The Nokia 9 PureView embodies HMD Global’s capability in the premium market. All the big names are tied to it, with collaboration with some of the biggest companies in the tech world. There was frequent Nokia collaborator Carl Zeiss AG, then Google and its Android One team, and minor help from Adobe. There was also then-independent startup Light with some crazy, innovative camera ideas we’ve never seen on a smartphone before.
The smartphone has all the right recipes for success but ultimately suffers from its own complexities. We didn’t know how much it cost HMD Global, but it’s amazing how the company has changed the way it manufactures its devices since then.
Some people who owned the Nokia 9 PureView admit that it has issues right from the start. And while some of them were fixed via software update, some of the most glaring ones remain to this day. It was a major compromise for consumers who purchased the device with certain flagship expectations from Nokia. But the inconsistencies in user experience, coupled with the sudden neglect of its developers, and Light’s shutdown of its mobile imaging business, have caused quite a stir, not only for users, but also within the entire Nokia community. What was left was the promise of Android One which later turned out to be a false hope. Questions about HMD Global’s claims of honesty quickly arose, criticizing its famous slogan which reads in part “secure and up-to-date”.
In the recent article published by Android Authority, Adam Ferguson, Head of Product Marketing for HMD Global, admitted that developing a flagship product does not make sense for HMD Global at the moment. The company simply cannot afford another flagship phone with complex R&D requirements while keeping the price as low as possible. Silver is currently in the budget segment, although we have yet to see if they can sustain its healthy growth over the next few quarters.
That’s not to say the Nokia 9 PureView was a bad catch. HMD Global and ZEISS have created a device that finally deserves the PureView name after its long hiatus. The device did some things well, only if the application was done well without cutting corners.
In this review, we’ll list what we think are the best part of the device while noting some of its absolute worst.
Love it (or hate it), HMD Global’s choice to use Android One on its Nokia phones has won over many potential consumers of users. The promise of clean, secure and up-to-date smartphones was Nokia Mobile’s main selling point, and it didn’t take long for them to become a major player in Google’s pure Android initiative. The move was not planned for the flagship range at all, but the Finns were able to include Android One on the Nokia 9 PureView. However, this also later became one of the major criticisms of the device.
While HMD Global’s promise of pure, secure, and up-to-date seems to appeal to a lot of people, the choice has also been frequently polarized by some fans. They argue that switching to Android One is a lazy move and that the device could have been better with a custom skin developed by Nokia. This is understandable because, compared to OneUI or ColorOS, Android One does not offer any interesting additional features, unless Google cares to implement them. It’s basically the easiest an Android can have.
This year, remaining Nokia 9 PureView users were stunned to learn that HMD Global was backing away from its Android 11 promise for the 2019 flagship. HMD Global explains the camera’s incompatibility with Android 11 and that the experiment did not meet his “high standards”. This has caused some YouTube tech big names like Marton Barcza, known as TechAltar, to express their disappointments with HMD Global saying he would never buy from them again.
The first generation PureView Penta lens system
A Nokia flagship without the PureView branding doesn’t look like the real deal. Luckily, the Nokia 9 PureView comes with one-of-a-kind PureView technology. Instead of using a single sensor to capture images and merge them to create photos with high dynamic range, the Nokia 9 PureView uses five camera sensors, three of which are native B&W sensors, delivering unparalleled DNG files . However, this has also become a major criticism of the device.
You see, the configuration of the Nokia 9 PureView is not as varied as that offered by Apple or Samsung. You’re pretty much stuck with focal length, or B&W images if you like. However, the big problem really lies in the way the smartphone operates during the shooting process. The smartphone uses five camera arrays, six if you include the depth sensor, so that’s a huge amount of data to process (60MP per shot or 240MP when each of the cameras takes multiple photos). The old Snapdragon 845 isn’t that powerful for workload and note that’s even after Nokia and Light tried to share the work with ISP and DSP, and even added an image processing chip dedicated. It just wasn’t ready for it.
To be fair, the lag in image processing wasn’t quite felt as it happened in the background. So taking multiple photos simultaneously doesn’t cause bad behavior in the camera app, although the heat of the processing queue is almost felt. It is the preview of recently taken images that is generally criticized.
The camera also has existing issues, as some users have reported. There was the clicking sound, the camera app crashing in some cases, and the confusing and unfriendly camera UI. But the biggest compromise for Nokia 9 PureView users is that the camera is too complicated, HMD Global was unable to push updates to support night mode, and recently, it was also mentioned as the reason why Android 11 is being dropped for the device. If you have the device, you can enjoy a proper night mode using the pro mode settings.
The first generation in-display fingerprint scanner
HMD Global has strived to bring some value to the Nokia 9 PureView by trying to use the latest technologies. This made the device even more appealing, at least on paper. One of the features, as seen highlighted on the leaked Nokia 9 PureView video hardware, was the in-display fingerprint sensor. Meanwhile, the technology is already about a year old. Other manufacturers have already figured out and resolved existing issues with the technology and it is on its second deployment. But the device was, being a budget flagship, supposed to come with cut corners. Unfortunately, HMD Global seemed to think it could get away with using an older generation in-display fingerprint scanner.
HMD Global tried to deploy some software patches but never fixed the issues (because the problem is hardware). It’s ironic on so many levels. What was promised as safe is no longer so. Of course, users can choose to use the most likely dangerous regular face unlock or manually enter the password. To be fair though, it’s possible that the only option they had during research and development was the first-gen in-display fingerprint, as it would have taken them a long time to figure out some things.
Configuring PureView on non-consumable storage
PureView has always been synonymous with quality images, and we know that quality images take up a lot of space. When the Nokia Lumia 920 was released in 2012, one of the major criticisms it received was the limited storage options with no access to expandable storage. It took Nokia years to fix this. In fact, it wasn’t until Microsoft took over.
It’s a similar story to the Nokia 9 PureView. Storage is capped at 128GB (a minimum of any flagship these days), so users are forced to use Google services for the storage that comes with the phone. Unfortunately, Google recently removed the high-quality backup options, so the only option left for users is to manually back up files using a computer to local storage.
I recently spoke to Abdulla about the ongoing issues with the Nokia 9 PureView. In our opinion, even though the Nokia 9 PureView comes with the Snapdragon 855, it is still not able to fix all the issues that come with it. First, the camera technology is still in the prototype phase and likely requires separate custom SoC development to function properly. This means throwing away a lot of money with uncertain success, which could have caused even bigger problems with HMD Global.
Unlike backup brands like Realme and OnePlus, HMD Global cannot afford a slimmer profit margin. This means that creating a flagship that never exceeds a thousand dollars without cutting corners is a huge challenge. This is the reason why a startup usually struggles to create something unique in the existing market while delivering it in a timely manner. Time and resources spent on R&D of a single product are not always one hundred percent successful. Limited R&D also means delay, and delay will result in products being launched with dated specifications.
However, this is not the first time that HMD Global has run into difficulties with its flagship offerings. In 2018, it was reported that the Finns had struggled with the production yield of the Nokia 8 Sirocco. It has something to do with either its extremely curved screen or the finely bevelled stainless steel frame. Either way, the phone may not have sold well enough for HMD Global to drop the Sirocco brand directly a year later. It also didn’t help that the device received a major snub from Juho Sarvikas, the CPO of HMD Global, during the MWC 2018 announcement when he called the Nokia 7 Plus his favorite instead of the product. premium headlight.
Big shout out to Abdulla for helping me with this article.