Backside of the Nokia 9 PureView showing the five camera setup

The Nokia 9 PureView is a success for HMD Global. Even before it goes on sale, the phone has done the job it was supposed to. Barring foldables like the Huawei Mate X and the Galaxy Fold, the Nokia 9 PureView was perhaps the most interesting device at MWC 2019 and it has served its purpose. But first, let’s backtrack a little.

The Resurrection of Nokia

It was just over two years ago that HMD Global resurrected the Nokia brand name. Since then, the company has launched a whole host of devices across the entry-level and mid-range segment. These are good devices, no doubt, and phones like the Nokia 8.1 have definitely stood out for us. However, it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence when your most memorable smartphone is a ~$100 throwback feature phone.

Backside photo of the Nokia 9 PureView standing upright next to a candle.

Enter, the Nokia 9. The phone with five cameras and a boldly different approach to photography. The phone’s claim to fame is the five camera module at the back. Now, this isn’t the first smartphone with a whole bunch of cameras at the back. The Samsung Galaxy A9 has four cameras that can switch between ultra-wide, wide, telephoto and depth sensing modes. The Nokia 9 doesn’t do that.

Nokia 9 PureView: An absolutely unique innovation

What it does claim to do is to capture extremely detailed shots. The Nokia 9 has a laser focus on creating the best possible depth maps on a phone. To achieve this, the company has partnered up with Light to develop an ISP solution that can handle the sheer amount of data captured by five cameras firing simultaneously. There’s a combination of three monochrome sensors and two RGB sensors. These five images are then merged together taking the best bits of each to create the final shot. Photo samples do not disappoint. You can read more about that in our hands-on report.

Frontside photo of the Nokia 9 PureView held in a hand, with a display turned on  showing the default homescreen.

There have been a lot of comments on how the phone doesn’t have the absolute latest processor or takes too long to process images. HMD claims that the former is a result of the amount of effort it took to get those five cameras working on the Snapdragon 845, they just didn’t have the time to port it to Qualcomm’s latest. The latter is a result of the same.

The Nokia 9 PureView is an oddly endearing device that is so outlandish that you can't help but be intrigued by it.

But let’s move on from the hardware for a bit and talk about what the product means for HMD Global. The company has repeatedly said that they will be manufacturing very limited numbers of the Nokia 9 PureView. It doesn’t expect this to be a mass market device. The phone is meant to invoke the spirit of the Nokia we all grew to love and caters to smartphone imaging enthusiasts. Think of it as a Pixel on steroids. The Nokia 9 PureView is an oddly endearing device that is so outlandish that you can’t help but be intrigued by it.

Backside photo of the Nokia 9 PureView held in a hand.

The Nokia 9 is HMD’s move to prove that they have the chops to take a risk and create something absolutely unique. And the device is getting them exactly the kind of positive attention they need right now. As the company faces tough competition from Chinese giants like Honor, HMD Global will need to carve out a niche for itself in the higher end segment as well. Slapping in an off-the-shelf 48MP camera or secondary lens just wouldn’t do the trick.

Nokia’s PureView line up has traditionally stood for breaking the mold and delivering an extremely unique photography experience. The Nokia 808 with its 41MP camera offered pixel binning way back in 2012. The Lumia 1020 added image stabilization and a mechanical shutter back in 2013.

The Nokia 9 PureView with its ridiculous five cameras is poised to do the same. The device might not necessarily be the company’s torch bearer as far as sales are concerned but it makes the brand interesting enough for people to keep an eye out. And that’s the kind of marketing you just can’t buy.