My Moto G6 phone, as you may be aware, has died. It’s no longer there. This isn’t a big deal in and of itself, because the G6 was primarily used as a secondary device, primarily for testing and exploration. However, I felt compelled to replace the broken phone and conducted a quick search for a worthy replacement.
Indeed, after less than an hour of reading, I made the decision to purchase a Nokia X10 device. It fits within the modest low-mid-range budget requirements for secondary use, it appears to have a decent spec, it has a 3.5mm audio jack, which is a must for me, and having been pleased with Nokia 5.3, I felt there shouldn’t be any unpleasant surprises in this unconventional, quick selection process. The X10 arrived a few days later, and thus this review was born.
Nokia X10 Specifications
This phone is a badass. Large and weighty. It’s about a centimeter taller than my Moto Zoom and weighs 210 grams. My particular mode came with a dual-SIM tray (both nano), for which you are warned! You may not have 5G connectivity if you use both SIMs. Ha. We’ll put that to the test soon.
The IPS LCD screen has a resolution of 1080x2400px and a density of 395ppi, and it is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Is it not enough? On top of that, you get a very thin, 0.3mm protector film, which irritates me greatly on both the aesthetic and haptic fronts. I don’t like it, and I’m not sure why it’s necessary when the glass itself is supposed to be quite strong.
The Qualcomm SM4350 Snapdragon 480 chipset includes Adreno 619 graphics and an octa-core CPU with two “fast” cores clocked at 2 GHz and six “slightly slower” cores clocked at 1.8 GHz. When I look at the Nokia 5.3, I notice that the specs are beefier in every way, including a 50% increase in screen resolution and pixel density, as well as a more powerful GPU and CPU. But how this translates into actual use remains to be seen.
The camera unit, with fancy Zeiss optics, is the most noticeable “everyday” difference, in my opinion. Now, I’ve always been a fan of Nokia phone cameras, which used to be truly amazing. However, when it comes to budget phones, or devices that don’t cost an arm and a kidney to finance, you know that some small corners will inevitably be cut somewhere along the way. The big question, however, is where. Here? Perhaps. On paper, you get a 48MP quad-sensor pack with a 5MP mega-pixel unit, a 2MP macro unit, and a 2MP depth unit. The camera can also shoot HDR, panoramas, and has a dedicated low light level (LLL) mode. I anticipate some enjoyable testing ahead.
On the sensor front, there’s the obligatory 3.5mm audio jack, yes, because otherwise, I wouldn’t bother, as well as dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11/a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth, NFC, and a USB Type-C charger.
The battery is not removable, and it has a massive 4470 mAh of chemical potential stored.
All of this costs around $300, putting the X10 slightly above the typical budget phone into whatever bracket comes above.
Nokia X10 Phone setup & user account import
This is going to be interesting. I decided to import my Google account from the old device to the new one for the first time. Normally, I just make a new account every time, but I figured why not give it a shot and see what happens. However, because the G6 refused to boot, I was forced to rely on whatever Google had backed up to the cloud.
On its own, the process was quick and easy. First, there was a system update weighing in at 2.2 GB. According to the brochure, you start with Android 11, and there should be updates and hopefully upgrades for at least three years. The phone then asked if and how I wanted to import the old data onto the new phone. The restore process began in the background, and I continued configuring the phone as usual. So, what exactly happened?
Despite the fact that I was importing my user configuration, not all of my settings were retained. It feels like a Windows 10 feature upgrade that changes things at random. Yes, many of my privacy settings were correctly set, but not all of them, as I previously stated. For example, I had to instruct the phone not to use location. I had to turn Bluetooth off once more (but not NFC, that one was off). Some of the applications’ permissions were reset. This meant I couldn’t rely on what Google had done during the import and had to go through each and every setting.
Google Assistant was activated. Annoying. I had turned it off explicitly. I’m not interested. And, just like every other time, the exact technical flow to turn it off is unique! Each and every time.
What kind of timely updates? What do you want to know more about? I’m not interested. Also, Assistant, you’re out!
The Google application was also active, which I normally have disabled, and it had all of the permissions that I had not granted it. So I had to deny all of its permissions once more before turning it off. This has an annoying side effect on Nokia phones (as seen on the 5.3). The search box, which is at the bottom of the Home Screen and cannot be moved or removed, becomes inactive, leaving you with a block of dead, unusable pixels. Very unappealing. It’s as if the entire thing is designed to make you want or need to use that box. Hm. Gestures. Of course, it’s off.
I disabled Gestures because, as an adult human, I value precision and the use of my digits. Swiping is for human babies who haven’t fully developed fine motor coordination, as well as primates other than humans.
The import of accounts was incomplete. The majority of the Google-specific information was correct, but not all of it. However, things were not looking good on the application front. Android reinstalled my apps, but it didn’t import their configurations or data, so I had to start over. For example, the Firefox profile was completely empty. My CNBC watchlists had vanished. VLC didn’t have any playlists or songs. There were no WhatsApp conversations. I had been logged out of Telegram. And so forth.
I understand what you’re thinking at this point. All of these apps have their own accounts, and if you used them correctly, you’d have access to all of the data! No, I say.
What’s the point of having one ostensibly centralized source of information (your Google account) if it doesn’t provide you with everything? Why bother if I have to set up separate accounts, backups, and profile syncs for each of these apps? It simply means that you must continue to broaden your online data profile, sharing more and more data with more and more companies. I don’t blame Google alone; I blame everyone. Because everyone wants data, they build systems that are purposefully siloed and not easily interoperable with other tools. It’s the polar opposite of how the cloud should function. Web 3.0, whatever that is.
Now, let’s compare this to the iPhone 11 setup that I recently went through. There, the process was far, far smoother. Now, I should point out that I did a phone-to-phone import with the iPhone, so I’m not comparing exactly the same things. Indeed, I intend to go through another Android setup and copy the entire device. However, for the time being, this from-cloud import appears to be very rudimentary. It’s also pointless.
Nokia X10’s Other annoyances
Of course, that wasn’t the end of the story. Every time, I am astounded by the sheer fragmentation of the Android ecosystem. And each phone, even those manufactured by the same company, behaves differently. Here are a few more snags I ran into.
- On the privacy front, I had to make some adjustments. It appears that this work never ends.
The direct approach is grating. Data sharing. What? Then I turned Location off. Globally. So, why would Chrome be set to use location if I don’t allow it at all? The solution is to press the Deny button. But I didn’t even finish the first-launch browser configuration because that requires agreeing to yet another set of terms. No. Firefox is the way to go for me.
- The X10’s lock screen lacks any quick action buttons. For example, on my One Zoom, the Phone and Camera buttons are located in the bottom left and right corners, respectively. There are none here.
- Despite the fact that the lock screen displays your “local” weather, there is no weather application (temperature plus a tiny icon). In addition, there is no weather widget available at all. Similarly, the default digital clock widget is too small, cannot be removed, and serves no purpose. However, unlike the weather, you can add a larger one that allows you to use alarms, timers, stopwatches, and other features. But then you’re left with two clocks, like a chump from a rap video clip from the 1990s.
- There is no way to disable the screenshot tool’s sound or the post-screenshot edit overlay. Even if you use the System UI notifications. Stupidity at its finest. It is also distinct from other Nokias. For example, on 5.3 and (soon) 5.4, you can easily disable screenshot notifications, silence the sounds, and skip any editing nonsense. Not so in this case. Why? Essentially, it’s the same company and phone.
- By default, the “multi-user” feature is enabled, as if someone will be sharing their phone, but hey. I’m not sure how this can be a thing. I mean, seriously?
The pinyin input tool requested several permissions. What do you mean?
Now comes the practical application
Okay, fine. So I finished the setup, double-checked all of the security and privacy settings, and finally felt ready to begin the usage journey. This coin has two sides to it. There’s the physical side and then there’s the software side. The latter will take more time to fully analyze, but I can already express my displeasure with the former.
The phone is absolutely enormous. Yes, it is my fault for purchasing a combat-ready brick, but it is extremely difficult to purchase a new, modern phone that is small, isn’t total crap, and doesn’t cost a fortune. If you want a budget phone, it will be large and heavy, and this one wins by a wide margin among the devices in my arsenal. It’s over a centimeter taller than my not-so-small One Zoom. Worse, it’s also quite wide. Even though my hands aren’t small, the dimensions would be uncomfortable for even Andre the Giant. Your tendons will not thank you for it. Any prolonged use feels awkward.
It’s nice that the power button is recessed. If you don’t use Google Assistant, the dedicated button on the left side will be useless. The screen comes with a protector film to protect the glass underneath from damage. However, it irritates me both aesthetically and conceptually. Even though it’s only 0.3mm thick, you can feel it. It’s not pretty, and it feels like a cheap afterthought, and I’d rather be able to choose whether and how to protect the touch panel from scratches. The protector film could have been included as part of the package, and anyone who wants to use it could.
On the edges of the film near the front camera (which isn’t covered), I can already see a buildup of dirt and finger snags. This appears to be quite worn, and will make an otherwise sleek phone appear cheap and used far too quickly. Meh. I’ll have to figure out how to remove the film.
The display has vibrant colors, but when using apps like Settings, the clarity and contrast aren’t the best. Increasing the font size is beneficial. This would be the first time I did something like this on a smartphone. I don’t feel the same way about any other device, even those with higher resolutions and smaller elements drawn on the screen. Anyway.
Despite the warning that 5G connectivity may not work with two SIM cards in the tray, I’ve had no issues. For what it’s worth, 5G is available. Speeds!
My phone now has 5g. I can apparently pull 9g in an inverted spin against the MiG-28 if I try hard enough.
So far, so good in terms of software. My privacy-enhanced Android does not irritate me too much. I’m not using any of the useless default apps, and in fact, I’ve uninstalled a slew of them, including TikTok (social media has no place on me devices, any, ever). I’m not sure why this is in the default arsenal. Also, I’m not sure how it fits into the Android One vanilla manifesto.
What’s the point of importing my user settings and apps, which were all reinstalled, if you also keep the preinstalled stuff, which no one asked for and which does not correspond to the stock, clean, vanilla Android experience that this phone is supposed to have?
Firefox with UBlock Origin is my default browser, allowing for sane Internet usage while removing all of the modern Web’s low-IQ nonsense. VLC is a music player (which I copied over the USB, as they were not preserved, nor were any of my documents). Yay.
And then there’s a slew of other apps that I occasionally use, not for any real, dire, practical reasons, but rather to keep up with whatever the Dystopian future holds. I’m curious about how complicated and pointless computer usage will be in the next decade or so, so I’m going to try out a few apps to see how the illiterate masses interact with the world.
I did look in the Play Store for a weather app (as there is no default one). The brief pause was dreadful. Crayony and flashy. When you search for apps, you’ll see a few ads at the top, followed by apps that include ads, and then some. There is no intelligent search filter to remove apps with in-app purchases or advertisements. Overall, it’s a pointless experience for those who value peace and quiet. There isn’t much to do here. I can only think of four or five good apps that don’t bombard me with nonsense and actually provide a good experience.
There are some good points here, but nothing spectacular. The X10 has a fancy four-camera unit that offers better image depth than a standalone phone lens, a 2x physical zoom for wonderful moments, and a slew of other modes, including Macro, which allows you to bring your phone as close to the object of interest as 4 cm. There’s also Night Mode, which produces decent LLL results. The camera app’s settings menu contains a plethora of additional options. However, I didn’t see any way to disable any potential AI features and prevent the app from making stupid suggestions. I’m not interested.
Anyway. In bright light, the camera struggles. The images appear washed out. Now, having owned a slew of Nokias (including a superb E6, which is still going strong), I know that the color spectrum on Nokia phones is generally cooler. The color spectrum on the X10, on the other hand, is completely off. All of the reds are pink. You end up with almost desaturated landscape photos, which isn’t what you want.
Bottom: Motorola One Zoom, which I believe is my “best” phone camera device. Take note of the differences in the default focus, the fg/bg separation, the clarity of detail, and the colors.
Nokia is on the left in this comparison. Take note of the blur, saturation, and detail clarity.
On the left is a Nokia X10. Take note of the color differences, as well as the trees and sky in the background.
On the left is a Nokia X10. Take note of the color differences. I’ll have to check to see if the camera can be calibrated.
Then, if you point the camera at a bright source of light, everything appears dark and the contrast is poor. The macro mode is excellent, as is the Night Mode, which I mentioned earlier. However, this only accounts for a small portion of typical smartphone photo usage. The majority of people will take a selfie or photograph of their surroundings, including their food. When you consider the camera’s “history,” the results are mediocre.
Nokia X10 is the best. These images were captured without using the macro function at all. I’m not sure why it’s necessary, given that the distance from the “object” is only about 5cm for both phones. So be it.
When you use the Macro mode, it does its job. However, the images aren’t as sharp as one would expect, but you won’t notice this until you download the photos to a computer and view them on a large screen. The main advantage of this function, in my opinion, is that it can read tiny text, such as barcodes, serial numbers on hardware inside computer cases, and so on.
Nokia X10 Battery Life
Solid, if not as spectacular as I had hoped. When compared to the Nokia 5.3 in my possession, this one can last 10+ days on a single charge. The X10, despite having a larger battery pack by more than 10% (4470 mAh vs. 4000 mAh for the 5.3), only lasts about a week (at best) before needing to be recharged. This is a respectable figure, but I suppose the slightly higher spec and much larger (and more pixilated) screen take their toll.
Conclusion:The Nokia X10 is an odd device. It’s not good enough to be a good mid-range phone, and it’s not cheap enough to be an excellent budget phone. I believe it is in a precarious market position, neither here nor there. I’d say there are unrealistic goals and high expectations. I mean, the phone is pretty good. It looks great, it works perfectly, the network connectivity is strong, and the overall performance is adequate. But it’s too big and heavy, and the camera is mediocre.
Another thing that irritates me is the USB cable that is “supplied” with the phone. It’s better not to provide anything than to provide the cheapest, worst-of-the-worst thing they can find that barely works.’ It’s an affront to the end user. It’s incredible how much damage two dollars in plastic and metal can cause. Because of this, as well as the vexing screen protector cover (about which we’ll go into more detail in the 5.4 review), I’m thinking about not going with Nokia for my next phone. The same as any vendor who does not provide a 3.5mm audio jack. Save a few pennies and you’ll save hundreds of dollars. Maffs all the way.
Overall, the X10 is a good choice for a secondary device. I’ll have a phone that can crunch data quickly, a battery that will last about a week with my typical usage patterns, and if I ever need to get out of a street fight, the sheer size and weight of the phone can double as a weapon. The Android experience is satisfactory, if not as smooth as I would like. Then there’s the rest of it, which I won’t go into detail about. Perhaps for the first time, I chose a phone that fell short of my expectations at the end of setup and early testing. In this regard, I believe the 5.3 is a superior overall device. And there you have it. 7/10, or something like that. See you soon for the 5.4 test.