There is so much to love about this phone.
There is so much to love about this phone.

Nokia 7 Plus review: Bargain, simple, potent, sexy

Reviews of flagship smartphones are fascinating to read, but most of us aren't shelling out nearly $2000 for a phone.

Fortunately, handsets like the $599 Nokia 7 Plus and its sleek implementation of Android 9 Pie are affordable, gorgeous, and usable.

Beauty on a budget. This is the people's phone.
Android Pie is perfect for those of us who hate phones bloated with hundreds of apps straight ouf of the box.

In the case of the 7 Plus, we seem to have found a true iPhone killer for the rest of us.

I spent two weeks with the 7 Plus as my daily driver and the first thing I noticed is that it is far easier to hold than either the Samsung S9+ or the iPhone X Max. The flat front and back are bordered by a differently-coloured side that has an edge you feel confident holding - not the slick rounded curves that make the flagships feel like you're holding something precious.

This is a seriously and unexpectedly attractive unit. The rounded edges designers are obsessed with right now aren't really present here - the 7 Plus is heading in its own direction and the impact is striking. This is a unique phone that will attract attention from the people around you. You can also tell those people the ceramic-like feel comes from 6 layers of paint and the body is machined from a single block of 6000 series aluminium,

The second and potentially more profound aspect is the lack of bloatware that comes with the new Android 9 Pie. We have a deep hatred for bloatware in these pages and Android Pie was able to impress even our most vitriolically anti-bloat reviewer. This means a simpler user experience that lets you get what you need to do done. No questions. Just do.

The most exciting aspect from a family perspective is the sophistication and simplicity of the wellbeing controls. These controls let you set boundaries on how long you or your children can use certain apps, like games or youtube, before it locks the app for a certain period of time and prompts you to do something else. These changes are coming through gradually from the Google flagships but for those with children who have a device problem, this phone could be what you're looking for.

Android's new use controls give you precise and effective control over how much time you or your children can spend in a specific app each day.
Android's new use controls give you precise and effective control over how much time you or your children can spend in a specific app each day.

The 6" screen is a Full HD+ display (about the same resolution as a PC monitor) with such a clear image that most people will struggle to point out how it's different from a more high-end display. The 7 plus's photo-taking capability isn't wasted on the unit's display - this thing is the goods for the price range.

The image quality coming from the dual sensors is good enough that your Facebook and Instagram needs should be met, especially for non-commercial applications. The low-light is better than you might expect, with the graininess from the diminished illumination down to a respectable and subtle level. The quality comes from a common but profound engineering trick: two camera sensors, a 12MP wide-angle and a 13MP main, working in cahoots.

Video stabilsation kicks in nicely and the sensors won't let you down. It's not Samsung S9+ quality but there's no room for being disappointed in the results from even a few minutes spent playing with the settings.

The front camera and biometric sensors can take advantage of most of Android's newer security features like fingerprint authentication and deep-learning facial recognition if you're happy to use your mug as a security device. The fingerprint sensor is placed sensibly enough that you might find it just as easy to use as a screen-swipe. There's no under-screen fingerprint sensor but those are new, expensive, and not quite perfect.

The 'AI' in Android 9 Pie is really just machine-learning, and I'd be tempted to give their marketing team a failing grade for using the term AI for what's going on here if it weren't that everyone is doing it. Still,  you can't have a conversation with your phone yet - even if the smart features trickling down from the Pixel 3 in Google Assistant make Siri and Cortana look like kids playtoys by comparison.

Android 9 Pie brings some key new features to the party.

  • Slices - Identifies relevant information from your favourite apps to make them more easily accessible when you need them
  • Adaptive battery - Uses deep learning to understand usage patterns and prioritise battery power on important apps
  • Adaptive brightness - Automatically adapts phone brightness by learning from your interactions with different settings
  • New System navigation - Features a single home button that provides intelligent predictions and suggestions (user enabled)

Only having 4GB of RAM means I can't realistically call this a 'flagship' phone, but given how staggeringly expensive RAM chips are at the moment, this was probably the best outcome. 4GB is enough for most uses and going with any more would have made the phone far less affordable. 

Finally, there's the 3800mAh battery that charges fast and stays charged. Nokia claims you can get 2 days out of it and we hit that twice over our review period.

It's easy to recommend the Nokia 7 Plus. The price, capablity, attractiveness, and ease of use make this a return to the glory days of Nokia handsets. 

Correction: This review originally ran in print with the specs of another Nokia phone after a production mistake. The opinions in the review were based on the correct review unit and so have not changed, but the details in this version of the article have been updated. The price given above was the price quoted on the JB Hi-Fi page at the time of writing.