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Nokia 1 Plus hands-on review: Nokia’s new budget smartphone costs less than £100

A fraction of the price of this year’s flagships, is the Nokia 1 Plus worthy of a spot in your pocket?

Amidst the flurry of flagship smartphone announcements at this year’s MWC, the Nokia 1 Plus has slipped through the cracks. With manufacturers unveiling enough innovations to get daft futurists hot under the collar, including bendy phones and multiple-camera arrangements, the budget Nokia 1 Plus is in danger of being forgotten about.

But it doesn’t have to be. It might not be as headline-grabbing as its quintuple-camera’d counterpart, but when it comes down to sheer value for money I think the Nokia 1 Plus has the potential to be a much more worthwhile purchase.

Nokia 1 Plus review: Key specifications, price and release date

  • 5.45in IPS display, 18:9 aspect ratio
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6739WW processor
  • 8GB of storage (expandable via microSD up to 128GB)
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8MP rear camera
  • 5MP selfie camera
  • Dual SIM (Nano-SIM)
  • Android 9.0 Pie Go Edition
  • UK price: $99 (UK price TBC)
  • UK release: March

Nokia 1 Plus review: Design, key features and first impressions

You’ll probably shudder when I whisper the words “budget smartphone” but the Nokia 1 Plus, despite costing a mere $99, is nowhere near the sort of phone you’d expect. This might be a bargain bin price tag, but the end result is nothing of the sort.

What you do get is a lovely-looking 18:9 aspect ratio budget handset with a rather unique textured rear. Nokia calls this a “3D nanotexture composite”, and it helps to make the phone much more grippy than the usual slabs of aluminium and plastic. Like last year’s Nokia 1, the cover can also be removed and replaced with a choice of three different colours; red, blue and black.

The Nokia 1 Plus’ IPS display is now 5.45in across the diagonal. This is an 18:9 screen – a first for Nokia’s budget lineup – and, because this is an IPS panel, colours look more rich and vibrant than its similarly-priced rivals. Viewing angles should be pretty good too.

Take a look under the bonnet, and the Nokia 1 Plus is powered by a quad-core MediaTek MT6739WW processor, which is clocked at 1.5GHz. This is accompanied by 1GB of RAM and a rather small 8GB of eMMC flash storage. Rest assured, though, if you’ve got a spare microSD card kicking about, you can expand this up to a further 128GB. This is especially handy, because the phone’s meagre internal storage will likely fill up quickly with just a few apps and images.

While its internal specifications are far from industry-leading, the benefit of the Nokia 1 Plus lies in its unique operating system capabilities. What I mean is that, rather than running the usual version of Android, the Nokia 1 Plus takes advantage of a tailor-made version of Android 9 Pie called Android Go.

Essentially, this special version of Google’s increasingly-popular mobile OS is tailor-made specifically for low-powered devices. Google’s core suite of apps, such as Gmail, YouTube, Maps and so on, have all been optimised for phones with 1GB of RAM or less. Therefore, despite its innards, the Nokia 1 Plus shouldn’t feel quite as sluggish in operation as you might expect. How devilishly deceptive.

Finally, the Nokia 1 Plus has seen a welcome upgrade in the camera department. Nokia’s latest budget handset is fitted with a single 8-megapixel rear camera, along with a single LED flash. There’s also a 5-megapixel selfie-snapper on the front of the phone, which now supports a face-smoothing beauty mode, which I’d recommend giving a wide berth.

Nokia 1 Plus review: Early verdict

As we’ve seen previously from other Android Go-powered smartphones, the experience is actually much better than you might think. I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of the Alcatel 1 last year, which has a similar list of core specifications, and I suspect the Nokia 1 Plus will be equally as impressive.

It might not be as flashy as its flagship counterparts, and it likely won’t be drawing the same admiring glances on the morning commute, but the Nokia 1 Plus should do things rather well when it launches in March.

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