Hands on: Nokia 2 (2018) review

Nokia embraces Android Go again

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

There’s a lot to like about the Nokia 2.1 for the price, but it's unlikely to offer the best bang for your buck in the budget phone market.

For

  • Android Go software
  • Large display

Against

  • Only 1GB of RAM
  • Terrible storage choices

Launching alongside the Nokia 3.1 and Nokia 5.1, the new Nokia 2.1 is one of the cheapest phones in the company's range of handsets, offering basic software and a limited spec at a very low price tag.

The Nokia 2.1 comes running Android Go software, a relatively recent initiative from Google designed to optimize the OS for budget handsets. 

That means if you buy this phone you'll have limited versions of popular Android apps like Google Chrome, YouTube or Google Maps that should work well on low-spec phones.

The phone is set to go on sale in July, but we don’t currently know where you'll be able to buy it. We were told the Nokia 2.1 is intended for emerging markets, but it may be that the phone comes to other countries as well.

The price is officially set at $115 (about £85, AU$150), but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to buy the phone in the US. We’ll be sure to update this article once we hear more details of where and when the phone will be released.

Watch our hands-on video of the Nokia 2.1, Nokia 3.1 and Nokia 5.1 below

Design and display

You’re not going to be getting a gorgeous-looking phone with the Nokia 2.1, but that said this device looks good considering the price point.

It has a plastic removable back, but that doesn’t mean you can take the battery out; you just remove the back panel to put your SIM card into the phone.

There are metal edges around the phone, but the plastic back doesn’t feel particularly premium when you’re holding it in the hand.

The new Nokia 2 measures 153.6 x 77.6 x 9.67mm and weighs 174g. It'll be available in four colors: blue, copper/blue, silver/grey and silver.

You should also know this phone is quite large as there’s a 5.5-inch 720p display on the front of the device. We found that display to be okay and clear, but it won’t give you the best resolution.

It isn’t 18:9 either, so it looks dated when compared to other phones including the Nokia 3.1 and Nokia 5.1. 

There's even the Alcatel 1X, another Android Go phone, that features an 18:9 screen despite being sold at around the same price.

At the bottom of the handset is the microUSB port for charging and on the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack. 

Nokia has also tried to improve the speakers on here with stainless steel stereo speakers that fire audio at you, but we've yet to test these out.

Nokia 2.1 hands-on gallery

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Power, performance and OS

Inside the Nokia 2.1 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor, which is one of the more limited chipsets on the market. We have seen that perform well in both the Moto E5 and Moto E5 Plus though, so we have high hopes for what it’ll be able to do.

It should be able to run most of your favorite apps, but it may just mean you’ll have some longer waiting times and gaming will be a little more limited than you’d hope for. There’s only 1GB of RAM on this phone, which may cause an issue.

To try and make up for that, Google has included Android Go software. That’s a more pared-down version of Android than you’ll be used to and comes with some more limited apps such as YouTube Go and Gmail Go.

That means you lose some of the major features, but it takes less memory for the phone to run each app so it should be well optimized for those who live in emerging markets.

One potential problem with the Nokia 2.1 is the limited storage. There’s only 8GB of space on the phone, which means you have 4.7GB to play with once the software has been installed. 

There is microSD support here, but buying one of those is going to add to the price of your phone so you may not be impressed with this.

Camera and battery

There's a single 8MP camera on the rear of the Nokia 2.1, while on the front you get a 5MP snapper.

We’ve been told the Nokia 2 will be able to last for two whole days from a single charge, but whether that’s accurate remains to be seen.

It comes with a 4,000mAh battery inside, which is as large as the Moto E5 but this does come with better optimized software so it may well be the company has found a way to offer genuine two day life here.

When you’re charging it up, Nokia says it will charge faster than the original Nokia 2 but there’s no confirmation on what tech it will use. It uses a microUSB cable, so it probably won’t be particularly quick.

Early verdict

The Nokia 2.1 doesn't look great, but there's a lot of interesting spec built-in and the Android Go software should mean it runs well. 

The price looks to be low for the Nokia 2.1 too, so it may be one of the best phones on offer under £100 / $100.

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.