Nokia 3 review

A budget smartphone with an eye-catching design

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Our Verdict

It may look like one of the best cheap phones on the market but the Nokia 3 is style over substance, struggling with long load times and poor battery life.

For

  • Solid build quality and premium design
  • Remarkably Low price
  • Stock Android software works great

Against

  • Disappointing performance may become frustrating
  • Limited storage if you want to download lots
  • Middling battery life may be an issue

The Essential Review

This is TechRadar’s review summary that gives you all the key information you need if you’re looking for quick buying advice in 30 seconds - our usual full, in-depth review follows. 

The Nokia name is experiencing a resurgence in the phone market in 2017 and the latest releases to excite you include the Nokia 6, Nokia 5 and Nokia 3.

They follow the Nokia 3310 (2017), a ‘reboot’ of the classic feature phone that was launched earlier this year to try and drum up attention for the brand – it’s these new handsets that are the real reintroduction to the market the Nokia brand deserves. 

The Nokia 3 is one of the best looking cheaper phones on the market right now. If price and the look of your phone matter most to you, the Nokia 3 may suit you well.

There's a 5-inch 720p display that offers a clear picture but can be a little dark and some may not love the picture quality it gives them when watching video or using apps.

Battery life on the Nokia 3 isn't particularly good so it can mean your phone dies off pretty quickly without you using it a lot. There's also no fingerprint sensor like there is on the Nokia 5.

The camera on the Nokia 3 is okay for a cheaper device, but it won't take phenomenal images like older devices from the brand and performance on the Nokia 3 isn't all up to scratch.

Who’s this for and should I buy it?

The Nokia 3 is aimed at first-time smartphone buyers, and anyone looking to spend the least amount possible on their new phone but still have access to all their apps, along with the features you’d expect to see at this price point.

If you love the design, and want a high-end looking phone without paying high-end money, you may want to go for the Nokia 3 – but you’ll also get a slightly more premium look for only a little extra cash with the Nokia 5.

Anyone who's invested in the idea of a Nokia phone, but doesn't want to indulge their nostalgia at the expense of performance and features, may also want to opt for the Nokia 5.

Nokia 3 price

  • Launch price of £129.99 with contracts starting at £12.99 a month 
  • Not clear if it'll launch in US or Australia

Low price but still looks great

  • Premium look despite low price point 
  • Polycarbonate back and metal edges, comes in four color options
  • The power button can be a little hard to hit sometimes 

The Nokia 3 doesn’t have the most attractive design, but considering its price point it has a premium feel, great build quality and looks brilliant compared to some of the competition. 

It’s a squared design that instantly reminds you of the design of the Windows Phone generation of Nokia devices, but instead of having a bold primary-colored plastic back it has metal edges that look superb.

The back panel is polycarbonate, but despite that it still has a premium air. The Nokia 3 comes in four color options: black, dark blue (pictured throughout this review) and two options for white; both white variants have a white back panel, with one having white edges and the other a peach-colored rim around the phone.

Scroll through to the right to see more photos of the Nokia 3 below

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Nokia 3 specs

Screen size: 5-inch
Resolution: 720x1280
Battery: 2630mAh
Front camera: 8MP
Rear camera: 8MP
Weight: 140g
Dimensions (mm): 143.4 x 71.4 x 8.5mm
OS: Android 7
CPU: MediaTek MT6773
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB/microSD up to 256GB

During our testing we did find the power button on the right-hand side of the phone to be a little small if you have larger fingers and thumbs. That may mean you’ll spend a little bit longer trying to hit that button and not the volume rocker, which is just above it.

On the top edge of the handset sits the 3.5mm headphone jack, which allows you to use wired headsets with the phone, while the bottom edge has a micro USB port in the centre for charging and data transfer.

The phone sits easily in the hand, but the lack of fingerprint scanner on the Nokia 3 means it takes a little longer to unlock than other phones, as you’ll need to press the power button and then use an on-screen unlock. 

The Nokia 3 comes with a 5-inch display with a 720p resolution. That equals 294 pixels per inch, which is a bit below what you’d expect on a modern smartphone.

The lower resolution does mean you’re likely to spot the odd pixel compared to a Full HD resolution screen, but considering the price of this phone you shouldn’t be too disappointed with the sharpness of images.

We did find the screen to be a little dull on the Nokia 3. Brightness isn’t particularly impressive compared to other phones, so again the Moto E4, which has a bright display at the same resolution, might be a better option if that’s important to you.

The display on the Nokia 3 is the optimum size though, with the phone sitting comfortably in the hand and all areas of the screen are easy to reach no matter how small your hands are.

Battery life

  • Features a 2630mAh battery, that doesn't impress with day-to-day usage
  • Scored well in our video battery test
  • Charging isn't very fast though

Battery life isn’t a highlight of the Nokia 3, and you won’t be particularly impressed by how long the phone will last on a full charge.

Alarm bells started to ring when we saw the spec list detailing a 2630mAh battery, which isn’t a particularly big cell. It doesn’t have to power too much, as there’s only a 5-inch 720p display and this isn’t an especially power-hungry phone,, but the battery generally doesn’t last that long.

With typical usage of popular apps like Spotify, messaging and social networking throughout the day we found ourselves getting to around 7pm or 8pm and being greeted by a black screen as the phone died – and the Nokia 3 often didn’t alert us when it was close to dying, which was irritating.

Battery saver mode is an option when you get low on juice, but that won’t add too much extra time to your charge.

If you're not a heavy user though, you should find the battery life to be adequate.

The Nokia 3 made it through our battery test, where we run a 90-minute video clip at full brightness and with Wi-Fi enabled, with 84% of its battery life remaining, a loss of 16%. That’s a little better than the Moto E4, which lost 18%, while the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus lost a whole 24%.

When playing video we found the Nokia 3 to do particularly well compared to its competition, but that strong battery life isn’t reflected in real-world usage where it struggled to make it through a whole day.

There’s no fast-charging tech here, so the Nokia 3 will likely take some time to charge up. If you leave it overnight you’ll have a full battery though.

Camera

  • 8MP rear sensor makes sharp images but is slow
  • Front-facing 8MP shooter takes great selfie shots

Chances are if you’re looking at the Nokia 3 you’re not looking forgoing to want a top-of-the-range camera phone – and that's just as well.

Both the rear and front cameras are 8PM units. Neither will particularly impress you though, and we found using the camera on the Nokia 3 frustrating at times.

It’s not very fast at booting up, and also takes quite some time to shoot once you’ve pressed the button, so it’s easy to miss those fleeting opportunities that can often make for great images.

In good lighting, the Nokia 3 manages to take some sharp images, and for an 8MP sensor that’s missing many of the bells and whistles of most modern smartphones it could be a lot worse.

There’s a powerful LED flash for darker shots, which you’ll probably need as the low-light image quality from this phone isn’t very good.

Top-end features such as HDR, 4K video recording or optical image stabilization are nowhere to be seen, so don’t buy this phone if you’re looking for a great camera.

We found video footage to be fairly stable considering the lack of any stabilization tech, but you can only record in low-resolution 720p.

The front camera is a similar affair, but an 8MP lens isn’t as bad if you just plan to take the odd image of your face or use it for video calling sometimes.

Camera samples

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Anything else I should know?

  • Running stock Android 7 software, looks like Google intended
  • Packs MediaTek MT6737 processor, but it's not particularly powerful
  • Not much storage though, so you may have to buy a microSD card

The Nokia 3 is running the latest Android 7 software right out of the box, and it’s the stock version, so it looks and behaves exactly as Google intends it to. That means there’s no Nokia branding on top, and the phone doesn’t come packed to the brim with Nokia or third-party apps that HMD has decided to put in.

You’ll get all of the new features of Android 7 here, including split-screen mode and the newly designed quick settings pull-down menu, plus it looks great.

Stock Android also allows you to swipe up from the bottom of the homescreen to open up the app drawer and it’s a much smoother experience than on other Android phones where it takes a while to load the app drawer after a tap.

However, performance on the Nokia 3 isn’t fantastic, and you may find yourself getting frustrated with this phone at some points, especially if you’ve used a more expensive phone in the past.

The Nokia 3 boasts a MediaTek MT6737 system-on-a-chip, which is a chip we haven’t seen running on many devices released in the West, with 2GB of RAM to back it up.

On multiple occasions during our time with the Nokia 3 we found apps would take a frustrating amount of time to load, and we experienced some crashes as well.

This was especially noticeable when we were using Android Pay with the NFC sensor on the back of the phone. We regularly found ourselves waiting much longer than we’d expect to with other phones, and in a time-pressured environment, with fellow shoppers shuffling their feet and muttering behind us, it became quite frustrating.

Even undemanding apps such as Twitter or Spotify were regular culprits when it came to crashing – and there’s nothing more  annoying than when you want to complete simple tasks but your phone won’t allow you to.

Benchmarking-wise, we ran the Geekbench 4 software on the Nokia 3 and it turned in a disappointing score of 1,464.

The Moto G5, by way of contrast, managed 2,377, while the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus – a UK-exclusive phone that costs about the same as the Nokia 3 – achieved a score of 2,073.

In conclusion, the Nokia 3 will struggle to load many big-name apps, although all of them will work eventually – you may just have to wait a little while longer than you’d like to.

We found watching films and video on the Nokia 3 an enjoyable experience despite the small and not particularly high-resolution screen.

There’s okay audio through the headphone jack, but sometimes the phone would struggle to maintain the Bluetooth connection – we found we couldn’t move very far from the phone before it would start to cut out, and sometimes it would even struggle in a pocket while walking.

The speakers on the Nokia 3 are not impressive either – there’s only one speaker, which you can easily cover with your hand when holding the phone.

We also found listening to music and other audio on the Nokia 3 to be an okay experience, although the sometimes-temperamental Bluetooth connection may cause you the odd issue. If you only plan to use wired headsets, though, you shouldn’t be concerned.

If you’re a fan of listening to the radio on your phone you’ll be glad to find an FM radio app on the Nokia 3 – you’ll need to have a wired headset attached for this to work as it acts as an aerial.

When using the (flimsy and cheap) pair of headphones included in the box with the Nokia 3 we found the FM connection worked well. When you first boot the app up you’ll be able to scan for all the available channels, and switching between these proves easy to do.

It’s probably not a key feature that will encourage you to buy the Nokia 3, but it’s a good alternative service to entertain yourself, especially if you have a limited internet allowance so don’t want to use a internet based radio app on your phone.

Gaming on the Nokia 3 was a surprisingly relaxing experience. Loading times can be a little extended compared to more expensive phones, but most modern games ran smoothly.

We tried out Real Racing 3 and Monument Valley, which ran well on the phone despite the sub-par processor setup for most everyday tasks. Don’t buy this handset if you’re looking for your games to load immediately and play at the optimum level though.

First reviewed: July 2017

Not convinced? Try these:

If the Nokia 3 isn’t for you, then we’ve picked three excellent choices for you to consider instead. 

Moto G5

Motorola’s mid-range wonder will cost you a little bit more than the Nokia 3, but overall it’s a more attractive and well-built package.

We loved the part-metal design, which is similar to the look of the Nokia 3, as well as its crisp Full HD display. 

You’ll also get a fingerprint scanner for your extra money, which is something the Nokia 3 is lacking. For only £30 or $40 more, the Moto G5 offers a lot more features.

Nokia 5

The Nokia 5 costs a touch more than the Nokia 3 too, but it comes with a few extra features that you may think are worth paying for.

There’s a slightly more premium build quality, a lot more power under the hood, and a fingerprint scanner below the screen.

The Nokia 5 still has a few issues of its own, including just 16GB of storage and a 720p display rather than Full HD, but overall it’s a better option than its cheaper sibling.

Moto E4

If you’re looking for a phone for around the same price as the Nokia 3 (if you’re living in the UK), you’ll want to take a look at the Moto E4. You may even be able to get it for a little less money, and again you’ll get a fingerprint scanner.

You’ll enjoy good build quality, as well as Android 7 software and a swappable battery, making the E4 a compelling alternative to the Nokia 3 for your next phone.