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Hands-on review: The Nokia 5.3 smartphone

25 Aug 2020

Sometimes I feel that I don’t do justice to a product that sweeps into my ken. Maybe it’s because I don’t dig deep enough, or maybe it’s because I focus on just a few of the features.  Recently I’ve been asking myself what makes a great mobile phone. Funnily, Nokia chose that period of my life to inundate me with a range of their devices.

Here are some of the things I’ve discovered.

  • Facial recognition and PPE don’t mix well.
  • Cameras are now more important as we spend more time Zooming than we do in person with our peers.
  • Visually, there’s little to tell Android phones apart, which means you must dig deeper. With Nokia, a few things become apparent quickly.

What has Nokia done well? 

What makes them stand out from the opposition? I have a mental list. 

  1. Build quality: One of my bugbears is a phone that mutes itself every time I remove it from my pocket. Even though the controls are similarly placed, the Nokia doesn’t do this. Woohoo! No missing calls because I’ve accidentally muted the phone
  2. Ease of setup: The Nokia pointed at my most recent backup and set itself up while I sauntered off to make a caramel latte. All my settings, (or most of them) were automatically transferred across.
  3. Battery life: I’m by no means a heavy user, but after a few days of COVID tracing, texting and one or two calls, my battery has only been recharged once. After a lifetime of nightly recharges, I find this rather refreshing.
  4. Car connection: I drive a Toyota, the makers of which insist on their own system which drives me crazy. However, in my wife’s Yaris, it pinged me to tell me that she had messaged me, and then proceeded to read out the message. That’s a first for me.  All I had to do was choose from a variety of pre-programmed responses, and my reply winged its way back to my beloved.
  5. The camera:  The camera interface is clean and easy to use. It’s also recognised when I switch from still to video and made each distinct, meaning that for once I haven’t recorded myself swearing at the camera when I can’t snap the UFO flying over my house. 
  6. Phone calls: Yes, folks, I’ve made a few, and the sound quality of the phone is great, meaning I haven’t felt the need to reach for my earbuds or headset.

The Nokia offers facial recognition (you’ll need to remove your mask), fingerprint recognition and the usual PIN number. It’s made life easier with the constant use of the COVID-19 tracer app up in Auckland. Yesterday I became somewhat of a dab hand as my darling and I traipsed through the superclinic from one module to another, app at the ready. 

I had to tune into my favourite Disney Channel to try out the video capability. I had a lot of backlight shining in through the window, but the video quality was bright and clear, with great sound to match. I was going to do a screen capture of me singing along to Let it Go, but was sensibly talked out of it. 

In summary, the Nokia 5.3 has been one of the easiest experiences I’ve had with mobile phones. The high-quality build means that each time I take it out of my pocket, I don’t put it into “Do not disturb” mode. Other Android users will know what I mean.  Normally I’d now conclude with a bit about how I’ll be tearfully packing this item up, but not this time. I’ve got one more Nokia to review and I can’t wait to get started!