Nokia 5.4: It’s all in the software

Mala Bhargava | Updated on February 25, 2021

Stock Android is the big selling point of all the company’s phones, but on the whole, the competition is far ahead.

Come to think of it, Nokia’s proposition is much the same as Google’s. Software is so clean and powerful that it takes precedence over the hardware. For phone-generation after phone-generation, Nokia has been focusing on giving software that assures you of being ‘pure, secure and up to date’ as being enough to convince a customer base to make their next phone a Nokia. There’s also the Nokia brand name, of course, as it’s one that many equate with the company of yesteryear and as being reliable and trusted. With that backdrop, it’s more than a little sad that Nokia a la HMD Global has made its first phone of 2021 sure, secure and not so up to date. The Nokia 5.4 hasn’t shipped with Android 11 but with Android 10 when talk is now turning to Android 12. While there’s a promise of eventually moving to Android 11, it’s not so impressive that the software should be on the brink of dated when it’s their main proposition.

Well, that said, what’s the Nokia 5.4 really like? It’s an average size for these times and even an average weight. The back is made of a glossy polycarbonate which Samsung would have promptly called glastic and shows up smudges both back and front in minutes. The back panel has a bit of flex in it so that when you press it, it actually flexes inwards. Of course, this needn’t really bother the user daily , but it does feel a little cheap. On the back is a curricular camera housing, and frankly, these do look good in a circle that hints at camera lenses. Under the big circle is another circle you don’t see much these days — a fingerprint sensor. For the most part, phone makers have started putting those on the power button. It looks pretty enough on the back panel, but dated. The review unit we got is in an interesting deep blue and overall doesn’t look too bad and even has some fine lines by way of a pattern. There’s another variant in purple.

In the box, you get the full complement of charging adaptor, case, cable and even earphones, though of very poor quality. The charging brick is a 10W one and charging is nice and slow, in contrast to what you get with other phones at this price. The recently launched Poco M3 for ₹10,999 offers a 6,000mAh battery with a 22W charger.

On the front of this phone is a 6.3-inch LCD screen and while those are now thoroughly dislikable, the one on the 5.4 is actually a little nicer than on many Nokia phones. Its viewing angles are typical for this type of screen, but otherwise, it doesn’t look bad and is quite easy to live with and has good colour depth and brightness. But it’s a low res screen by these days’ standards at 720x1560. There’s a little dot for the front camera that’s kind of noticeable but forgettable in a short while. This phone actually has the Google-assistant-trigger button on the left though I’ve never understood the need for a button when you can call out ‘Hey Google’ anyway. All the buttons are slightly on the shallow side, so you may have to feel for them more than usual. The Nokia 5.4 retains the headphone jack — reason to rejoice for some.

The Nokia 5.4 runs on the Snapdragon 662. It pairs up with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM with 64GB storage. Expansion via card slot is also possible. The phone doesn’t work with Bluetooth 5.0 but is still at 4.2, and it also just supports single-band Wi-Fi. These specs are a little too basic for the price point that Nokia has chosen for this phone since these are available in prices that hover around ₹10,000.

The software, supposedly the strength of Nokia, has both pluses and minuses. On the minus side, the phone hasn’t come with Android 11 when it should have. On the plus side, we have a phone with no unwanted apps polluting the device and no endless push notifications either. Updates to the software are guaranteed though and that’s reassuring for those who are savvy enough. The phone doesn’t perform too badly though it’s a little sluggish. If you need a fast and snappy phone, you’ll have to look elsewhere. This is good for just the most basic forms of use.

Despite the good software, people will miss things, or if they don’t know of certain possibilities, they will not see the convenience. For example, there’s no compass, which means Google Maps won’t work at its best. There is an FM Radio, though. The phone’s battery is 4,000mAh, but it takes a long to charge and quick to finish.

There are four cameras on the rear: a 48MP, a 5MP ultra-wide, a 2MP depth and a 2MP macro. The front camera is a 16MP. There’s a unique feature Nokia is touting on the 5.4. It’s found in the ‘Cinema’ mode in the camera app and it uses an ‘H-Log’ format which gives the user the option to enhance video by improving dynamic range and detail. It’s a specific feature and though good to have interest savvy videographers who probably won’t be going in for a budget phone for this.


Price: ₹13,999, ₹15,499

Pros: Stock Android, no bloatware, all extras in the box, 3.5mm jack, LCD screen does well for itself, unique video feature, interesting camera

Cons: Not on Android 11 yet, below par specs all around for the price, slightly leisurely performance, no compass

Published on February 25, 2021

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