Nokia 1 hands-on review: Simple and super affordable
Nokia's simplest and cheapest Android phone has a quantity of charm.
Mobile World Congress is typically all about hyping the latest and greatest handsets, and while there have been a few standouts this year, such as the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ or Sony's Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact, there's been a considerable amount of focus on the more affordable end of the smartphone spectrum.
HMD Global, the company that owns the rights to produce phones under the Nokia name, made a splash with its re-imagined Nokia 8110, which I've already gone hands-on with, but that's very much just a feature phone.
Nokia at MWC 2018
If you want a low-cost Android device out of Nokia, you've got to look at the new Nokia 1, a low-cost device that will most likely be the very first Android Oreo Go Edition phone to hit Australia when it launches in May for $149 outright.
Android Oreo Go is a specifically optimised version of Android 8.0 ("Oreo"), which is designed for low-end, budget handsets with a focus on minimising the amount of storage space that the actual Android OS itself takes up. That leaves you with more space for apps, music, photos or anything else you'd care to store on your handset.
However, it's a careful balancing act because this is still a budget handset, and while talk of optimisation is fine, they're typically devices with a significant quantity of compromise. I got to spend some time getting to grips with the hardware of the new Nokia 1 here in Barcelona today, and while this is far from a comprehensive review, I did gain a certain appreciation for the approach.
Nokia phones of old always tended towards colourful designs, and this is quite evident in the construction of the Nokia 1. Yes, it's undeniably a lower-cost polycarbonate plastic approach than the approach taken with Nokia's other new 2018 handsets, but it's also got a pleasantly bright appeal to it. Nokia contends that it's more than a surface level of colour, so over time if you did scuff the Nokia 1's plastic frame, you'd still see the same bright hues underneath. It's also one of only a handful of phones left on the market that will support a removable battery if that's important to you.
The display screen is only 4.5 inches in size, which feels incredibly small coming from a more modern, large-screen display, but for its target market and if you prefer small, there's some appeal here. It's also only 480x854 pixels, which means it does feel like a throwback phone in resolution terms. That's one of the most evident early indicators that this really is a budget handset because the display screen really isn't all that sharp.
The apps are a key factor for the Nokia 1, and in my limited amount of testing time, they had decent response given the hardware they're running on. Like the operating system, Android Go apps are designed to take up less storage space than their "full fat" equivalents to make the most of meagre storage resources, and while I couldn't check that against a similar handset in real terms, it does mean that an Android Oreo Go handset should give you more storage space for music, apps or photos.
Speaking of photos, the Nokia 1's camera is... exactly what you'd expect out of a low-cost Android handset. Camera optics have improved over the years, and if you only take very simple shots in decent light, you'll do OK with its rear 5MP camera, and from what I could tell with a few sample shots, that's all you'll get. If you want the fancy Zeiss optics that the rest of Nokia's 2018 smartphone family are sporting, you'll have to pay a bit more than the Nokia 1's asking price.
Ultimately, while I don't think I'll personally be picking up a Nokia 1 myself when they launch in Australia in May, I can definitely see the appeal in a market that's seriously heating up this year, with numerous other vendors such as Alcatel and Huawei also tipping their hats into the Android Oreo Go ring.
That's good news for anyone looking for a good but affordable handset because the combination of improving specifications, a low-weight operating system and plenty of competition can only be a win for consumers overall.
Nokia 1 Specifications
- Product Name
- Nokia 1
- Display Size
- 4.5 inches
- Mediatek MT6737M
- Operating System
- Android 8 Go Edition
- Front camera
- Rear camera
- 133.6 x 67.8 x 9.5 mm
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