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Nokia 7.1 wants to be your midrange hero phone

The $350 "pure" Android phone has dual cameras and selfie flair.

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Don't hate the Nokia 7.1 because it has a notch. It runs one of the "purest" forms of Android on any phone.

Josh Miller/CNET

Unless you're into rectangular phones with shiny accents, the Nokia 7.1 probably isn't going to win you over with its looks -- a neutral tone with shiny accents around the buttons and rim. But it might win you over with a combination of its price, which starts at a reasonable $349, and its specs. A midrange device in the US and abroad, the 2018 version of the Nokia 7 aims to excel in the middle ground. It tees up good overall specs and performance for the cost.

We've known too many excellent midrange Goldilocks phones to discount the Nokia 7.1 off the bat. It promises a 5.8-inch screen, dual 12-megapixel cameras, portrait mode tricks from both front and rear cameras, and "pure" Android One support, which means security patches for three years and software upgrades for two. That's pretty good for a device that costs less than half of the cheapest new iPhone.

Nokia as a phone brand needs all the help it can get. Two and a half years into its comeback as an Android player, Nokia, whose name is licenced by Finnish company HMD Global, is trying to capitalize on its past success with new roadblocks in place. Following former owner Microsoft's vision of making a name in emerging markets, Nokia phones run the gamut from high end to entry level. 

Although the brand has long given up its place at the top of the mobile phone heap, Nokia phones offer Europe and the Middle East a more home-grown brand than Samsung, Xiaomi and OnePlus to rally behind. Nokia's reputation for producing solid devices with good cameras may be altered, but it's still intact.

The Nokia 7.1 has a notched screen -- a trend these days -- but keeps its headphone jack. There's a dual-lens camera setup and camera-centered apps include an artsy Bokeh effect you can adjust in real time. There's also an adjustable "bothie" setting you can use to take photos and video from both cameras simultaneously (for example, your face and the scene at a concert). The phone is rated at IP52, for dust resistance and "water spray under 15 degrees from vertical". You won't want to dunk it in water.

Now playing: Watch this: Nokia 7.1 is a solid $350 phone -- literally
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The Nokia 7.1 presale begins Oct. 5 in the US. It sells widely on Oct. 28 at Amazon, Best Buy (online) and B&H. You'll be able to buy it in store at Best Buy from Nov. 4. for $349. Check your local carriers and retailers for pricing and availability. 

The Nokia 7.1 sells for 319 euros (32GB) or 349 euros (64GB) average, depending on the country. That's about £310 or AU$570 for the 64GB model.

Nokia 7.1 specs

  • Screen: Notched; 5.84 inches, 19:8 screen ratio HDR
  • Camera: Dual-lens 12-megapixel camera (f 1.8; 1.28 micron pixels) and 5-megapixel camera for depth (f 2.0); Zeiss optics
  • Enhanced Bokeh photo mode: Live Bokeh mode to adjust the amount of Bokeh you get
  • Front-facing camera: 8-megapixel (f 2.0) with software-supported portrait mode
  • "Bothies": a new slider helps you adjust split screen photo mode for front and rear photos and video; you can freeze the frame to set them up separately
  • OS: Android One "pure" Android software; Ships on Oreo, but updating to Pie by end of November
  • Body: Aluminum frame with glass front and back; Headphone jack
  • Colors: Gloss steel (with copper accents); midnight blue (with silver accents)
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor; 40 percent faster than 630
  • Storage: 32GB storage and 3GB of RAM, or 64GB storage with 4GB of RAM (latter coming to US)USB-C faster charging (50 percent charge in 30 minutes)
  • Battery: 3,600-mAh battery

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