Phones

Nokia 1 an underpowered basic phone

Nokia 1
Nokia 1

The Nokia 1 is a basic smartphone for those with a modest budget and a meagre mobile data allowance.

It runs a lightweight version of Google's Android mobile operating system, dubbed Android Go, that is built for lower-end smartphones. Based on Android 8.1 Oreo, Android Go is optimised to run smoothly on the Nokia 1's paltry 1GB of RAM.

Android Go also comes preloaded with cut-down versions (with the Go suffix) of Google apps such as Maps and Gmail that are smaller in file size and use less system resources. For instance, the streamlined Google Go search app requires just 5MB of storage and is said to consume 40 per cent less data while searching the Internet.

They are not exclusive to Android Go so you can install them on any compatible Android handset via the Google Play Store. But there is a catch. These Go apps lack certain features found in the full versions. For instance, you cannot search for GIFs or emojis using the Gboard Go software keyboard app, unlike the standard version.

Navigating the Nokia 1's user interface felt smooth for an entry-level smartphone, without the jerkiness on other low-end devices.

But apps take a while to load, likely because of the phone's slow quad-core MediaTek processor. This chip scored 1,215 points in the Geekbench 4 multi-core test, compared with more than 3,000 points for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400-series processor found in other affordable smartphones.

Patience is also required if you enable the data-saver feature in the phone's Chrome browser. This feature reduces the amount of data consumed by retrieving a compressed version of the webpage from Google's servers, though it seems to lead to slightly longer load times.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $129

    PROCESSOR: MediaTek MT6737M (Quad-core 1.1GHz)

    DISPLAY: 4.5-inch, IPS LCD, 854 x 480 pixels, 218 ppi pixel density

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 8.1 Oreo (Go edition)

    MEMORY: 8GB (microSD expandable up to 128GB), 1GB RAM

    REAR CAMERA: 5MP with LED flash

    FRONT CAMERA: 2MP BATTERY: Removable 2,150mAh

    RATING

    FEATURES: 3/5 DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

With its relatively puny 4.5-inch screen surrounded by chunky bezels at the top and bottom, the Nokia 1 feels like a throwback to handsets from bygone days. It has an audio jack - connect your earphones to enable the phone's FM Radio feature - and a micro-USB port for charging and data transfer.

Rip off its plastic back cover to expose a modest-sized removable battery, as well as micro-SD and nano-SIM card slots. The micro-SD card slot also accommodates a microSIM, though this SIM slot will not work in Singapore as it supports only 2G mobile networks that are no longer used by local telcos.

The removable battery is handy for lengthy trips without access to a power outlet or charger, if you have a spare (and charged) battery. But this budget phone lacks any form of quick charging, so it takes a while to replenish the battery.

Its display is an in-plane switching (IPS) screen that, on paper, offers wide viewing angles. But the air gap between the display and its external glass makes the screen highly reflective, thus degrading its effective viewing angles. Its relatively low screen resolution means that text and icons do not look as sharp.

Its 5-megapixel rear camera can take usable photos, but be prepared for noisy images, especially if the lighting conditions are not ideal. There is also significant shutter lag, especially with HDR enabled. The 2-megapixel front selfie camera takes shots that lack details.

The Nokia 1 lasted a decent 9 hours 40 minutes in The Straits Times' video-loop battery test, probably because of its relatively small display.

Despite its budget $129 price, I am not sure that the Nokia 1 offers good value. Affordable smartphones from Chinese brands such as Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi offer more storage, better cameras, a larger display and, perhaps, even a fingerprint scanner, albeit at a slightly higher price.

•Verdict: A starter phone for those who still retain an affinity for the Nokia brand. But there are much better phones that are just as affordable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2018, with the headline 'Nokia 1 an underpowered basic phone'. Print Edition | Subscribe