The Toughest Phone Yet? Nokia 800 TOUGH – A First Look

Written by Martin Regtien on . Posted in Mobile Devices

Nokia 800 1So we know that Nokia is back in the game – see our previous review on the Nokia 5.3 smartphone that was recently launched.

And we know that Nokia had a great gig of smarter feature phones way before that.
Retro is in. Witness the 3310 relaunch a few years back.

How much back in time can we go to not miss all the features and convenience of our modern phones?

Let’s see if the Nokia 800 Tough fits that bill.

Spoiler alert: even if you have a great phone, you might still want to spend $199 Aussie bucks on this one.
But why?

What sets the Nokia 800 Tough apart?

It’s a feature phone, these days mainly the domain of elderly folk who want something simple.
It has a physical keyboard but in the traditional old style: based on the NumPad design with T-9 multipresses to type out the letters.
Not the easiest way to text or to navigate as it doesn’t sport a touchscreen.
And the screen is rather tiny and not particularly hi-res or bright.

What else is not great?
In our age of superzoom camera setups that grace the back of our phone slabs, there’s a single 2MP camera on the 800 Tough.

With these very unspectacular features something else must be on offer to make me love this phone.

But let me be clear: I love the latest and greatest in the Galaxy S or Note range and would not part with all the great features they have.
And that’s the problem: those slabs of glass are much more fragile (and expensive!) than those Nokia feature phones of yesteryear.
And this 800 TOUGH is the big bad boy on the block!

We have seen various destructive tests on many fan sites. I thought to go one further and throw it out of my aeroplane.
Except: 1. It is illegal 2. The phone is hard to find back 3. Once it falls and reaches terminal velocity it doesn’t prove much 4. Most likely a bush or slope will break the fall...

Just take my word: even if it would not survive whatever devilish test you had in mind for this phone, you would not fuss too long and just buy another one for that price...

With shock-absorbent rubber and MIL-STD-810G compliance plus an IP68 rating is it indestructible?
Pretty much.

The next benefit, mainly courtesy of the minimalistic screen, is the battery life. Standby time of 6 weeks is touted. Even longer with the battery saving mode.

Real life endurance with some use is of course a lot shorter. Some examples: Talk time with a 4G connection is close to 10 hours.

This makes it an eminent emergency phone to go trekking, camping, beach outings, water sports (yes it, fully waterproof!), to throw in the car, for tradies, etc.

Voice Assistant will make navigating easier
No touchscreen means getting around your phone will be more cumbersome. Enter Google Assistant.

Another feature that I appreciate in a phone is a purpose built torch, in this case a very bright 198 lumens. For comparison, most smartphones have LED flashlights with much less than 100 lumens output.
Handy is that the light is switched on with a long press on the UP button.

The keyboard itself is backlit – again great for those dark and stormy nights...
Most of the time you’ll call Google to your assistance for searching and messaging.

Nokia 800 2

Chaos or KaiOS?

The operating system is not Android or IOS but KaiOS.

It’s a very minimalistic OS, perfect for this phone, but at the same time still able to run Assistant, WhatsApp, Google Maps, Twitter, Facebook, even YouTube (why?!)

So there’s not much you’ll miss in the keeping-in-touch sweepstakes. Being a very lean operating system it doesn’t have any battery-chewing overheads but can still run some key apps you’d want to have in this age. Just keep in mind that some of the apps do not have all features like the ones on your smartphone. The 4GB RAM is also a bit limiting.

So, if you want to go riding on your bike you can load up the phone with music, pair your buds, ask Google for directions as you navigate the burbs or the bush.
Or you can tune in to your local FM stations, like we used to on just about every feature phone.

Any other features of note?
The loudspeaker is pretty loud. Good thing when you are in noisy environments.

It can function as a Mobile Hotspot. However, I haven’t had any luck getting this to work despite having 4 bars on the reception. Will need to report on that later.

Before we give you our preliminary conclusions (we’ll evaluate this unit over a longer timeframe) let’s look at next year’s model...

Because as great as this phone is for a second phone or even a primary device, with two simple improvements it would be a brilliant phone.

These improvements for the new Nokia 800 Tough MARK II (or the Nokia 1600 Tough) would have to include:

1. Better (not necessarily bigger) hi-res screen or touchscreen
2. Minimum 5MP camera

The camera produces under-par pictures for today’s age. It’s OK for an emergency phone but the phone could be so much better if this would be improved.

As a bonus they could throw in a faster processor and some more memory...
Looking forward to reviewing it one day...

In the meantime, I can now safely consign my trusty old Nokia N8 to the bottom drawer of my legacy cabinet. One day it will sell on eBay for more than I paid for it...

Nokia 800 Tough side

Some Conclusions

Excellent choice for an emergency phone or for tradies.
It takes a bit to get used to, not having a touchscreen but if you take one on your camping trek you’ve plenty of time to figure it all out!

If you’re afraid to get robbed of your Galaxy Note 20 Ultra in the city, just take one of these along and hand that one over. Cheap insurance...

The 800 Tough is also a great detox machine for those wanting to stay in contact but not waste time on all sorts of games and entertainment on their phablets.

Colour options: Black Steel and Desert Sand with camouflage patterns.

Check out the Nokia store here.
Or look around in your local Harvey Norman.

And having reviewed a Nokia midrange model – the 5.3 some weeks back and now one of their feature phones, perhaps we should look at the Nokia 8.3 next when it becomes available in AU.

Stay tuned.

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