Nokia scored big with the 7.1, earning four stars and our Editors’ Choice. But the smartphone market is rapidly changing, and the Nokia 7.1 was soon eclipsed by the $ 399 Google Pixel 3a. Nokia’s follow-up, the 7.2, shares the same $ 349 price as its predecessor, along with longer battery life and a faster processor. It’s a solid midrange phone that builds on the strengths of the 7.1, but it’s not quite enough to knock the Pixel 3a from its perch as our top pick in this price range.
Design, Display, and Durability
While the 7.2 maintains a similar aesthetic to most of Nokia’s midrange portfolio, it has a new circular camera stack and the bezels are reduced, though still fairly prominent. The phone measures 6.30 by 2.96 by 0.32 inches, weighs 6.35 ounces, and comes in black, green, or silver.
The front and back of the phone are glass, while the frame is polycarbonate. The front features a teardrop notch at the top of the display and a chunky bottom bezel, while the back is home to the fingerprint sensor and a round triple-camera stack reminiscent of the Moto Z lineup. Since it’s primarily constructed of older Gorilla Glass 3 and doesn’t carry an IP rating, you’ll definitely want to invest in a case for protection.
On the right side of the phone you’ll find the power button and volume rocker, both of which provide a satisfying click, though you may find the volume hard to reach if you use the phone with one hand. The top is home to a 3.5mm headphone jack, while the bottom houses a USB-C charging port and speakers. A Google Assistant button and a SIM/microSD port sit on the right side.
The Nokia 7.2’s 6.3-inch IPS LCD has 2,280-by-1,080-pixel resolution, for 400 pixels per inch. Brightness measures in at 508 nits and color accuracy is excellent. Compared with the Pixel 3a’s 5.6-inch OLED display (409 nits), the Nokia 7.2’s screen is significantly brighter, though its color gamut isn’t as wide. For a larger Pixel screen, the 3a XL measures in at the same 6.3 inches as the Nokia 7.2.
On the back of the Nokia 7.2, you’ll find a triple-camera stack with a 48MP primary sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, an 8MP ultrawide lens with an f/2.2 aperture, and a 5MP depth sensor.
The primary lens does an excellent job in daylight. Images are sharp and depth of field is well-represented. The ultrawide lens performs similarly, though we noticed minor background blurring in some shots. Portrait mode is solid, though a few of the bokeh options look unnatural. If you use the beauty filter, our recommendation is to go conservative, as the higher settings look overly blurred.
Low-light photos are, unfortunately, a much different story. All of our low-light test photos show significant blurring and noise. Night mode helps brighten the images, but they’re just not very good.
The front-facing camera comes in at 20MP with an f/2.0 aperture. In daylight, photos are sharp and show good detail. Portrait mode also works well, though we noticed some slight blurring on the edges of hair in a few test shots. Once again, low-light photos are poor, with significant blurring in the foreground and background, and portrait mode managed to crop off portions of our subject’s head.
Compared with the Pixel 3a, Google clearly has the edge, with significantly better low-light camera performance. So if you take lots of photos, particularly in darker places like bars or restaurants, the Pixel is definitely the phone to get.
Power, Performance, and Battery
The Nokia 7.2 packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chipset along with 4GB of RAM, compared with the Pixel 3a’s Snapdragon 670 (and the same 4GB of RAM). There’s 128GB of internal storage, with support for up to an additional 512GB of external storage with a microSD card.
Benchmarks are typical for a midrange handset. On Geekbench 5, a suite of tests that measure processes from app performance to the ability to handle computational photography and AR tasks, the Nokia 7.2 scored 341 for single-core performance and 1483 for multi-core, a bit short of the Pixel 3a’s scores of 503 and 1824.
On 3DMark Slingshot Extreme, a suite of benchmarks that run intensive graphics and computational tests, the Nokia 7.2 turned in a score of 1,297, far behind the Pixel’s 3,009. Graphics testing resulted in 8.2fps on the first test and 3.6 on the second, compared with the Pixel’s 18.3 and 10.5. That means the Pixel has a big advantage for more intensive graphics tasks like gaming and photo or video editing.
When it comes to onboard AI, the Pixel 3a also performs significantly faster with speech recognition and when using scene or object identification. It’s most noticeable when comparing Google Assistant and Google Lens on the two phones, as the Pixel will give you results more quickly. While AI may not be a huge priority for midrange smartphones at the moment, it will help in the future, as more apps move from cloud-based to on-device AI.
The Nokia 7.2 is powered by a 3,500mAh battery. During our battery drain test, which streams HD video over Wi-Fi at full brightness, the phone lasted a respectable 9 hours and 2 minutes. That’s slightly behind the Pixel’s 9 hours and 48 minutes, but after using the 7.2 for several days, we’re confident that with more conservative use, you can get through a full day without issue. If you do find yourself running low, you’ll have to be patient, as the phone only supports 5W charging compared with the Pixel’s 18W quick charging with Power Delivery 2.0.
Network, Call Quality, and Audio
The Nokia 7.2 ships unlocked and supports bands 1/2/3/4/5/6/12/13/17/28/68. It works on all US networks except for Sprint’s. It doesn’t support band 14 on AT&T and band 71 on T-Mobile, so rural customers may experience spotty coverage.
Data speeds on T-Mobile’s congested network in downtown manhattan were solid, with average speeds of 41Mbps up and 51Mbps down.
Call quality is also strong, with clear transmissions and good noise cancellation. Peak volume for the earpiece comes in at 78dB, and was easy to hear on a busy street. The bottom-firing speaking peaks at 88dB and is fine for calls, but sounds tinny at high volumes when streaming multimedia. Luckily, there’s a headphone jack if you want to improve your audio experience.
The phone also supports dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, and NFC.
The Nokia 7.2 ships with Android 9, but will be updated to Android 10 in the coming weeks. As an Android One handset, it will receive OS updates for at least two years, along with monthly security updates.
In addition to quick updates, there’s the added benefit of a near-stock build of Android without any bloatware. It’s similar to the version of Android you find on Pixel phones, but lacks a few of the special features that typically take some time to make their way to other devices.
The Nokia 7.2 offers solid performance, nice build quality, and the promise of timely software updates. It’s a better phone than the 7.1, and yet it we’re giving it a lower score. That’s because, as we noted earlier, things move quickly in the smartphone market, and Nokia’s updates simply aren’t enough to keep up with what the Pixel 3a brings to the table, including faster performance and significantly better camera quality. That can change if Nokia releases a 7.3 in the near future, but for now, the Pixel 3a remains our Editors’ Choice.