The Latest Nokia Phone Is a Big, Clumsy Mess

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For the first time, I’m going to break down the name of a phone for you, solely because it’s ridiculously convoluted. This phone is called the “Nokia 8.3 V 5G UW.” Nokia 8.3 is this Android smartphone’s actual product name; the V stands for Verizon; 5G is for the support of the new network standard; and UW is Ultra Wideband, the name of Verizon’s 5G that uses millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum. Clearly, Verizon is to blame for this disaster.

This is the model I’ve been testing for a few weeks. Thankfully, you don’t need to take a deep breath to say the name of the nearly identical unlocked version that’ll work on other carriers—the Nokia 8.3 5G. It skips millimeter-wave support in favor of slower but more accessible 5G spectrum (sub-6). Regardless of the model, it’s difficult to recommend this phone. At $700 it costs too much, and it’s just not fun to use.

Big Drop

I grimaced the first time I took it out of the box. This thing is heavier and bigger than the new iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

I don’t mind big phones, but it’s difficult to reach parts of the screen with one hand unless you shimmy it down your hand, and the glass on the back is an instant fingerprint magnet that gets grimy quickly.

Photograph: HMD

Then came the drop. I was crouching, taking a photo low to the ground (with another phone, for comparison’s sake). My pant pocket was about a foot and a half above the sidewalk. The Nokia 8.3 5G, too big to be constrained by a measly pocket, slipped out. CRACK.

The glass back shattered, and it has continued to release tiny bits of glass into my hands ever since. Wonderful. I’m coming to this phone after having just reviewed two other $700 phones, the Google Pixel 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Fan Edition. They use aluminum (with a bio-resin finish) and plastic, respectively, for the material on the back—much more sensible. Both also are IP68 water-resistant and support wireless charging, two missing features on the Nokia.

Nokia’s LCD display isn’t all that impressive for this price, either. It’s sharp and bright enough to see outdoors on sunny days. But it can’t match the OLED panels from competitors. Each pixel in an OLED screen acts as a backlight, so when you see black the pixel is completely off, and it looks brilliantly dark. On this phone, black pixels still glow a little, meaning dark stuff isn’t completely dark. The lack of OLED is problematic for features like the Always-On Display, which shows the time and notifications when the phone is on standby. I had to flip the phone upside down at bedtime because the entire screen has a backlight that emits a distracting glow. Bummer.

The good news? I didn’t have any performance woes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G inside. Apps are quick to launch, and games run smoothly most of the time. There’s the occasional stutter, but it was never a cause for concern.

Its battery life is poor. The 4,500-mAh cell lasts a day, but not a minute more, and that’s when I barely use the phone to do stuff like browse Reddit and Twitter, reading articles, and maybe take a few photos. Simple activities like that brought me down to 20 percent by 10 pm with a little more than three hours of screen-on time.

One thing to note: The Verizon model is identical to the unlocked one in every way except for 5G spectrum (which we’ll get to below) and that it only has 64 gigabytes of storage, half what the unlocked version comes with. Both have MicroSD card slots, so you can expand space whenever you need it.

Middling Cameras

There are four cameras on the Nokia 8.3, but you’ll only use the main 64-megapixel sensor and the 12-megapixel ultrawide most of the time. The other two are a depth sensor for improved Portrait mode and a Macro camera for snapping super close-up shots.

Detail is solid with the main camera, but it often cranks up the contrast way too high and produces inaccurate colors. It also fails to keep a balanced exposure in high-contrast scenes—skies are often blown out. The ultrawide is OK, but you won’t get results as sharp and well exposed as on the Pixel 5, our favorite Android camera phone.


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Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

Nokia 8.3, ultrawide camera. The ultrawide camera lets you take in sweeping shots like this, but the image detail is lackluster. Peek in and you’ll see the brickwork on the church is very patchy. I do like the colors and the white balance here though. Compare this with the following photo.


Low light fares a little better thanks to the dedicated Night mode, which takes multiple photos at different exposures in the span of a few seconds to brighten up photos. They’re sharp if you stay as still as possible during capture.

I had fun with the Cinema video mode, which lets you record 4K video at 24 frames per second in a 21:9 aspect ratio. It makes footage look cinematic. You can color-grade these clips in Nokia’s video editing app, which is a lot of fun.

Too Little, Too Late

You’ll get two Android version upgrades and three years of security update with this phone, and Nokia is usually faster at delivering these than any competitor except Google, which develops the Android OS. But the Pixel 5 and the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition will get three Android versions and three years of security updates now.

HMD, the Finnish company that licensed the Nokia brand in 2016, says this phone is one of the best 5G handsets around because it supports the most global network bands of any Android device. But 5G is still inaccessible for most people. The faster speeds it promises will be more widely available in two years, and by then 5G will be in every phone.

The company also claims only a few people will pay the full retail price for this phone. With Verizon’s monthly payments, you’ll pay $20 per month for 24 months (around $480), and HMD says there will be multiple promotions that drop it to $5 per month down the road. But … then you’re stuck with a Verizon-locked phone. That might be fine for you, but we always recommend buying unlocked phones. No phone should come locked to a single network. You should be able to switch carriers if you need to, and it’s easier to sell an unlocked phone.

The only reason you should buy this phone is if you want the biggest Android phone possible without spending $1,000. I think you’re better off with cheaper phones like the $500 Pixel 4A 5G. You get better cameras, longer battery life, a nicer OLED screen, and a phone that’s not a pain to hold.

This one’s a head-scratcher that I’m happy to be done with.

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