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Hands on: Nokia 7.2 review

Nokia joins the 48MP camera crowd

What is a hands on review?
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

The Nokia 7.2 is a solid step up from the Nokia 7.1 in a variety of ways, but it’s unlikely to make you a Nokia fan if you weren’t already, and there are other smartphones at the same price that are perhaps a little more interesting.

For

  • Low price tag
  • Powerful 48MP camera
  • Fairly good looking device

Against

  • Google Assistant button is inconvenient
  • Video recording quality is poor
  • Camera bump is rather thick

Nokia has so many smartphones that it can be hard to get your head around the naming conventions sometimes, but let’s try to clear that up – the Nokia 7 phone series is one of HMD Global’s mid-range entries, and the Nokia 7.2 is the third generation device after the Nokia 7, which wasn’t released outside Asia (although the 7 Plus was) and the Nokia 7.1.

The Nokia 7 phones aren’t as high-end as the Nokia 8 devices, but are improvements over their closest neighbours, the Nokia 6 range, so much so that the Nokia 7.2 launched alongside the similar Nokia 6.2.

So the Nokia 7.2 is the successor to the 7.1, yet it still has a lot in common with the 2018 handset, although there are a few key upgrades in certain areas. There’s one new key feature, in the form of a 48MP camera, which is certainly an intriguing high-end addition to the mid-range phone, and it brings the total number of rear cameras up to three.

There’s also a range of spec improvements and tweaks, so the Nokia 7.2 is definitely its own phone, and not merely a carbon copy of the 7.1. But is it enough of an improvement over the 7.1 for people who are particularly fond of Nokia phones?

(Image credit: Future)

Nokia 7.2 price and availability

According to HMD Global (the company behind Nokia phones these days), you can pick up the Nokia 7.2 from the end of September, although a specific release date still eludes us. Presumably this launch date is global, but again there’s no certainty.

You can pick up a version of the phone with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal memory for €299 (roughly $330, £270, AU$490), which is a fair mid-range price, but if you want some extra power you can get a model with 6GB RAM and 128GB onboard storage for €349 (around $380, £315, AU$570).

That’s a significant price increase (considering the 7.2’s starting price) for extra storage, given how easy cloud storage is to use, but the extra RAM might be useful for certain users.

Design and display

Nokia’s mid-range smartphones have a fairly consistent design, and there’s no exceptions with the Nokia 7.2 (other than one noticeable camera change). It’s a fairly large device, but not so much that the rear fingerprint sensor is out of reach (although if you’ve got smaller hands it might be a bit of a stretch). 

On the right you’ll find a power button and volume rocker, which are standard for a smartphone. On the left there’s a Google Assistant button, which is a useful tool for summoning the AI tool, but we found when we laid down the phone on its side to watch a video it could inadvertently trigger the function.

There’s a USB-C port, which is the most common way of powering up your phone for mid-rangers, and there’s also a 3.5mm headphone jack for if you still use wired headphones.

(Image credit: Future)

The most notable design feature, which is also the biggest upgrade over the Nokia 7.1, is the camera bump on the rear of the phone which houses its three snappers, as well as the flash. In comparison, the 7.1 had two cameras, which were in a smaller bump, but the 7.2’s three are in a mount that sticks out considerably from the back of the phone.

Having a large bump like this always makes a phone a little awkward to put down on a flat surface. If you put a case on your phone, this won’t be as much of a problem, but if you like seeing the sleek design of your device the raised platform will be a little annoying.

The rear of the phone is made of aluminium, with a polymer finish, and the device feels pretty solid, but perhaps not as ‘premium’ to hand as a device with a ceramic or pure metal case.

Now we go around to the front of the handset. There’s a ‘tear-drop’ notch housing the front facing camera, a thin top bezel, and a fair-sized bottom chin. All in all the screen has enough space around it to show the budget nature of the handset, as thicker bezels often equate to cheaper design, but they’re not hideously big in the Nokia 7.2.

(Image credit: Future)

The 6.3-inch screen uses HMD Global’s PureDisplay tech, which upgrades screen quality by bringing a 96% color gamut, improved brightness, adaptive viewing (which sets the brightness and color tone depending on where you’re watching the content), and more. 

In our brief time with the Nokia 7.2, photos viewed on the phone certainly seemed particularly bright (even ones not taken with the phone camera), but this is definitely something we’ll need to test out when we go for our full review. It’s all good and well having a phone that shows photos well, but we want to know how well it holds up for Stranger Things binges on the bus.

Camera

The Nokia 7.2 headline feature is its 48MP camera, which leaves the 12MP snapper of the Nokia 7.1 in the dust. It’s actually the most powerful camera HMD Global has used in a smartphone, and the triple-lens system employed in the 7.2 shows the first time the company has used that many (not including the Nokia 9 PureView, where it jumped up to a bonkers five rear cameras). 

The 48MP snapper is joined by a 5MP depth sensor and third 8MP camera with ultra-wide angle lens. The first one is used for portrait shots, as it works out depth to add ‘bokeh’ background blur, and the second takes snaps with a wider field of view so you can get a bigger group of friends, or more scenery, in a shot.

In terms of photography power, it seems that these two sensors are the high, and low, points of the smartphone cameras respectively. When we took some ultra-wide angle shots, color capture was noticeably worse than in normal shots, and pictures looked incredibly overexposed too.

(Image credit: Future)

However when we took portrait snaps, pictures looked much better, and the depth sensor is clearly effective in working out a subject and blurring the background. This was also the case for the front-facing 20MP camera, although that sometimes got a little overzealous in creating background blur.

Normal pictures taken with the camera looked good – as you’d expect from a 48MP camera. Images were bright, and color capture was adequate. 

One weakness in the camera was in video, and we wouldn’t recommend the smartphone if you’re trying to take impressive clips, based on our early impressions. Despite the handset supporting up to 4K UHD video recording, when we tested it, the resulting videos had sluggish framerates, and color contrast was wildly off. Overall quality was fine, but the colors just looked noticeably off.

The camera app was another thing that was sluggish about the phone, as it often felt quite slow to load up or change modes. Autofocus wasn’t the snappiest thing in the world either. One notable exception was the live video editing suite, that lets you edit the background blur for portrait shots, for example, as this felt quick to use and you could see the results in real time.

Performance and specs

HMD Global told us the Nokia 7.2 battery capacity is 3,500mAh. We’ve previously found similar Nokia phones to be a bit lacking in the power pack department, so we hope there have been big upgrades in terms of optimization. We’ll have to spend lots of time with the phone to find out just how long it lasts, though.

Something that’s becoming a feature of phones with the Nokia branding is a dedicated Google Assistant button that you press to summon Google’s artificial intelligence helper. As we’ve already said, it can get in the way a bit when trying to stream content while propping your phone up, but it’s quite snappy and useful when you use it for its intended purpose.

(Image credit: Future)

The Nokia 7.2 runs on Android One, an operating system based on Google’s Android 9 Pie but with significantly less bloatware. It’s a useful operating system for people who don’t like all the built-in apps that come on other devices, and it lets you customize your device how you like.

The processor is a Snapdragon 660, which is a decent mid-range chipset, but nothing to write home about. This may explain the camera app’s sometimes slow performance, but it’s fine enough if you’re not going to ask your handset to perform any demanding tasks.

Overall, though, the Nokia 7.2 feels a little light on interesting features, and that’s likely by design given it’s a mid-range smartphone that’s only a small step up from its predecessors. It’s not a phone aimed at fans of the Nokia 7.1 who want a yearly upgrade, like perhaps owners of the iPhone XS are thinking with the iPhone 11

Instead, it’s for people with older Nokia phones, or even handsets from other companies, who want a new device for calls, texts, music, and other similar functions, without needing all the latest features.

(Image credit: Future)

Verdict

For its low price, the Nokia 7.2 seems to be a pretty decent phone, although we’ll need to use it for a longer period of time to work that out for sure – things like battery life and phone performance speeds take a while to work out.

The handset won’t win any prizes for innovation, but it’s definitely an improvement on the 7.1. However in the competitive world of mid-range smartphones, it might not have enough unique or important features to draw in too many people who aren’t Nokia fans already.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.