Nokia 1.4 review: Bigger isn’t always better
Quick verdict: The Nokia 1.4 provides some upgrades to the Nokia 1.3, most notably a larger screen. However, the use of older processors leaves it well behind the current best budget phones in the ways that most phone users will care about.
- Choice of colours
- Dual camera
- Dual SIM plus microSD expansion
- Mediocre battery life
- Slow fingerprint sensor
- Poor app performance
Power, storage and battery
|Launch price (RRP)||$0|
HMD Global, the company with the licence to produce Nokia-branded smartphones, follows predictable patterns with its phone updates: Improve the phone a fair amount, update the second digit in the name and release it to market.
Numerically, that's absolutely true of the Nokia 1.4, which follows the… wait for it… Nokia 1.3.
However, in terms of upgrades, it's a curious mix of approaches which suggests that perhaps in this case, Nokia should have called it the Nokia 1.3.5.
Design and camera improvements sit in stark contrast to challenges to performance and battery life, leading to a budget phone that fails to stick its landing in a highly competitive space.
- Charcoal or Fjord colours
- Slow fingerprint sensor
- microSD plus dual SIM
The biggest difference between the Nokia 1.3 and the Nokia 1.4 is that the newer phone is considerably larger.
That's down to a jump in screen size, from 5.71 inches (720x1520) to 6.5 inches (720x1600) on the Nokia 1.4. More screen size is generally a welcome upgrade, but the sting in the tail here is those pixel count numbers.
The Nokia 1.3 has a display with 294 pixels per inch, but on the Nokia 1.4 that dips a touch to around 270 pixels per inch. It's a somewhat expected play in the budget space, but it's equally a disappointing one for a newer phone to be less sharp than its predecessor.
That's certainly not a complaint I can throw the way of the Nokia 1.4's visual design, which is surprisingly good for a cheap handset. The Nokia 1.3 only sold in Australia in a plain Black finish.
That's an option for the Nokia 1.4 as well, because every phone maker tends to have a black model in the line-up, but you can optionally choose the "Fjord" colour instead.
No dead parrots here, but instead a textured blue finish that wraps neatly around the phone body and rear camera circle in a quite pleasing way.
The rear of the Nokia 1.4 is also where you'll find the fingerprint sensor for unlocking, in a tiny circle under the camera module.
While dedicated sensors nearly always beat out the in-display type, the sensor on the Nokia 1.4 is remarkably slow to validate, and more than once I was kicked to a password despite using my own enrolled fingers to try to validate my identity.
Controls on the Nokia 1.4 are otherwise mostly standard, with two distinct features you don't often seen on true budget handsets.
There's a dedicated Google Assistant button on the left-hand side if you like that approach, although it does sit directly opposite the power button, and you will mistake them at some point.
The other neat feature here is a triple tray for dual SIM cards and microSD expansion. In cheaper phones – and most phones these days – you're forced to drop a SIM card if you want extra storage, or vice versa.
- Dual camera isn't stellar, but it's better than expected
- Slow camera launch and focus
When you look at phones in the under-$199 category, camera quality typically falls off a cliff. Nokia's been guilty of this in the past, with the 8MP single sensor on the rear of the Nokia 1.3 not exactly wowing me with quality options.
This is an area where Nokia's improved the Nokia 1.4, which features a front-facing 5MP selfie camera, same as the 1.3. However, flip it around and you'll find a dual camera array, with an 8MP primary sensor and 2MP macro sensor for close-up shots.
Somewhere in a factory in China in around 2018, there must have been a massive oversupply of 2MP macro camera modules, because it feels like every cheap phone maker has a 2MP macro lens in their phones these days.
They're all pretty average at best, and the Nokia 1.4 doesn't do anything to buck that trend. You'll still need a steady image, patience and luck to get any kind of pleasing result.
At least on the Nokia 1.4 the macro lens provides a level of flexibility in shot selection, something you don't typically get on phones this cheap.
The primary 8MP lens is still where you'll take most of your shots, using the Google Camera Go app.
Like the rest of Android Go, it's an optimised app for low power handsets, and you can't half tell when you're shooting with it. It's slow to launch, and it's very slow to focus as well.
That's to be expected to an extent for these cheaper cameras and processors, but the practical upshot is that this is a phone that can take fair, but rarely great images from any camera.
- Snapdragon 215 feels eerily familiar
- Android Go onboard
The Nokia 1.3, last year's budget Nokia 1 handset, ran on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 215 processor with 1GB of RAM.
The Nokia 1.4, this year's budget Nokia 1 handset, runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 215 processor with 2GB of RAM.
Sure, that's double the RAM, which is always welcome, but it also means that there's no particular improvement in processing power between the two handsets, both of which rely on a processor from 2019.
It wasn't a high-end processor even then, but absolutely a part designed to be thrown into low-power handsets.
The Nokia 1.4, like its predecessors, tries to make the most of the situation by using the lower power Android Go variant of Android, in its case Android 10.
That means that, like the Nokia 1.3, it's still waiting on Android 11 Go, and that's all you're promised in terms of future upgrades.
Even within the family of much lower-priced budget Android handsets, the Nokia 1.4 isn't a standout performer. Here's how it compares using Geekbench 5's CPU test against a range of similarly priced handsets at the time of writing:
The Adreno 308 GPU in the Nokia 1.4 performs at an even more mediocre level, as it's actually incapable of running the Slingshot Extreme test we typically run low-power handsets through.
Anecdotal game testing suggests that if you favour very simple puzzle games or low-action titles generally then it should be okay, but expect some pretty severe load times.
The fact that HMD Global/Nokia's kept with the same processor two years running can't help but feel disappointing, especially as we're seeing some solid competition in the budget space these days.
You do get the typical advantages of Nokia handsets with a very hands-off approach to Android apps, but without the Android One benefits of years of upgrades.
Indeed, given that the Nokia 1.3 launched with Android 10 and the promise of Android 11 Go and it's still to happen, it's a rather worrying trend on HMD Global's part.
- Doesn't live up to two-day battery hype
- Slow microUSB charging
- No more removable battery
The Nokia 1.4 does bump up its battery capacity relative to its predecessor, with a 4,000mAh battery that HMD Global claims is good for up to two days of battery life.
The trade-off there from the Nokia 1.3 is that it's now a sealed unit, where the older phone featured a removable battery. It was tricky to get to, but you could swap it out in theory, and that's just not a feature of the Nokia 1.3.
The mix of a larger display on the Nokia 1.4 but a larger battery pack gave me some hope that it could live up to Nokia's claims.
Obviously battery life and usage are massively subjective, but to give a relative usage picture, I ran it through Finder's standard battery life test.
This involves charging the battery to 100% and then looping a YouTube video at maximum resolution and brightness and moderate volume for an hour.
What I want to see here is battery life above 90%, because that's typically a sign of a battery that can last at least one day and into a second.
The Nokia 1.3 only managed a feeble 85% remaining in that test, but how did the Nokia 1.4 fare?
That's a better score than the Nokia 1.3, but it's still not a good score for a phone that wants to promise two-day battery life.
Clearly that larger display eats up a healthy quantity of electrons in real world use. If you want two days of battery out of the Nokia 1.4, you'll have to use it sparingly.
The Nokia 1.4 uses a microUSB-based 5V charger, which means that it's both rather slow to charge and annoying to hook up. We've seen makers in this price range switch to USB C, and it's disappointing to see HMD Global stick with a cheaper but more annoying option.
Should you buy the Nokia 1.4?
- Buy it if you want a larger screen than the Nokia 1.3.
- Don't buy it if you want long battery life or good performance.
The Nokia 1.4 does offer some improvements over the Nokia 1.3, but not in the areas where budget phone buyers are most going to want to see upgrades.
The use of the exact same processor hobbles the performance relative to other budget options, and that's a hole that not even the use of Android Go and its strong optimisations can entirely make up for.
That makes the Nokia 1.4 a hard phone to justify, because at this stage you'd arguably be better off trying to score a discount on the Nokia 1.3 instead.
Pricing and availability
PriceThe Nokia 1.4 sells in Australia for $169 outright.
Where to buy
Power, storage and battery
Images: Alex Kidman