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Nokia 6.1 Plus review: An Android One smartphone with a great design letdown by an underwhelming camera

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 13 September 2018, 12:11 IST
(Sahil Bhalla/Catch News)

HMD Global, the company that resurrected Nokia mobile phones has been on a roll ever since it partnered with Google and wowed to release every smartphone as an Android One device. While last year’s devices didn’t exactly set the market on fire, 2018 has been a good year for the company.

According to Counterpoint Research, HMD Global entered the top ten - at number nine - list of global smartphone manufacturers in the second quarter of 2018. This year has already seen the fantastic mid-range Nokia 7 Plus and the Nokia 8 Sirocco. The former is one of the best devices of the year while the latter’s major shortcoming was that it was overpriced.

The latest entry into HMD Global’s portfolio of Android One devices is the Nokia 6.1 Plus. A budget smartphone. This is the third iteration in the ‘6’ series. First came the Nokia 6 and then the Nokia 6 (2018). Both were great devices but ending up being laggier than not.

The Nokia 6.1 Plus aims to break free from the previous iterations shortcomings. Will it be a case of gorgeous design hiding the flaws or will the Nokia 6.1 Plus finally be able to break free and be a great mid-range allrounder? Let’s find out.

A stunning design to knock them all out

Just by looking at the smartphone, one would think it is priced close to Rs 30,000. It’s upping the ante for smartphone designs in the budget segment. It may be compact but it is very premium. Its finesse is better than whatever competition is out there. The Nokia 6.1 Plus continues the tradition of Nokia smartphones being churned out with amazing build quality. With a price tag of just Rs 15,999, this smartphone brings tremendous bang for the buck.

There’s glass that is used on the front and back with an aluminium casing along the edges. I had the black unit for review and countless people came to me in the Delhi Metro and asked me what smartphone I was using. The only negative is that the smartphone is prone to smudges and that the vertically stacked dual camera are protruding out.

The bezels are thin and there is a notch. Surprisingly, this is one of the very few times that I didn’t mind the notch.

If you take a look at the Indian smartphone market, across all price ranges, you won’t find a more compact and feel good smartphone than the Nokia 6.1 Plus. Nokia continues winning in the design department.

Performance not up to the mark but battery life saves the day

Despite a powerful specification sheet, the Nokia 6.1 Plus comes in behind Asus’ Zenfone Max Pro M1 and Xiaomi’s Mi A2 (another Android One device). The Nokia 6.1 Plus houses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 636 processor and the smartphone runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis.

Just like the previous two Nokia 6 smartphones, the Nokia 6.1 Plus occasionally lags. Much less than its predecessors but the demon still hasn’t been vanquished. While playing simple games - Stick Cricket Super League - the smartphone would freeze for a couple of seconds and multi-tasking turned out to slow the phone down a bit. The camera also closed on me more than once and I missed out on taking a few photos that I would have otherwise liked to.

The one upside is that while opening 30+ tabs in Chrome or playing games, the smartphone never got hot. It was never too hot to handle.

Yes, the modest 3,060 mAh battery was enough to last the entire day. Before sleeping, with a medium-to-heavy usage, I had about ten per cent battery left. Good enough for an overnight charge. Even using mobile hotspot for most of the day didn’t eat up the battery as fast as I thought it would.

Charging the phone is a breeze. It takes just over 2 hours to go from zero to 100. The Nokia 6.1 Plus has a USB Type-C port for charging instead of a microUSB port and that is a major advantage.

The camera is a letdown

There is a dual-camera setup on the Nokia 6.1 Plus. A 16-megapixel primary sensor is joined by a 5-megapixel depth sensor. In daylight conditions, it produces decent shots with a good amount of detail. It takes a few tries to get the shot you want from the smartphone.

The colours may look good but more often than not they are washed out. The camera though is very quick to focus and portrait shots do come out pretty decently, compared to the competition.

Where the camera really struggles, and I say this in comparison to the Zenfone Max Pro M1 and the Mi A2 is in low-light photos. They often come out blurry and not enough light is taken in by the sensors.

The video quality is strictly average. While the video itself comes out with good detail and stability it is the audio that is on the low side and turns out to be a disappointing affair.

Let’s sum it up

The Nokia 6.1 Plus is the best-looking smartphone under Rs 20,000 bar none. It raises the bar for smartphone designs and one hopes others follow suit.

What HMD Global has gotten perfectly right is the pricing. At Rs 15,999, this smartphone is cheaper than the Mi A2 and on par with the Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 5 Pro.

For that price, one gets a well rounded mid-range smartphone that doesn’t pinch the pocket. With it being an Android One smartphone, the consumer needn’t worry about software updates. The only real downside is the camera. One hopes that the next Nokia 6 device finally gets everything right.

First published: 13 September 2018, 12:11 IST
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.