My dog has an Instagram account. It’s managed by my girlfriend and yours truly, and while it doesn’t have millions of followers (you’re welcome to follow it!), we try to publish a photo each day. One day it’s my turn to hunt through my camera roll for derpy shots of my 16-pound pup, and on the next, it’s hers. But I have a confession: I’ve only posted once since the middle of November. That’s when I started using the Nokia 6.2.
They say the best camera is the one you have with you, but when the camera is slow and its results are often blurry, then the old adage doesn’t quite ring true. My partner has picked up the slack as I’ve slowly lost interest in capturing moments of my life (er, dog) these past few weeks, not because the triple-camera system on this phone is wholly bad, but because it requires a little too much work for my liking.
If you don’t want to crazily document every day of your dog’s life, don’t care about snapping the perfect selfie, tend to use a mirrorless camera, or are continually shocked at the prices of smartphones—then the $249 Nokia 6.2 is another reminder of just how good cheap phones have become.
Covering the Basics
Modern Nokia phones run Android and aren’t actually made by Nokia anymore. A Finnish company, HMD Global, licenses the brand. HMD is comprised of ex-Nokia employees, but it has made a name for itself making well-built budget phones since its inception in 2016. The company has yet to make a phone that can live up to the legendary camera excellence in Nokia predecessors, but its latest steps up in other ways.
The Nokia 6.2 (succeeding last year’s Nokia 6.1) looks nothing like its price, with a metal and polymer frame that feels sturdy. Like most phones these days, it’s wrapped in glass so you’ll want a case to keep it from shattering, though in the past month of use it has only racked up one scratch on the back. That’s nothing like my experience with Samsung’s $1,000 Note 10 Plus, which was covered with nicks after a few weeks.
The downside is there’s no water-resistance rating, so keep it away from the shower. Anything in this price range will require some protection from liquids; even the latest Moto G-series phones are only water-repellent, not waterproof.
There are benefits of going cheap, though. You actually get a headphone jack so you can plug in corded headphones instead of relying on Bluetooth if that’s your thing, and an easy-to-access traditional fingerprint sensor sits on the back. There’s even an LED on the power button that lights up when you have notifications waiting to be read—handy when the phone is across the room and set to silent. And if you happen to fill up the included 64 GB of storage, there’s room for expansion through the MicroSD card slot. A lot of high-end phones don’t have these luxuries.
Turn on the screen and the 6.3-inch LCD slims out the bezels around it, making the phone look modern (and quite like Motorola’s $300 Moto G7, right down to the little droplet at the top for the selfie camera). The screen is sharp, colorful, and it gets bright enough that I haven’t had to squint watching episodes of The Crown when outside walking the dog.
It does all this without ever making me feel like I need to carry a battery pack. The 3,500 mAh battery capacity often left me with around 40 percent by 7 pm, though use the phone a little harder and you’ll need to recharge it at bedtime via the USB-C cable.
My biggest worry was how well the phone would run. Along with photography, performance is often the compromise when you dip below $300. It was especially worrisome because the Nokia 6.2 uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor (with 4 GB of RAM) as the Sony’s Xperia 10 Plus, a phone WIRED reviews editor Jeffrey Van Camp thought was quite laggy.
Thankfully, you don’t have much to worry about. Outside of the occasional stutter, which happened specifically when I was trying to juggle through multiple apps quickly, I had no trouble running the usual slate of tasks that I do on every phone. Don’t expect the phone to run graphically intensive mobile games like Fortnite or PUBG at the highest settings with the smoothest gameplay, though it’s certainly possible to play them.
This improved performance is due to the phone’s software. Most of HMD’s Nokia phones are a part of the Android One program, which means the phone-maker has made an agreement with Google to ship the purest form of Android with no bloatware. Only Google apps are pre-installed, and the software is leaner, requiring fewer system resources than if HMD smattered its own interface on top (like Samsung’s interface on its Galaxy phones).
There’s also a promise to issue version upgrades and monthly security updates for two years, which is something you will not get from many flagship Android phones that cost several hundred dollars more.
It’s what often leads me to recommend Nokia phones over Motorola’s G-range, which are also very good. Motorola issues only one software update for its phones and not much in the form of security updates. Software support should extend the lifespan of a phone, because it means you’ll get more features in time and it will be more secure. At the moment, the Nokia 6.2 is still on Android 9 Pie, but it’s slated to get Android 10 in the first few months of 2020 and will get Android 11 after it’s launched next year.
Outside of Google’s Pixel 3A, which costs $150 more and is made by Google, you’ll be hard-pressed to find software support like this in the US for a phone in this price range.
A Camera That Needs Patience
The Nokia 6.2 checks off a lot of boxes, but its flaws largely boil down to the cameras—a theme with most budget phones. On the back, there’s a 16-megapixel main lens paired with an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens. A 5-megapixel depth sensor is also employed for better depth in portrait mode. As you can see below, you can snap some nice shots, but I haven’t shown you all the failed attempts. Behind most of these images are three to four others that were blurry.
Because the shutter is so slow, you need to stay very still when taking a photo and stay in position a second or two after you’ve tapped the shutter icon. I’ve found the shutter keeps rolling sometimes, and lowering your hand too soon could mean you’ve taken a photo of the ground instead. If you consistently have the patience to remain still, you can get photos worth sharing. I clearly don’t—the proof is in my dog’s Instagram.
Nokia’s phone won’t wow you, but it’ll get the job done while saving you some cash. You’ll be happier to get new Android features in the long term, which can’t be said if you went for the Moto G7, which has a similar if not slightly more reliable camera but limited software support.
The phone’s biggest competition right now is from Google. The Pixel 3A is our favorite phone of 2019 because it brings Google’s class-leading camera down to an affordable price, and it’s sometimes discounted to $300. Usually, it’s a lot pricier than the Nokia 6.2, but if you’re like me and you want to point a camera at the dog and get a nice photo in one attempt, you should absolutely save up for it instead.
You can buy the Nokia 6.2 unlocked. It works on AT&T, T-Mobile, and smaller wireless networks like Cricket and Mint that use their networks.