Nokia 225 4G review
Quick verdict: Nokia's latest super-affordable feature phone isn't fancy – but that's totally the point.
- It's really cheap
- Good for folks who hate smartphones
- Dual SIM capable
- It plays Snake (of course)
- Good battery life
- Cheap build
- Camera is beyond awful
- Web access is painful
- No onboard Wi-Fi
Power, storage and battery
|Launch price (RRP)||$0|
HMD Global's made quite a good impression over the past couple of years with its Android phones, thanks mostly to using the Android One platform to keep them updated and often improving heavily over time. Alongside those phones, it's also used its licence to create phones under the Nokia brand to bring back "classic" Nokia designs as feature phones.
You could have argued that the Nokia 3310 that it debuted back in 2017 was more about getting attention than a serious play into the smaller feature phone market, but by now it's clear that this is a segment that HMD Global very much wants to own.
Its latest offering, the Nokia 225 4G, is an extremely low cost, very simple feature phone, and that's absolutely its core selling proposition. However, HMD Global's shift to a new operating system and the curious lack of onboard Wi-Fi make it a feature phone that's less compelling than its prior Nokia-branded feature phones have been. That's an unusual step to make in technology, where we generally expect devices to get better, not worse.
- 2.4-inch display
- Removable battery
- Included 16GB microSD card
- Dual SIM capable
I'll be honest here: with previous HMD Global/Nokia feature phone releases I could pretty much instantly remember what they looked like, whether it was the iconic Nokia 3310 or the Nokia 8110 "banana phone".
The Nokia 225, however, didn't ring a bell, and as soon as I took it out of the box it became clear why that was so.
It's a feature phone in a format that's usually called a "candy bar", and if this is a candy bar, it's the generic type that your local cheap supermarket sells, not one of your fancy European chocolate blend types. There's a 2.4-inch 240x320 pixel display sitting above selection keys and number keys… and that's it.
Plain isn't necessarily a problem, and HMD Global does at least produce the Nokia 225 4G in a range of colours, including black, blue and sand finishes. My review model was the standard black variant, which is a lot more subdued than the blue or sand hues.
At its price point, you can't expect a fancy metallic finish, and you don't get one. The Nokia 225 4G is a plastic body phone with a removable back. Pop that off and you'll find – at least on the Australian model – a 16GB memory card preinstalled, removable battery and dual SIM card slots. That's a nice inclusion on such a low cost phone, although the metal brackets that hold each SIM in place are a tad fiddly to accurately fit around each SIM.
- 0.3MP camera is just awful
The Nokia 225 4G is a cheap phone – this is a point I'm going to keep on making – and nowhere is this more evident than in the phone's camera offering. I'm using the singular form there because there's only a single camera on this phone. While it's somewhat in keeping with the style of feature phones as they were 20 years ago, selling a handset with a 0.3MP camera on it in 2020 can't help but feel genuinely archaic and less than useful. Feature phones aren't going to be for everyone, but is there a reason why folks who want them can't have at least passable visuals?
I'm not looking for flagship camera specs here, but when you consider what you can get on Android handsets for really not much more than the Nokia 225 4G's asking price, putting such a rudimentary camera in place just feels like they're punishing their target market.
If there's a sin that the Nokia 225 4G's camera can commit in photographic terms you can expect to see it, from plenty of noise to poor focus, massive overexposure in daylight, terrible lowlight performance and more. That 240x320 pixel display actually makes some photos look better than they really are, which raises the possibility of you sending a photo you think is fine to someone with a better phone or PC, only to have them peering at digital garbage and wondering what it's meant to represent.
The short form of this is that the pictures you'll take with the Nokia 225 4G will be terrible. Here's hoping that HMD Global can deliver a feature phone in 2021 with a camera that could at least be regarded as mediocre, rather than terrible.
- S30+ operating system is limited
- Covers the basics of a feature phone acceptably
- Included games are a real step back in time (but not a good one)
The previous Nokia feature phones that have come to our shores via HMD Global have all tended to be running the open source KaiOS platform, which meant that for feature phones, they actually had a wider array of apps than you might expect.
That's not the story for the Nokia 225 4G, which instead uses a version of the old System 30+ OS. This matters because it presents much more limited array of embedded applications for the Nokia 225 4G to draw on, and no way to add more outside of potential future firmware upgrades from HMD Global. I can't say for sure, but I wouldn't be betting on a $79 phone seeing too much software love to speak of.
What you do get covers the feature phone basics well enough if all you want is calling and texting functions. The Nokia 225 4G does come with a few more nods to the Internet era, including an Internet browser and Facebook app.
Using either on a phone that does only have a super low cost 1Ghz processor and a tiny screen with a predictive text keyboard is a real step back in time to how things used to be for phone users. It's slow and clunky, and this has always been the story for Nokia's feature phones, but at least prior models could eventually handle other applications that you might want such as WhatsApp. No such luck here.
The Nokia 225 4G also doesn't feature Wi-Fi in any way at all; if you want data to flow into this phone you've got to do so from a SIM card you throw into it. That lack of Wi-Fi also means that it drops a feature that I loved on the Nokia 8110 4G and even the Nokia 3110 3G phones, because you can't use it as a wireless hotspot to other devices in a pinch.
It's also a step back in time for gaming, with a range of preinstalled games to play. Nokia classic Snake is present, because of course it is, but there's also platforming and racing games on board, including homegrown Aussie title Crossy Road, which surprised me as an inclusion. How was such a simple phone going to handle Hipster Whale's Frogger-inspired isometric game?
Badly, it turns out. Crossy Road on the Nokia 225 4G is a top down, incredibly stuttery game that very much does capture what mobile gaming was like before the iPhone.
I'm a huge retro gaming fan, but this is an era of gaming that got washed away by the first true smartphones and their capabilities, and I don't think anyone really missed them. You might while away a few seconds on these games, once you've turned off the terrible sound, but that's about it.
- 1,150mAh removable battery works well for a feature phone
- microUSB charging
Old school feature phones were legendary for their battery endurance, largely because they really didn't have to do too much in a given day, or even a given week for some phones. HMD Global's claims for the Nokia 225 4G are that it'll last for up to 24 days with a single SIM, or 16 days for dual SIM on standby, and for 19 hours of talk on a single SIM or 8 hours in dual SIM mode.
My review period hasn't allowed me to fully test out that 24-day claim, but it feels entirely feasible based on just over a week's testing with the Nokia 225 4G. I do have to temper that with the simple reality that a more rudimentary phone like this isn't one that you're likely to spend a lot of time with, thereby reducing its overall battery usage. Again, that's the point for folks who just want a feature phone.
Should you buy the Nokia 225 4G?
- Buy it if you want a simple and cheap feature phone.
- Don't buy it if you don't, because that's all you get.
Within the feature phone space, Nokia has great brand recognition and there are some classic and even unusual designs that HMD Global could have shifted to for its 2020 feature phone.
That's not what it's done with the Nokia 225 4G. This is a simple, and simply cheap phone, but it's also a step backwards from what it offered with prior Nokia feature phones available in Australia.
There's none of the rugged nature of the Nokia 800 Tough, still my favourite of HMD's Nokia feature phones, but equally you don't get the nicer designs or enhanced features of the Nokia 8110 4G or even the Nokia 3310 3G.
If you're after a Nokia feature phone in 2020, you'd do a little better to track down one of those – and it's not that hard to find them now at the price point the Nokia 225 4G commands.
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Images: Alex Kidman