Nokia 1 review: Simple and super affordable
The Nokia 1 is a low-cost phone that's been cheaply built, but the inclusion of Android Oreo Go makes it a far more appealing prospect than it might appear at first glance.
- Oreo Go makes the most of meagre resources.
- Removable battery.
- Guaranteed security upgrades.
- Very slow charging.
- Cheap design.
- May struggle to find some Wi-Fi networks.
- Poor camera.
Nokia has a long association with providing affordable phones, and while the brand is now controlled by HMD Global for mobile phone use, that's continued since its rebirth through handsets such as the Nokia 3310 3G, and now the Nokia 1. Nokia's numbering system for smartphones is quite simple, with lower number suffixes for simpler, cheaper phones. The Nokia 1 is remarkably inexpensive, and while that does bring with it some significant compromises, it's also one of the best budget handsets we've ever tested.
Nokia 1: Design
There's been a solid uptick in the design quality and look of budget phones of late, with plenty of models that don't look the part of low-cost phones.
The Nokia 1 isn't one of their number, with a more retro-Nokia style design that can't help but look cheap, right down to the plastic rear casing and plastic side buttons. One nice design note here is that the rear casing is completely removable, and you can buy optional rear cases in a variety of colours if you fancy a splash of colour to enhance what is otherwise a rather dull looking phone.
Mind you, that design also befuddled me, at least at first. I'll be completely, and somewhat embarrassingly honest here. When I first took the Nokia 1 out of the box, I couldn't work out why it wouldn't switch on. Nothing I was doing was working, and I started to wonder if I'd been sent a faulty review unit.
However, nothing of the sort was the case. It was the much simpler fact that the Nokia 1 uses a removable battery, and it's stored under the folding cardboard of the Nokia 1's box, which is why I didn't spot it immediately. Phones with removable batteries are definitely in the minority these days, so if you like the facility to replace batteries once they've lived out their reliable chemical life, this could be a big plus for you.
At 133.6 x 67.8 x 9.5mm with a carrying weight of 131 grams once the battery is in place, the Nokia 1 isn't notably large in the hand, but then it's not noticeably slippery in the way that so many metal and glass premium options are either. For a budget phone, that's a nice balance to have. Controls are very cheap and simple, with volume and power on the left-hand side, a top mounted 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro USB for power and data at the bottom.Back to top
Nokia 1: Camera
Budget phones rarely have what you'd call great cameras, but we have seen some models with passable cameras, thanks to the steady trickle-down effect from more premium models. The Nokia 1's camera isn't great by any stretch of the imagination, and that's clear even at a specification level. It's sporting a 5MP rear and 2MP front camera, quite low-end by today's standards.
While Nokia's other 2018 phones have the excellent Nokia photo app with its inbuilt Pro features, the camera app on the Nokia 1 is markedly more stripped back, and it's slow, too. Expect lots of blurry or smeared photos, and don't plan on capturing any fast action scenes any time soon. If there's a critical flaw in the Nokia 1's budget value compromises, it's the camera. Here are some sample shots:
|Nokia 1 Sample Photos|
Nokia 1: Performance
The Nokia 1 is the first phone we've seen in Australia to be running Android Oreo Go, the specifically optimised version of Android 8.0 for budget devices. The Nokia 1's specifications are certainly low end, with a quad-core Mediatek MT6737M processor on board, matched up with just 1GB of RAM and 8GB of onboard storage.
That's not a recipe for benchmark success, and the Nokia 1 certainly performed poorly on our standard benchmarks, coming dead last in every benchmark it could complete:
Its 3DMark Slingshot Extreme score was notably poor, although to be fair we've tested very few budget handsets with this particular benchmark. Some lower cost handsets simply refuse to run it:
Benchmarks can give you a comparative basis, but they're not the entire story, and they are definitely not a precise representation of the Nokia 1's performance. Yes, it's a cheaply built handset with low-end internal components, but it's running Android Oreo Go, and that makes a lot of difference in terms of its day-to-day performance.
Android Oreo Go comes with specifically optimised "Go" versions of most of the standard Android Apps, specifically built to work on lower-end phones with less impact on system performance. They really do make the most out of the Nokia 1's limited grunt, letting it effectively work as though it was a much better phone than it is. Expect slow transitions and a little lag here and there, because this is still a cheap phone, but it's one that runs better than it has any right to.
If you don't like the Go versions of apps, you're not actually blocked from installing any given app from the Play store, as long as you can handle a little sluggish performance. Predictably games suffered the most in this respect, with many popular titles effectively unable to run in a satisfying way. However, it seems fair to say that this isn't the target market for the Nokia 1.
The other big benefit with getting an Android Oreo Go phone is that, like Android One phones, the actual security and software updates are essentially handled by Google, rather than manufacturers or network partners. This puts the Nokia 1 in a unique position right now, as it's easily the cheapest Android 8 phone in Australia, as well as the cheapest phone guaranteed to see security updates in a timely fashion. That's a big plus given some of the large scale security issues we've seen on the Android platform in recent years.
One oddity with the Nokia 1's performance is in its wireless performance. It will only talk to and see 2.4Ghz b/g/n networks, which threw me at first in our test environment where the network was working as a 5GHz entity at the time. 2.4Ghz is still far more common, but if you're using 5Ghz for its increased throughput exclusively, the Nokia 1 won't talk to you.Back to top
Nokia 1: Battery life
The Nokia 1 is equipped with a removable 2150mAh battery, fairly low by modern standards but not a surprise given it's very much built to fit a particular price point. The underlying processor isn't all that powerful, though the Nokia 1 does a fair job of eking out a decent level of battery performance overall.
Here's how it compared against other low-cost Android handsets using Geekbench 4's battery test:
On an anecdotal level, the Nokia 1 is a fairly capable handset, able to last through a day as long as you're not taxing it too heavily. That's no doubt helped by Android Oreo Go's very aggressive app management, which tends to kill apps if they're not in use. There is a downside there because it means you often have to restart apps afresh rather than switch to them on the go, but it does pay off in extended battery life.
The Nokia 1 does suffer from very slow battery charging. There's no fast charging, nor is there wireless charging, not that you'd expect it at this price point. Fully topping up the battery from flat will take several hours, so it's important to remember to plug it in overnight if you want it charged for the next day's use.Back to top
Nokia 1: Verdict
The Nokia 1 is a low-cost phone, and that's always a story of compromises. Its camera is highly ordinary, and it's not a fast phone at a technology level, but it's saved very much by Nokia's decision to set it up as an Android Oreo Go phone.
You're not looking at a premium device or even one that will give you mid-range capabilities. But as a secondary spare or a handset for your kids, it's got huge advantages just in terms of updates, let alone how capably it can handle apps thanks to the lower-power Go version of most popular Android apps. There's certainly lots of competition in the budget Android space, but there's no current competition for phones running Android 8, with many struggling even to get to Android 7 ("Nougat").Back to top
Nokia 1: Pricing and availability
The Nokia 1 is available in Australia for $149 outright through Harvey Norman. If you want to add a dash of style, its Xpress-on covers sell in Azure, Grey, Yellow and Pink finishes for $19.95 each.
Nokia 1: Alternatives
Within the Nokia family itself, the Nokia 3 is the closest alternative when it comes to price points, although that's a 2017 phone rather than a more current model, which means it hits the exact same Android 8 issue that the Nokia 1 merrily skips over.
The new Nokia 8110 technically doesn't have that issue, but then it's a feature phone, not a smartphone, and there are no current plans for it to launch in Australia just yet.
You could consider Kogan's Agora 8 Plus handset instead, or one of Alcatel's low-cost handsets, although we're still waiting to see its own Oreo Go handset, the Alcatel 1X locally.
Nokia 1: What the other reviewers say
|TechRadar (Hands-On)||"A bargain basement Android phone that actually works."||N/A|
|Gadgets 360||"Others should definitely take a long, hard look at the competition before parting with their hard-earned cash."||6/10|
|Android Authority||"Is it usable as a daily driver? And the answer is yes, although if you can spare just a little more, the Nokia 3 is a much better buy."||6.3/10|
- Product Name
- Nokia 1
- Display Size
- 4.5 inches
- 480 x 854
- Mediatek MT6737M
- Operating System
- Android 8 Go Edition
- Front camera
- Rear camera
- 133.6 x 67.8 x 9.5 mm