Over the years at Ausdroid we’ve reviewed every Android (and even one Windows) phone we can get our hands on. As a whole, we love Android phones, but we all started our mobile lives a long time before Android was even a thing. For me my early mobile history is littered with Nokia phones, so the Nokia 1 strikes a particular nostalgia nerve for me.
Priced at $149, the Nokia 1 is the entry level phone in the Nokia range. We first saw it when HMD Global – the company who now makes Nokia phones – unveiled them at Mobile World Congress in February.
While the rest of the Nokia range is running on Android One – an essentially stock Android interface – the Nokia 1 is running Android Go (Oreo Edition), a version of Android designed for phones with between 512MB to 1GB of memory. There’s a few other stipulations which we’ll get to later.
Available in Dark Blue by default, the back is removable with ‘Xpress On’ covers in Azure, Grey, Yellow and Pink colours are to be sold at retailers from $19.95.
The removable back and battery, the design and in-hand feel as well as hearing the familiar Nokia ringtone at bootup- it’s called Grande Valse btw – made me giggly happy when I took it out of the box.
It’s a low-end device, but one with this new Android Go OS which is made to address the (up until now) terrible state of low-end Android phones in both ours, as well as emerging markets.
So, the question is: Should the Nokia 1 be a phone you should buy if you’re after a lower end device? Let’s take a look.
There’s something almost primal to the design of a Nokia phone. From the launch of last years Nokia range, through to this years range, it seems that HMD Global has gotten it ‘right’ when it comes to the in-hand feel of a Nokia phone. It’s due in part of course to the fact that HMD Global employs a goodly number of ex-Nokia phone designers.
The Nokia 1 feels comfortable in the hand. The smooth rounded edges of that removable polycarbonate shell sit well, and the warmness of the plastic has the added benefit of giving the phone some toughness or durability if you will, a nod to the almost indestructible nature of the Nokia phones of old.
The Nokia 1 has little to mark its appearance. The rear is simple with a Nokia logo, and a centre mounted camera and flash, with a small outlet near the bottom for the external speaker.
Once you remove the rear Xpress on cover – by fitting your fingernail in between the body and the plate – you can check out the removable battery, as well as the microSD card and SIM card slots.
There’s not much to the sides either with a volume rocker and power button – in a nicely stated white colour on the right, which matches the white rim encircling the screen on the front of the phone.
On the top of the phone you get a headphone jack, while on the bottom a simple micro USB port for charging and connecting to a PC is present. We can lament the presence of USB-C, but it’s not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, especially at this end of the range.
The front is simple, a front mounted camera sits offset to the left of the speaker at the top with a simple, almost missable Nokia logo beneath.
There’s no fingerprint scanner on the Nokia 1, which is a disappointment – but it is what it is.
The Nokia 1 is pretty decently specced for what’s pegged as their entry level device. It’s not the highest spec Android Go device announced to date – that’s the General Mobile GM8 Go announced at MWC this year – but it’s the highest spec Android Go phone you’ll be seeing here in Australia this year.
It’s comes in a smallish form factor with a 4.5” 480×854 resolution display, and it’s powered by a 1.1GHz Mediatek (MT6737) quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of on-board storage with 5GB of space free when you first login to the phone but there’s a microSD card slot to let you expand that.
The camera hardware isn’t overly impressive with a simple 5MP sensor and LED Flash on the rear with a 2MP sensor on the front.
The hardware is all powered by a removable 2150mAh Lithium Ion Battery, which is pretty decent for the size of the phone.
|Key Specifications:||Nokia 1|
|Core config||Quad-Core 1.1GHz|
|MicroSD||Yes, up to 128GB|
|Android OS||Android Go (Oreo Edition)|
The cameras on the Nokia 1 are fairly bare bones, consisting of a 5MP fixed focus rear sensor with an LED flash, as well as a 2MP fixed focus sensor on the front. There’s nary a bell nor whistle on this setup, but this is the price you pay.
In terms of performance, the camera on the Nokia 1 is quite slow to take a shot. This means you’ll get lag from the time you press the shutter key to the time the sensor actually takes the shot. It simply means you have to keep your subject in frame and the phone still until the shot is taken – no quickly snapping a pic of your kids running around with this phone.
In decent light, as you can see above, the results of the camera are what you’d call Ok, at night they’re unimpressive at best. The issue is that for night shots the sensor simply does not allow enough light in. The manual mode in the camera settings allows for some improvement, but it’s really not enough in the end.
The camera app itself is very simple, yet effective. You get most of the usual features: Timer, Flash, HDR, as well as various modes including a panorama, ‘Beautify’ setting and Manual mode with options for White Balance and Exposure – and once you’re in Video mode you even get a Time Lapse mode which is quite a neat option.
When it comes down to it, there’s not a lot impressive about the camera on the Nokia 1, but there doesn’t really need to be. The camera works, it can take a shot of something which is about all you really need.
The Nokia 1 is quite snappy when it comes to navigating around the launcher. The loading of apps can be a little slow, but considering the hardware is a quad-core Mediatek processor and only 1GB of RAM it’s an acceptable amount of slowness.
Overall though, the speed is quite good. There’s none of the hang-ups you get when using a $29 special from your local supermarket that’s been bestowed with a dusting of a manufacturer skin and bloatware.
The removable battery is 2,150 mAh in size which is fairly decent when you considering it’s only powering a 4.5” 480×854 resolution display and fairly low-end quad-core processor.
The battery isn’t going to see you through 12-14 hours with 5-6 hours of screen on time, but if you leave it alone – which is likely going to be the case for an entry level smartphone user, you will get decent battery life.
If you’re going to hammer the phone like an advanced user you can deplete the battery within hours. It’s a game of give and take with the battery, give it a rest and it will give you a full days use, but take advantage of it and it will run out quickly.
The major selling point for the Nokia range is the move towards Google handling the software. In the case of the Nokia 1 it’s Android Go (Oreo Edition), based on Android 8.0. The first thing you get when you power the phone on though is an update to Android 8.1 with the May security update in tow – that’s a pleasant surprise.
Nokia is being very transparent about their update schedule for the Nokia 1, there’s even a dedicated update site you can refer to, where you can find out what update your Nokia phone has available.
In terms of on-going support for the phone, it’s pretty great with HMD Global advising:
The Nokia 1 will benefit from three years of regular security patches and two years of OS updates.
The actual launcher is stock Android, there’s the same Settings Menu as you’ll find in a Nexus phone, you’ll also see the stock Settings, Android notification panel, quick settings and even the App drawer acts the same. It’s a comfortable, familiar experience for a Pixel user to jump into.
The Nokia 1 doesn’t come with a lot of cruft or ‘bloatware’ installed on the device. There’s the addition of an FM Radio app and the Nokia Support app – and that’s literally it in terms of non-Google apps. It’s a very pleasant experience.
As for Google apps, there’s the Play Store and Google Play Music, but this is Android Go so you can expect Go editions of Google apps. When first logging in you’ll find Assistant Go, Files Go, Gmail Go, Google Go (Go Edition of the Google App), Maps Go, YouTube Go – though YouTube Go quickly disappeared when the phone realised I was in Australia where it’s not officially available.
There are some differences in terms of usability with the ‘Go’ versions of the apps. The Maps Go app has no options for Local Guides and if you share your location (like I do with my wife) you’ll essentially fall of the map with no updates sent. Gmail is fairly similar, though you’ll have to install external PDF viewers. Assistant Go has no options for Assistant apps, and can’t perform some ‘basic’ functions such as identifying songs, nor set reminders.
Basically, with Go apps, there are limitations, but they’re good enough to get you the best functionality of the app in question without needing to include all the bells and whistles of the app.
There are ‘standard’ Google apps pre-installed though including Calendar, Duo, Camera, Clock, Chrome, Contacts, Messages, Photos, Phone, Google Play and the Wallpaper app. You can also, if you choose to, install full version Google apps – or apps from other developers from Google Play.
There’s a reason you don’t install full version apps from Google Play, because Google has gone to lengths to ensure that their ‘Go edition’ apps are lighter – up to 50% less in size in some cases. They’ve also worked with a number of partners to offer ‘Lite’ versions of apps in Google Play, in fact when you load up Google Play the first category presented is ‘Featured Apps for Android Go’.
In the Featured Apps for Android Go I found quite a few apps including Facebook Lite and Messenger Lite, but strangely not Twitter Lite. Dutifully I installed and used these apps during the review and Facebook has done a bang up job with these apps including all the functionality without the larger size.
Pricing, Availability and should you get one?
The Nokia 1 is available in Australia through Harvey Norman and JB Hifi for $149, with the Xpress-on Covers also available in a range of colours from $19.95 each. It’s a heck of a price for a decent phone where the software experience is essentially controlled by Google.
The Nokia 1 isn’t going to set the world aflame with speed, but it is going to give you a solidly built phone that has an up to date operating system that will be receiving security – and platform updates regularly. The delivery of security updates is a boon that can’t be denied in a day and age where security breaches are reported weekly.
The camera could be better, but then you can also choose to pay more for your phone, and at $149 this is almost guaranteed to be the best piece of kit you can buy for your money.
If you, or someone you know is looking for a phone at this end of the market, then all I can say is that Nokia has nailed it with the Nokia 1. It’s definitely the phone to get.
HMD Global has allowed Ausdroid to keep the Nokia 1 to review software updates as they occur.