Following up a highly acclaimed product can be tricky. Ask Nokia. The brand hit the smartphone jackpot with the excellent Nokia 7 Plus, earlier this year. Although priced slightly higher than the Chinese brigade offering similar specifications, the 7 Plus held its own thanks to excelling at basics, in best Nokia tradition. As we write, it has received the Pie update (perhaps the first Snapdragon 660 device to do so) and remains one of the best options for anyone looking for a phone in the vicinity of Rs 25,000. There is a thorn to this phoney rose, though – any device in the 7 range would not be compared to this very formidable customer. And that dubious distinction has fallen to the Nokia 7.1, which has been launched today.
Mind you, name apart, there is not too much that ties the 7.1 to the 7 Plus. If anything, the 7.1 is closer to the 6.1 Plus, with the same glass front and back, sandwiched between which is a metal frame (6000 Series Aluminium). The front is also remarkably different – blame THAT notch out there. Yes, the 7 Plus was a very striking device with its copper accents and ceramic paint metal back, but the 7.1 is remarkably more compact and thanks to that blend of glass and metal, has a more premium feel to it. No, it is not super slim, with slides that curve out gently, but even those sides look classy with chamfered finishes. The Nokia 7 Plus looked different but was an unabashedly big phone. The 7.1, now, is a far more compact and stylish customer.
One of the reasons for this compact-ness is the slightly smaller display – while the 7 Plus had a 6 inch display, the 7.1 has a 5.84 one, and that notch, aided with some bezel trimming, results in a 85 per cent screen to body ratio (the 7 Plus had 77.2 per cent). It might look exactly like the display of the 6.1 Plus, but a Nokia executive insists it is the “display of the 6.1 Plus on steroids”, and comes with support for HDR 10, and has been developed in collaboration with PixelWorks. The result is what Nokia claims is one of the best displays in its price segment, and from what we could see of it, it definitely is a clear notch above the 7 Plus and 6.1 Plus in terms of colours and brightness. Another reason for the phone being more compact is the fact that it comes with a significantly smaller battery – 3060 mAh rather than 3800 mAh. The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, which has earned its spurs on the bestselling Redmi Note 5 Pro, but which is seen (especially those who like gaming) as a step down from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chip on the 7 Plus, and comes in two RAM/Storage variants: 3 GB/ 32 GB and 4 GB/ 64 GB. Storage is expandable using a memory card in one of the dual hybrid SIM slots.
The 7.1, like the 7 Plus, comes with Zeiss optics. The 12 and 5 megapixel camera combination on the back might not sound very impressive in sheer numerical terms, but with 1.28 micron size pixels, better low light performance and image quality (than the 6.1 Plus at least) are being promised. The front facing camera is a relatively modest 8.0-megapixel affair, but the “Bothie” now has a new touch – instead of the front and rear camera occupying exactly half of the display each in this mode, you can now resize the area occupied by each. We have not been bitten by the Bothie bug yet but this level of flexibility is surely good news. As is the fact that the phone is up to get Android Pie very shortly indeed. It comes with Android 8.1 out of the box but being part of the Android One initiative, is in line to get Android Pie very soon – interestingly, the 7 Plus too just got updated to Android Pie. And while the battery might seem a little underwhelming in mAh count, we have been told it will easily see off a day of usage, and comes with fast charging, which let you get up to fifty per cent of capacity in half an hour of charging.
All of which makes the Nokia 7.1 seem more like an upgrade – especially in camera and display times – of the 6.1 Plus than a relative of the 7 Plus, notwithstanding the similarity of nomenclature. And at Euro 319, it is distant from the 7 Plus which had been launched at approximately 395 Euros (GBP 349.99). However, we cannot help but feel that comparisons with that worthy WILL be made. The 7 Plus does cast a rather huge shadow and while the 7.1 bravely tries to peer out from it, just how successful it will be is something we will discover in the coming days.