Nokia 1 review (hands-on): The super cheap smartphone with Android Go
Nokia’s phalanx of smartphone launches covers the full gamut of the smartphone spectrum this MWC, from the rarefied air of the glass-clad Nokia 8 Sirocco to the retro charms of this year’s 1990s throwback – the Nokia 8110 but it’s the firm’s more reasonably priced handsets that have caught the eye this year.
At a mere $85, the Nokia 1 is the firm’s cheapest new smartphone, so it’s pretty basic when it comes to raw specs but it should run reasonably smoothly because it has Android Go on board – a stripped-back version of the full Android OS that’s been optimised to run on low-power hardware. Find out more about Android Go by reading our dedicated article here.
Nokia 1 review: Specifications, price and release date
4.5in 854 x 480 FWVGA IPS display
Quad-core 1.1GHz MediaTek MT6737M
8GB eMMC, expandable via microSD
5MP with LED flash
Android Oreo (Go edition)
Nokia 1 review: Design, key features and first impressions
For such a cheap phone, the Nokia 1 looks remarkably nice. It has a rounded matte-finish plastic rear with the camera lens and front panel trimmed in white. It’s no Nokia 8 Sirocco, but it’s lightweight, compact and feels good in the hand. If you cast your mind back to the sorts of phones Nokia was pumping out in the days of Windows Mobile, you won’t be far off.
Plus, as with the smartphones of old, you can snap-off the rear and replace the 2,150mAh battery. Handy if you run out of juice and you can’t get to a plug socket easily to top up. Nokia will additionally be offering a range of alternative “Xpress-on” covers so you can personalise the phone.
On the front, the Nokia 1 has a basic 4.5in 854 x 480 display so it doesn’t look particularly crisp or sharp but the payback is that it uses an IPS panel so colours look reasonably rich and viewing angles are good.
It’s inside where the Nokia 1 suffers, as you’d expect of an $85 smartphone. It has a quad-core 1.1GHz MediaTek processor, only 1GB of RAM and a paltry 8GB of slow eMMC storage. You can at least add to this, though, via microSD card expansion, which is a good thing because even with the stripped-back Android Go on board, which doesn’t take up as much space as regular Android, 8GB will likely run out pretty quick once you start installing apps, taking photos and recording video.
Not that the photos you capture with the Nokia 1 will take up much space. As with the rest of the handset, the rear camera is a rather simple setup. You get only a 5-megapixel camera on the rear with a single LED flash and selfies from the 2MP front camera aren’t going to bother David Bailey anytime soon, either.
So how’s performance? Not amazing, but then you wouldn’t expect it to be on such a low-power device. The key is that it works without being unusably slow and that’s because Google has also optimised the core apps – Maps, Gmail, the file manager and Google Assistant – alongside the OS itself.
Another positive about Android Go is that manufacturers aren’t able to customise it in any way and slow the handsets down with their bloatware and unnecessary pre-loaded third-party apps.
READ NEXT: Nokia 8 Sirocco review
Nokia 1 review: Early verdict
With the Nokia 1, it’s the price and the fact that it runs Android Go that’s the real attraction. While the screen, camera and core specifications are very basic, they do seem to work on the phone without being horribly slow.
The issue for the Nokia 1, however, is likely to be the budget competition running regular Android. There’s already a strong selection of sub-£100 smartphones on the market from the network providers in particular and some of them are cheaper than the Nokia 1 is set to be.
It’s a good start, though, and hopefully, we’ll see a string of super-budget Android Go devices released over the next few months.