joined by a plastic frame. Up front there’s a big chin but slim upper bezel with a teardrop notch, while the rear houses a standard fingerprint sensor and Motorola-style circular camera array. It’s a nice-feeling phone with a classy look, if a little boring.

One touch I really like is the LED built into the power button, which turns on when you have a notification or are charging so you can see it whether the phone’s face up or down. Another plus, and a potential big selling point for some, is that sliding the SIM tray out reveals slots for two SIM cards and a microSD for storage, rather than making you choose.

The screen itself is nice enough, but can’t compete with the quality of the LCD on the TCL Plex or the OLED of a Realme XT or Samsung Galaxy, all of which come in cheaper than the 7.2. The Nokia advertises some impressive features at this price, including HDR compatibility and automatic white balance, but neither worked well in my testing.

The camera is similarly middling. There’s a 48MP main sensor backed by an 8MP wide angle and a depth sensor for portrait mode. Daylight performance is good enough for casual happy snaps, but photos can be noisy, especially from the wide lens. Dynamic range is not as good as expected, with bright light sources easily throwing the whole scene off. They’re the kind of photos that would have been good for a mid-ranger in 2018, but again feel overshadowed now. Night and portrait modes are an exception, showing a clear improvement over previous 7 series phones.

Like many Nokias the 7.2 is Android One certified, meaning the software is close to the stock version created by Google, and you get two years of software upgrades guaranteed. The version of Android 9 here is clean and easy to use, with an upgrade to Android 10 presumably incoming.

The 7.2’s internals are disappointing given the quality of previous Nokia handsets. Its Snapdragon 660 processor is showing its age with generally sluggish performance, including some app freezes and what can be a long wait for the screen to turn on while unlocking. Meanwhile the battery consistently struggled to get through an entire day of heavy use, and does not feature fast charging.

It’s worth remembering that this phone is being sold for half the price of the least expensive high-end flagships, meaning some compromises are to be expected. But considering the growing number of prettier, faster and more powerful handsets available at the same or lower price, the Nokia 7.2 is hard to recommend.

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