It isn’t faultless, but the Nokia 1.4 is still a competent low-priced smartphone that finds itself in a league of its own
- The cheapest smartphone
- Big battery life increase
- Lovely design upgrade
- Same processor as Nokia 1.3
- Micro-USB charging
- No NFC
For some, the idea of spending anything more than £100 on a new handset is out of the question. And yet as prices spiral ever higher, upgrading to a smartphone on a tight budget might feel increasingly difficult, especially if Apple’s flashy adverts have wrongly convinced you that owning an iPhone 12 is as essential as breathing oxygen or eating your five a day.
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If you do a bit of research, though, you might find that there are plenty of capable low-cost alternatives at a fraction of the price. The brand-new Nokia 1.4 is one of them, but is the cheapest smartphone on the market worth the vastly reduced cost?
Nokia 1.4 review: What you need to know
With budget phones like the Nokia 1.4, you obviously don’t expect the latest internals and high-end features, but the compromises here are few and far between when you consider just how little it costs.
The Nokia 1.4 has a large 20:9 aspect 6.52in screen with a dual-camera array on the back. Inside the phone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 215 chipset with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, with space for a microSD card next to its two SIM slots. It also runs Android 10 Go – a slightly tweaked version of Google’s mobile OS for low-powered handsets – with an upgrade to Android 11 Go expected in the near future.
Nokia 1.4 review: Price and competition
There’s no doubt that the Nokia 1.4’s biggest selling point is its double-figure price. In shops now for only £90, the Nokia 1.4 is significantly cheaper than the majority of phones I’ve reviewed recently, costing less than the price of an overnight stay in a Premier Inn.
Still, there are plenty of phones that cost close to £100, even if they don’t dip under it. One of our favourite budget smartphones at the moment is Samsung’s Galaxy A21s, which has dropped to £150 since its release. The newer Moto G10 is slightly cheaper, too, coming in at £130.
Nokia 1.4 review: Design and key features
Budget smartphones rarely find themselves at the forefront of design innovation – it’s an area where most of the cutbacks are typically found – but the Nokia 1.4’s design is actually quite eye-catching for the price. It has a robust plastic chassis that doesn’t flex when you twist or bend the handset, and the two-tone “Fjord” model I was sent for review shifts between dark blue and purple, depending on where the light catches it.
It’s a nicely made phone, all things considered, with reasonably skinny screen-bordering bezels and a neat hole-punch notch in the top-middle edge of the display. The two rear-facing cameras are housed in a circular camera array on the back, sitting just above a sensibly placed fingerprint sensor for secure unlocks.
A 3.5mm headphone jack can be found on the top edge, which is a bit of a rarity these days, and a dedicated Google Assistant key is located on the left. It’s no surprise that it doesn’t have any official IP rating for dust or water ingress protection, but the screen isn’t protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass either, which is a shame.
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Aside from this, my biggest complaint is that the Nokia 1.4 charges via micro-USB, instead of the more common USB-C standard. Charging speeds are very slow, with the Nokia 1.4 charging from empty to full in just over two hours in my tests. It also lacks NFC, which means you won’t be able to use the phone for contactless card payments.
Nokia 1.4 review: Display
The Nokia 1.4’s IPS 720p display measures 6.52in, which is an increase of roughly 14% from last year’s Nokia 1.3 (5.71in). Quality-wise, it’s not bad at all, with an average Delta E of 1.78 (lower is better), sRGB coverage of 85.5% and a total volume of 87.5%.
In layman’s terms, this means that the Nokia 1.4’s colours are pretty darn good. It’s a bit brighter than last year’s model, too, with a measured peak luminance of 488cd/m² in auto brightness mode. The display’s contrast ratio of 2,065:1 is also much improved – you can really tell the difference between the two while reading a BBC News article or scrolling through Instagram.
Nokia 1.4 review: Performance and battery life
Inside the Nokia 1.4 is the low-end 1.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 215 chipset, which also powered the Nokia 1.3 last year. It would have been nice to see a bit of a performance uplift this year, but at least the Nokia 1.4 has double the RAM (2GB) and double the storage (32GB).
In our performance benchmarks, then, it’s no surprise that the Nokia 1.4’s single-core processing scores are identical, but multicore performance has actually doubled this year. Whether this is due to the extra RAM on board, or perhaps some efficiency tweaks on Nokia’s part, we don’t know for certain, but what this means is that the Nokia 1.4’s performance isn’t all that bad.
It’s not the fastest phone on the market by any stretch, and it can take a while to boot up, but once you’re in, navigation feels reasonably fluid and responsive. It certainly helps that the Nokia 1.4 is running Android Go, rather than full-fat Android, but I’ll get on to that point in a moment.
As for gaming, the Nokia 1.4 really struggled. Achieving an average frame rate of just 5fps in the GFXBench Manhattan 3 onscreen test, high-fidelity gaming is simply out of the question. You might be able to run simple games such as a solitaire app or something similar, but you won’t be able to squeeze much else out of the embedded Adreno 308 GPU.
Battery life, on the other hand, has seen a huge boost. With a larger 4,000mAh battery, the Nokia 1.4 lasted for 14hrs 16mins in our video rundown test, which is an increase of almost four hours.
Nokia 1.4 review: Software
As I mentioned earlier, the Nokia 1.4 runs Android 10 Go, a special version of Google’s mobile operating system for entry-level handsets. The phone comes pre-installed with “Go” versions of Google’s core suite of applications, such as Google Maps, YouTube and Gmail, which take up less space on the phone’s internal storage, with lighter updates too.
If you’re already familiar with full-fat Android, then the way you use the phone is mostly the same. The only noticeable differences are that the app switcher no longer displays a screenshot of the apps you have open (simply listing the name of the app) and there are fewer easy access settings in the notification drawer.
A particularly useful feature, however, is the icon in the top-left corner of the pre-installed Camera Go app, which lets you know roughly how many pictures you can take before filling up your phone’s internal storage, as well as how many minutes of video you can record. This is something I’d like to see in the normal version of Android.
Nokia 1.4 review: Cameras
On that note, it’s time to talk about the Nokia 1.4’s relatively barebones camera offering. On the back of the phone, you’ll find a pair of unassuming cameras: one is an 8MP unit and the other is simply a 2MP macro sensor. A 5MP selfie snapper sits on the front.
How did these cameras perform in testing? They’re fine, for the most part. Landscape images are decent, with accurate-looking colours and well-judged exposures, but they’re a bit noisy and lack finer details when you zoom in to the frame. It’s a similar story with the macro camera, although it’s a bit of a gimmick and there’s a good chance you won’t be using it as often as the main camera anyway.
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Video-wise, you’re not getting much. The Nokia 1.4 records at 720p at a locked 30fps, with no option to change the resolution or frame rate. Again, video quality is fine, but I did encounter a few issues with the camera struggling to focus during quick pans.
Nokia 1.4 review: Verdict
It’s a bit of a shame to end on such a damp note, since the Nokia 1.4 really isn’t half bad for the price. A phone that costs less than £100 is always going to be treading water, but the Nokia 1.4 comes off quite well, even if it fails to do anything particularly noteworthy.
There are better-value options if you’re willing to dip into triple figures, though. Samsung’s Galaxy A21s is still a terrific choice for the budget-savvy buyer, and the Moto G10 is excellent value at £130 as well.
However, the Nokia 1.4 finds itself in a league of its own. There’s no other smartphone on the market that costs less than £100, and if your buying budget can’t stretch very far, you’ll really struggle to do any better than this.
|Nokia 1.4 specifications
|Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 215 (1.3GHz)
|1,600 x 720
|Screen refresh rate
|8MP, 2MP (macro)
|Dust and water resistance
|3.5mm headphone jack
|USB connection type
|Memory card slot (supplied)
|166 x 77 x 8.7mm