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Nokia 1 review: Hands on with the cheap phone that wants to be your first smartphone

At MWC 2018, Nokia launched the Nokia 1, a dirt-cheap smartphone running a new low-powered version of Android

Nokia’s big re-do may only have just entered its second year, but its phone lineup already covers every possible price bracket. From feature phones that cost peanuts to the recently announced Nokia 8 Sirocco flagship, the firm is making itself comfortable in every nook and cranny of the smartphone space.

READ NEXT: The best smartphones of 2018

Cut to 2018, and the Finnish smartphone giant has something special for its second appearance at the annual Mobile World Congress. The dirt-cheap Nokia 1 runs a new, low-power version of Android called Android Go (more on that later). It’s a simple phone designed for someone who may not have had a smartphone before, with an excellent low price to match. Find out more about Android Go by reading our dedicated article on our sister site, Alphr.

Nokia 1 review: UK release date and specifications

  • 4.5in IPS display
  • Quad-core 1.1GHz MediaTek MT6737M processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB of storage (expandable via microSD)
  • 5-megapixel rear camera
  • $85
  • April 2018

Nokia 1 review: Design, key features and first impressions

You’ll probably shudder if I whisper the words “budget smartphone” but the Nokia 1, despite being only $85, is nothing of the sort of smartphone you’d expect. Considering its ultra-low price, the Nokia 1 is remarkably nice.

Its rounded, plastic rear is coated in a navy matte finish, which is nice and grippy, with a solitary rear camera plonked in the middle. Think about the sort of phones Nokia made with Windows before the company’s lengthy gap year, and you’ll get the right impression.

And, like those smartphones of old, you can take off the plastic back panel and replace the phone’s 2,50mAh battery. Speaking of battery, Nokia claims this entry-level smartphone lasts a full day on a single charge with “normal usage”. Expect full battery results when I’ve had a chance to put the phone through its paces.

The Nokia 1’s 4.5in, 854 x 480 display might not look like much but, in a rare turn of events, it uses an IPS panel, so colours should look nice and rich and viewing angles should be decent, too.

Inside, well, there’s not really much inside the Nokia 1. A 1.1GHz MediaTek processor powers things, accompanied by only 1GB of RAM and a not-so-generous 8GB of eMMC storage. This can be expanded via microSD, however, which is useful as the onboard storage will be filled up very quickly with just a few apps and pictures.

And as for the rather simple camera, the Nokia 1 has a 5-megapixel shooter on the rear, with a single LED flash, and a 2-megapixel selfie snapper on the front. That’s certainly not great, although I’ll hold out judgement until my full review.

And last, let’s talk about Android Go, a special version of Google’s mobile operating system. Essentially, Android Go is intended for low-power devices like the Nokia 1, and Google’s core suite of apps, such as Maps, Gmail and YouTube, have all been optimised for devices with 1GB of RAM or less. What this means is that, despite its lacklustre internals, the Nokia 1 shouldn’t take a hit to performance.

READ NEXT: Android Go: What is Android Go and how is it different to Android One?

Nokia 1 review: Early verdict

I do want to stress here that the Nokia 1’s performance SHOULDN’T be bad. The optimised apps all ran smoothly, but there’s no way of telling how it will handle other Android apps, and it’s too early to tell whether it will end up being a usable device or a slightly expensive paperweight.

The Nokia 1 is certainly an interesting prospect. It’s not really a smartphone for you and me, but that’s not who it’s designed for. This could be the phone to persuade a generation of phone users that haven’t yet made the jump to smartphones, and introduce them to the wonderful world of Android.

ProcessorQuad-core 1.1GHz MediaTek MT6737M
Screen size4.5in
Screen resolution854 x 480
Screen typeIPS
Front camera2-megapixel
Rear camera5-megapixel
Storage (free)8GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
Wireless data4G
Dimensions133.6 x 67.8 x 9.5 mm
Operating systemAndroid 8.0 Oreo Go
Battery size2,150mAh

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Reviews | MWC