Android smartphones from Nokia, Motorola put to the test

|      Christoph Dernbach      |

BERLIN (dpa) – For a pure Android experience in the most up-to-date version, smartphone users used to reach for Google’s Nexus devices. With these, they could be sure that the latest functions and security updates would be available without delay.

Now, the Nexus series is history. The pure Android experience is only available from Google in its high-end Pixel device, which costs around 750 euros (us$881). With all the best features, it even breaks the 1,000-euro mark.

But other manufacturers of Android smartphones have now also realised that less can be more. They’re eschewing their own versions of Android, which ultimately only slow things down. Instead, users get quick and regular updates. The advantage for customers is that they get more protection from malware, and always have the latest functions.

Motorola’s Z2 Play and the new Nokia smartphones from HMD Global are examples of this kind of “pure” Android device. But do they pass muster?

The Z2 Play immediately signals that it is part of an entire ecosystem. Numerous additional devices can be connected to the slim 5.5-inch device via magnetic contact points.

The Z2 Play scores well on flexibility and expandability. When it comes to VR apps and elaborate games, however, the Motorola device is not in the top class
The Z2 Play scores well on flexibility and expandability. When it comes to VR apps and elaborate games, however, the Motorola device is not in the top class
Besides various protective covers, the Motorola Z2 Play also offers an additional battery, a model with wireless recharging and a camera with optical zoom as a ‘shell’. - PHOTOS: DPA
Besides various protective covers, the Motorola Z2 Play also offers an additional battery, a model with wireless recharging and a camera with optical zoom as a ‘shell’. – PHOTOS: DPA

Besides various protective covers, Motorola also offers an additional battery, a model with wireless recharging and a camera with optical zoom as a ‘shell’. With 64 gigabytes of memory, a powerful, fast-charging battery and a speedy camera, the device performs well in everyday use.

Apps and games run smoothly on the bright, vivid display. The Z2 Play also scores well on flexibility and expandability. When it comes to VR apps and elaborate games, however, the Motorola device is not in the top class.

Having said that, at around 500 euros ($588), the Z2 Play is also several hundred euros cheaper than the most affordable iPhone 7 Plus.

The Z2 Play’s Android system also performs well. Motorola opts for the standard look of Google’s Android, rather than adopting its own system expansions. This means that nothing should stand in the way of fast Android updates.

Nokia is also looking to stay in the competitive market with a pure version of Android and regular updates. The Finnish firm HMD Global took over the rights to the brand from Microsoft last year, and is now back with new Android smartphones under the famous name.

After Finnish firm HMD Global took over Nokia from Microsoft last year, the brand is now back with new, affordable Android smartphones
After Finnish firm HMD Global took over Nokia from Microsoft last year, the brand is now back with new, affordable Android smartphones

Nokia’s models 3, 5 and 6 are aimed at a younger generation of customers. In terms of price, the three new Nokia devices should appeal to those with limited funds.

The Nokia 3 costs around 160 euros ($188), the Nokia 5 around 210 euros and the Nokia 6 about 250 euros ($294). All three models come delivered with the current Nougat version of Android.

At first glance, the Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 look almost identical. The slightly more angular Nokia 6 (left) has a Full HD display (1,080 x 1,920 pixels), while the rounder Nokia 5 (right) has just 720 x 1,280 pixels
At first glance, the Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 look almost identical. The slightly more angular Nokia 6 (left) has a Full HD display (1,080 x 1,920 pixels), while the rounder Nokia 5 (right) has just 720 x 1,280 pixels

The two larger models perform well in practical tests. At first glance, the Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 look almost identical. The slightly more angular Nokia 6 has a Full HD display (1,080 x 1,920 pixels), while the rounder Nokia 5 has just 720 x 1,280 pixels.

The Nokia 6 has 32 gigabytes for apps and the like, while the Nokia 5 has 16. Both support memory cards.

Compared with the expensive competition, the display illumination is somewhat weak – it is hard to make out much in bright sunlight.

When it comes to the Nokia 3, you have to lower your expectations. Despite the rather low display resolution of 720 x 1,280 pixels, you constantly get the impression that the hardware is overwhelmed in representing content.

This limits the fun you can have playing games and surfing the web. The camera’s photos do not impress either.

On the other hand, you get decent battery life and expandable memory. But anyone considering getting a new Nokia smartphone should think carefully about whether the Nokia 3 is the right way to go. Maybe there is a piggy bank somewhere after all, with the extra cash needed for the Nokia 5.