Hands on: Nokia 1

A bargain basement Android phone that actually works

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The Nokia 1 offers something rather special - a solid Android smartphone experience for a feature phone price. That's not easy to come by these days.

For

  • Super cheap
  • Android Go works with lesser specs

Against

  • Slow load times
  • Design is uninspired

The Nokia 1 isn't a phone that's going to grab the headlines at MWC 2018 this year, but it could well take the developing world by storm with its bargain basement price tag and promise of decent performance from a super cheap smartphone.

It packs in a non-HD 4,5-inch IPS FWVGA (854 x 480) display, a MediaTek chipset, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, 5MP rear camera, 2MP front camera, 4G connectivity and a 2,150mAh battery.

Not a terrible line up when you consider the price, and you also get the latest version of Android, with 8 Oreo on board - although it's a slightly paired down variant of the operating system.

The real aim of the Nokia 1 is to allow those in more developing regions who currently using feature phones to make the jump to smartphones without breaking the bank.

Watch our hands-on video below!

Nokia 1 release date and price

The Nokia 1 release date is slated for April 2018, but it's not clear which markets will actually get the handset. There's a good chance the likes of the US and UK won't ever see the phone arrive on their shores.

In terms of the Nokia 1 price, you're looking at just $85 / AU$149 (around £60), making this the first Nokia-branded Android smartphone to fall below the $100 mark in the US.

Nokia 1

The Nokia 1 costs just $85

Design and display

Nokia 1 specs

Dimensions: 133.6 x 67.78 x 9.5mm
OS: Android 8 (Go Edition)
Screen size: 4.5 inches
Resolution: 854 x 480
CPU: MediaTek MT6737M
RAM: 1GB
Storage: 8GB
Battery: 2,150mAh
Rear camera: 5MP
Front camera: 2MP 

Unsurprisingly the design of the Nokia 1 is pretty uninspired. Its chunky (9.5mm thick) plastic body and sizable bezels around the screen make it look like a phone from several years ago.

What it lacks in style it make up for in strength, and this is typically solid Nokia device that feels like it could survive a real beating. The plastic rear shell, which also wraps around the sides of the phone, is textured and grippy make it stick in your palm.

Its diminutive size (133.6 x 67.78mm) also means it's easy to use one-handed, and we were able to reach our thumb across the screen and hit the volume and power/lock keys on the right.

There's a microUSB port on the bottom of the Nokia 1 for charging, and on the top you'll find a headphone jack - something that's slowly become more rare on smartphones.

The speaker has been placed on the rear of the phone, another throwback to smartphone design of old - and it's not a great location for it as it's easily covered by your palm.

It is however lightweight, making it easy to hold and transport, and the rear cover comes off. It's interchangeable with a series of different colored, designed and patterned covers, allowing you to change the look and feel of the handset. 

It's a similar deal to the changeable facias on the Nokia 3210, 3310 and 8210 of old. Removing the cover also reveals a removable battery (another rarity in today's smartphone world) and a microSD slot.

The screen on the Nokia 1 is functional and responsive, but it lacks the clarity of screens on more expensive handsets thanks to its lowly 854 x 480 resolution. 

It's still good enough to read text, view images and play games on though, you're just not going to be dazzled with eye-popping color or cutting-edge graphics.

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Camera and battery

As you may expect from a sub-$100 phone with a 5MP rear snapper and a 2MP front offering, the cameras on the Nokia 1 are unlikely to win you any photography awards.

That said, they do work and you can take social media-worthy shots with the Nokia 1. There's a little bit of slow down in the camera app, but it is functional.

Meanwhile the 2,150mAh battery is removable, allowing you to purchase a replacement/spare, so if the first one runs out you can easily swap it for a fully charged power pack.

There's no fast charging option via the microUSB port on the base of the device though, so if you're running low and in need of a top up you'll have to be patient.

Nokia 1

The Nokia 1 has a 5MP rear camera and 2MP front snapper

Performance and interface

Performance on the Nokia 1 isn't great, but it's not trying to be. The aim of the Nokia 1 is to provide a functional Android smartphone at a low price that works properly.

There are plenty of low-cost rivals from more obscure brands which usually have a variety of different issues, and the Nokia 1 is looking to provide a simple alternative that may take a little longer to load, but will work how you want it to.

The guarantee of it working is partly down to the lighter version of Android the phone is running. 

It runs Google's Android One Go platform that is specially tailored to lower power devices, and key apps such as Maps, Assistant and the File Manager have their own "Go Edition" versions on the Nokia 1 to ensure they work.

Maps took a little while to fully load, but it located us accurately and we were able to get navigation working on it.

Visually you wouldn't notice that this is a tailored version of Android, with the same stock look and feel that you get on the higher powered Nokia phones.

An FM radio is also included in the handset, with your headphone cord acting as an antenna, meaning there's no need to purchase or stream music to get your fix.

It's also worth noting that while the Nokia 1 only comes with 8GB of internal storage, the Go Edition Android software means that there's over 5GB of available space for you to use. If it was running the standard version of Android, you'd be looking at around 2GB of usable space.

There's also a microSD card slot, allowing you to build on the internal storage with cards up to 128GB in size - giving the phone a lot more flexibility.

As the Nokia 1 is also part of the Android One scheme, you're guaranteed the next two big dessert updates and three years of security updates, giving the phone decent longevity.

Nokia 1

The placement of the speaker on the rear isn't the best

Early verdict

The Nokia 1 offers something rather special - a solid Android smartphone experience for a feature phone price. That's not easy to come by these days.

It has its limitations, but we can accept them because of just how cheap this phone is and who it's targeted at.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2018 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.