Nokia 8 and Android Oreo

HMD Global was touting that the 2017 branded Android Nokia mobile phones will be receiving Android OS and security patches extremely quickly, as of December they have delivered on this. They also said that the mobile phones will also be one of the first to receive Android Oreo, before the end of 2017 I might add. This is a mighty claim, many have tried and failed with many manufacturers like HTC and Samsung holding out on the Android updates due to software issues with their launchers and skins. The Nokia mobile phones run a stripped down and pure Android OS with no bloatware or skins; this should make the update process much quicker and smoother.

Last night I got a little notification that allowed me to download and install Android Oreo on my Nokia 8. There were rumours that this version of Android was in testing and would be ready sometime in December (no indication whether it would be at the start, at the end or somewhere in between). I applaud HMD Global in pushing out the update extremely quickly. HMD Global is only one part of the update puzzle however. Your mobile phone provider also has to ensure that the update still works on their network and does not completely render your mobile phone useless on their network.

Telstra has been notoriously slow with pushing these updates to consumer’s mobile phones (even if you bought the mobile phone outright and not through Telstra). You can go to their forums and support channels to see a number of posts with people complaining that Telstra is blocking mobile phone updates. This time Telstra has pushed the update out fast. Have they changed their tune and business practices regarding mobile phone updates? Perhaps, but it is too hard to tell. One Android update coming to your handset in a timely manner does not excuse or disregard the numerous other delayed or blocked updates.

After the update was installed I noticed really only a couple of differences compared to the previous version of Android; there are probably more but these are the ones that stood out to me straight away:

  1. Notifications Bar – now with white icons and the expanded notifications bar has a white background with dark icons.
  2. Battery Percentage Indicator – other launchers and skins already had this but now Android comes with this handy little feature right out of the box.
  3. Nightlight – another feature that required either a third party app like Twilight or a custom launcher. The ability to change the blue hue on your display based on the time of day now comes standard with Android Oreo.
  4. Picture in Picture –  some apps have the ability and option to now work in “Picture in Picture” mode. You can easily browse the Internet while having YouTube running in a small window. Personally I have disabled this feature.
  5. Settings Cleaned – the entire Settings app has been cleaned up and made streamlined. There is no more confusion or ambiguity of where a particular setting sits. Well done Google.

Under the hood I imagine Google has made some improvements regarding battery life, optimization of the Android OS and other little improvements to make the Android experience that little bit more fluid, consistent and uniform. I use the Microsoft Launcher so I cannot comment on the default Google/Android launcher and if there has been any changes to that, but it most likely also has been improved like previous versions. So if you have a Nokia 8 (or potentially any other Nokia 2017 mobile phone) and you are on the Telstra mobile network then see if your device has an update.

Enjoy your new version of Android Oreo 😀

My New Nokia 8 Smartphone

My time with the Motorola Nexus 6 has unfortunately come to an end. I loved that smartphone and it has served me well since I purchased it. To Google’s credit the smartphone received constant system and security updates; unfortunately October 2017 would be the last month that Google would officially support the device [1]. So it was time to move on to a new and shiny toy.

I didn’t just purchase a new mobile phone because the software would no longer be updated, but the battery that once lasted me a good work day would now only last around 5 hours. So after doing my research and weighing up all my options the one smartphone that had what I wanted and not break the bank was HMD Global’s new flagship smartphone, the Nokia 8. If you would like to see my Android journey so far and what I want in an Android smartphone, check out my post here.

Premium Build and Feel

Much like the original Nokia handsets, the new Nokia 8 is designed and built extremely well. When I took the smartphone out of the box it was heavy (personally I felt that it is heavier than the Nexus 6 even though it is supposed to be 24g lighter), and it easily and comfortably fit in my hand (most likely because of the curved edges/side). The Nokia 8 appears to be a smartphone that is built to last. I appreciate the high quality design and build, kudos HMD Global. If you would like to see how durable the Nokia 8 actually is then take a look at JerryRigEverything’s Nokia 8 Durability Test. Going forward I will always be looking at these types of tests because I want my smartphone to last at least 3 years.

A 3.5mm Headphone Jack

Last year Apple was “courageous” when they removed the 3.5mm headphone jack. Some other mobile phone makers followed suit like HTC. Google this year followed in Apple’s footsteps by releasing two new Pixel smartphones without a 3.5mm headphone jack. To Samsung, LG and HMD Global’s credit they have kept the 3.5 mm headphone jack in most, if not all their smartphones. As someone who does not have wireless headphones and listens to podcasts and music on the way to work and while at work, a 3.5mm headphone jack is vital. Personally I feel it hurts the mobile phone maker’s brand and it turns people off future devices when they remove such fundamental components. Nearly everyone that I talk to say that they will never consider buying a smartphone without a 3.5mm headphone jack. It is just an option that they are taking away from the consumer.

Stock “Pure” Android

I am a massive fan of the Android OS, however manufacturers see the need to add unnecessary apps, skins, launchers and other elements to their smartphones without the consumer’s choice. By having all these extra items over time the phone begins to slow down due to poor support and optimization, and updates to the OS nearly never come or come months later. The Nokia 8 comes with stock Android :D. When I mean stock Android, I really mean stock Android; there are no fancy skins or launchers, there are no extra or unnecessary apps pre-installed. It is how the Android OS is supposed to be experienced IMO. Google’s own productivity suite (Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides) is not installed on your device for example; for me this is great because I use Microsoft’s Office suite instead along with an Office 365 subscription allowing me access to 1TB worth of OneDrive storage. If you are like me and want the bare minimum with the ability to add what you want and with timely OS and security updates from Google, then the Nokia 8 will most likely fit the bill perfectly.

My Experience So Far

From the 3.5mm headphone jack to the micro-SD card slot next to the nano SIM card, the Nokia 8 has everything I need from a hardware perspective. Sure it might not have dual front facing speakers like my Nexus 6 but the bottom speaker it does have is perfectly fine, and it isn’t waterproof but I don’t plan on taking it swimming with me and if it does rain, it is splash proof. There is also no wireless charging either, but I am not going to pay another $300-$400 AUD for wireless charging capabilities.

Instead of a fingerprint sensor on the back like most Android smartphones, there is a fingerprint sensor where the dedicated home button is usually placed. This is the first smartphone I have ever had with a fingerprint sensor and it is responsive and accurate. I don’t take many photos but the front and rear cameras both do the job; it also has a “boothie” mode where it shoots the front and the back cameras simultaneously (doubt I will be using this mode much).

The battery life is incredible on the Nokia 8. My Nexus 6 had a 3220 mAh battery and my Nokia 8 has a 3090 mAh battery, so you would expect the Nexus 6 to have a better battery life. When I purchased my Nexus 6 it would last close to a full 24 hours before needing a recharge, while my Nokia 8 does better getting closer to 36 hours. The display is also bright and the colors are perfectly acceptable. Moving back to a smaller sized screen would seem difficult but I have adjusted fine.

Using the stock Android experience is just as I expect. Fast, and responsive without any hiccups or stuttering. When I switch between apps there is no lag or delay, and I can easily scroll through web pages loading different media with no problem (something my Nexus 6 eventually had trouble doing). The first thing I did when I started my phone up was check for updates and to HMD Global and Google’s credit there were three security patches waiting for me (one for each month up to October).

I cannot find a flaw at the moment with this device, but if I had to really complain about something it would be the slight camera bump. I am getting a case for my smartphone so that should fix that problem. If HMD Global keeps their promise of keeping the Android OS updated [2] and ensure that security patches are rolled out ASAP then this smartphone is going to last me a long time.

Nokia is finally back through HMD Global and giving everyone a run for their money. Other mobile phone manufacturers watch out.

My Android Situation

I am a die-hard Android fan; I would even go as far as to say I love Android. My very first smartphone was Android. I switched to a Windows Phone for a brief period, but switched back to Android. I can foresee myself continuing to buy Android phones until something “better” comes out. Right now I am in a position where my current Android phone is one its last legs. Looking at the current Android device market, I am disappointed in what is out there; nothing matches what I am after. Before I go into why the current Android device market is underwhelming, I’m going to breakdown my Android journey so far. It is this journey that has me feeling this way and hopefully provide some context.

My Very First Smartphone

My very first smartphone was the HTC Desire HD. It was in my mind the greatest smartphone you could ever get. It had everything that I wanted in a smartphone, even a 3.5mm headphone port 🙂 However, the more I started to use it and as the years rolled by, I saw one glaring flaw in the once Superman like device. It had nothing to do with the hardware but the software. It stopped receiving major Android updates from Google, and HTC stopped providing updates to it as well. With the device no longer being supported by Google and HTC, I decided to “root” my phone and install a custom ROM. An unfortunate event caused my screen to no longer work; who would have thought that dropping your phone, display first on concrete will kill a number of pixels? So I decided to move on and buy a new phone.

The Proper Android Experience

It just so happened Google and LG released a new phone a month or two earlier. The phone offered a “pure”, stock Android experience, no skins and no bloatware like my HTC Desire HD. It was the almighty LG Nexus 4. It was my very first stock Android phone and after using it, I am never (ever) going back to an Android device with a skin or bloatware pre-installed; no matter how good the hardware and skin is for the phone (sorry Samsung). With the stock Android experience, I could generally get “timely” Android updates (if my telco provider doesn’t block or take an extremely long time to test the Android update on their network *cough* Telstra *cough*) and experience Android how I imagined the original creators and Google would have wanted. Eventually my Nexus 4 stopped getting support from Google but I still kept it around as it still worked great. Eventually the hardware started to fail. I probably should have just replaced the failing hardware components, but I decided to make a switch to a Windows Phone. I don’t remember exactly why I switched ecosystems but I remember having a spreadsheet with data about a number of phones and the Windows Phone was the best option out there at the time. Goodbye Android.

Hello Windows Phone

The Windows Phone that I decided to go with was the Nokia Lumia 930. At first I loved it. The build quality is still the best of any phone that I have ever had. Extremely solid, heavy and felt like it would not break on you; it is a premium device at the fraction of the cost when I bought it. The only glaring flaw the phone had (which I knew going in) was the Windows Store (more specifically the lack of apps). I could barely get by with the apps the Windows Store had, and I did not realise how much I depended on the Google ecosystem. What was truly annoying was the lack of proper first party app support; there was plenty of third party apps though. Fortunately my mum’s flip phone ended up dying and I decided to give her my Lumia 930 while I picked up Google’s latest Nexus device at the time. It was the Motorola Nexus 6, aka Shamu.

Android My Old Friend

Ah it was good to be back using an Android device. I missed having proper first party app support. After moving to the Nexus 6, something that I didn’t expect to be a major difference but would take some time to get used to was the sheer size of the device. The Nexus 6 is a fairly large device and at first I had some issues getting used to it, but now I love it. Watching videos, browsing the internet and reading documents is fantastic; consuming anything on a large screen mobile device is just too good. Like most Nexus users out there would know, the best thing about the Nexus line is the stock Android experience, and the timely OS and security updates. Overall the Nexus 6 has been a great device, however the battery is now not holding a charge like it should, and I am no longer getting any sort of updates even though officially Google is supporting the device until October 2017. Now I have to decide what new phone to get, but the choices for me are fairly limited for what I am after.

Android Market Frustrations

If you want variety and choice then there are plenty in regards to Android mobiles. You have the super low end budget phones for under $100 AUD or you can spend over $1400 AUD and get the latest premium, top of the line phone. So there is plenty to choose from. However in saying that, many of the phones on the market do not appeal to me. The features/options I look for in an Android phone are in no particular order:

  1. A large capacity battery – I want to hold a charge for a whole day with heavy use.
  2. Stock Android – no skins, overlays, bloatware or any other manufacturer gimmicks.
  3. Support for the device for at least 2 years – this includes timely Android OS updates and security updates.
  4. 3.5 mm headphone port – just because it is 2017 doesn’t mean we should take features away.
  5. Doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg – I don’t mind paying big bucks for a premium device if it truly is premium.

Now as you can see none of these are really unreasonable, and many phone users out there probably would have 3 of these on their list when looking for a new phone. I am not asking for an insane camera as I rarely take pictures or videos, a 4K display, wireless charging, or “squeeze” functionality.

I’m going to start with the battery option. Many phones have a decent sized battery, so this one generally gets a checkmark from me. When I look at phones out now I rarely see phones which have low capacity batteries and many phones can last a solid day with heavy use.

The hotly contested 3.5mm headphone port. I use my phone to listen to podcasts and music while travelling to work and while I code at work, so having a phone without one automatically removes the phone from my purchase list. If I was to go with a phone without a headphone port, I will need to spend even more money on some wireless headphones, and they are not cheap at all.

Stock Android. Something that is super important to me, and is probably number 1 on my list of requirements. The only phones I have seen with stock Android are the Nexus phones (R.I.P), Pixel phones, and the new Nokia phones (from HMD Global). Unfortunately the Nexus line will soon be not getting support for much longer, and the Pixel phones even though they have a premium price tag are not premium devices IMO. I feel that Google has created the Pixel line to directly compete with the iPhone and the Galaxy devices. The only new Nokia phone currently worth looking at is the Nokia 6, however the hardware is generally low mid tier with a high mid tier price. Maybe the Nokia 8 will be the device I am after. Generally all other manufacturers have skins, overlays and other gimmicks on their devices that ruin Android, so they are all out of the picture for me and I am not going to go out of my way to root a new device.

Along with the stock Android comes timely updates. With the heavily customised experience manufacturers provide for their Android device, getting updates is a major pain an hassle. If the device is running something other than stock Android then be prepared to wait for updates unfortunately. So as with the stock Android issue, having timely OS and security updates limits what phones are worth looking at.

Finally there is the price. Again, I don’t mind paying a high price for quality. I have a Surface Pro 3 and I bought it when it came out. It cost a pretty penny, but it is IMO the best purchase that I have ever done so far (in regards to technology and devices). Due to the length of support most mobile devices get from Google and manufacturers, I don’t feel like paying over $700 AUD for a mobile device every 2 to 3 years. Sure I can keep the same phone until it dies, I mean I have generally done that. But I want to ensure my device has the latest OS update and most importantly the latest security patch.

There it is folks. Let me know what you think. Am I being too demanding? What phones do you recommend? I’ll most likely end up waiting for the Nokia 8 or Pixel 2, but time is running out. If nothing is worthwhile purchasing later this year, the Nokia 6 will be the likely choice as my daily driver.