The “next billion” strategy has always been a pillar of Nokia’s approach on the smartphone market. Nokia saw the potential in switching billion(s) of Nokia feature phone users to smartphones, with smartphone-like devices mainly from Nokia Asha series. HMD also sees a lot of potential in the feature phone market and plans to use the trust that Nokia feature phone users have for the brand to make them switch to Nokia Android smartphones. One of the devices that could be a solid candidate for anyone’s first contact with the smartphone market or a upgrade for low end devices, is Nokia 3. Nokia 2 might have slowed down that but Nokia 3 has aces in her sleeves. The review follows down below.
Dimensions: 143.3 x 71.4 x 8.5 mm, 140g
Screen: 5-inch IPS LCD, 1280 x 720p, 294ppi
SoC: MediaTek MTK6737 (4 x Cortex A53 @1.4GHz)
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, A-GPS, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, MicroUSB, FM Radio
OS: Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Camera: 8MP AF, 720p, 1,12 µm, LED flash
Front camera: 8MP AF, 720p
Low end hardware
No 1080p video recording
Nokia 3, like the other Nokia smartphones HMD released, comes in a nice retail box illustrated with now already iconic heandshake, where we can also find a SIM trey pin, wall adapter, USB to MicroUSB cable cca. 110 cm long, WH-108 headphones and the guide for the device, in our case, in different languages.
Design, build quality
Even though Nokia 3 by its name and price belongs to the lower end segment of the market, you couldn’t tell that from the way the phone is build. If you’re familiar with Lumia devices, Nokia 3 seems to be the child of Lumia 925 and 620, but with some unique design lines. The phone features a series 6000 aluminum frame and polycarbonate back.
From the front we have a 5-inch screen in HD resolution (720×1280), that also features polarizing filter, known before in Lumia devices as ClearBlack. The polarizing filter, that can also be found on Nokia 5, 6 and 8, increase sunlight readability and reproduction of black color. Thanks to it, the front of the phone is completely black, and it’s also hard to notice where the screen stops and the bezels begin when the screen is off. That is under the condition of owning a black Nokia 3, because the white Nokia 3 has white bezels.
Above the screen we can find the standard set of sensors, that aren’t really standard at this price point, but more on them later. An 8MP autofocus camera is there, as well as the Nokia logo. Below the screen we can find the three capacitive buttons, without backlight, unfortunately.
On the back of the device we can find the 8MP autofocus camera and the dual LED flash. The top of the phone is reserved for the 3.5mm headphone jack and a microphone, that helps clear background noise while making calls and records audio while recording videos.
The right side of the device is traditionally cleared from any buttons, and we just find there the nano SIM and microSD card slots, that are opened by the SIM trey pin that comes with the device. On the left side we have the volume buttons (up and down) and the power button. HMD, for some reason, prefers to position the buttons a little higher on the side, so a few days of getting used to them will be required. The buttons are sturdy and have a silver ring around them, that allows them to be easily spotted in darker environments (and looks esthetically cool, too). On the bottom, there is the MicroUSB2.0 port for charging and data transfer, a mic and the main speaker.
Nokia 3 fits nicely in the hand, with the aluminum frame adding a premium feel to the device. The soft corners of the housing allow the phone to sit firmly in the hand, and there is no pain in using the device for long(er) conversations. The polycarbonate is a little slippery, thought, and some textures on the back cover would be a nice addition on a future product. The plastic antenna lines on the aluminum frame are well hidden and they are hardly noticeable.
As mentioned already, Nokia 3 comes with a 5-inch IPS LCD display in HD resolution (720 x 1280p, 297 ppi), that takes about 67% of the device’s front. The declared brightness of 450 nits, combined with polarizing filters, offers decent sunlight readability. There are no light leaks on the LCD, that are not so rare on low-end LCD screens, which is positive. Additionally, the screen is protected with 2.5D Gorilla Glass (undeclared version). The viewing angles are decent, the display is relatively sharp, but the colors fell a little flushed out. All in all, decent in its price category.
Hardware, performance and connectivity
In this segment of the review things turn a little ugly for Nokia 3. Considering the price point, HMD made a reasonable decision of using “low-end” components like MediaTek’s MTK6737 in combination with 2GB of RAM. MTK6737 is a 64-bit SoC that consists of four Cortex A53 cores clocked at (max.) 1.4GHz, with the Mali-T720MPI GPU on board.
In everyday average usage, that consists of occasionally checking emails, browsing, using some social media apps and texting, the performance will be fine. Loading of graphically intensive apps and games takes longer, and performance in some isn’t good enough for a good user experience. In apps like Whatsapp or Viber, the phone behaves normally and handles them with no issues. Messenger and Facebook load slower, and the low-end hardware can be noticed inside the Facebook app as well. Using multiple email accounts, and using them often, isn’t something Nokia 3 handles the best, so we experienced few Gmail crashes.
If you use your phone a lot for emails, social media, gaming and similar, the hardware on the 3 doesn’t cut it. But, for an average user, that plans to use the 3 mainly for messaging apps, calls and browsing, the 3’s hardware will work just fine.
Nokia 3 comes with 16GB of internal storage, of which 6 is reserved for the system. The sensors include GPS, accelelerometer, ambient light sensor, gyroscope, proximity sensor and NFC. The 3 also supports FM Radio, Bluetooth 4.2 and 4G LTE Cat.4 (150/50Mbps). There is no LED notification light and the front capacitive buttons don’t have backlight.
The call quality on the Nokia 3 is good, with the above average loud speakerphone.
HMD brags about using Pure Android on all of their devices, including the Nokia 3. Pure Android means that HMD didn’t include any “bloatware” or big custom solutions, except the camera app and Nokia Support app that come pre-loaded with the device. Keeping the device “pure”, allows for better performance, easier updates and a cleaner UI. The downside of using pure Android is that for enabling some useful features, the users has to download apps. Many will prefer such approach, and on a low-end device, I think it’s better to do so, because performance and available storage benefit from it. On higher end devices, some software gimmicks could come handy and wouldn’t negatively affect the performance, because of more powerful hardware, but Nokia 3 is not a high end device.
The 3 runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat and will receive the update to Android Oreo. The device support all the standard Android features like multi-window mode or notification dots. The phone uses Google Photos for Gallery and Google Music as the music player, but there is always the option of downloading a 3rd party app from the Play Store. Nokia 3 also regularly receives monthly security updates.
The two HMD-made apps that come pre-installed on Nokia 3 are the camera app and Nokia Mobile Support app. We will talk more about the camera app in the camera sections, so let’s say something about the Support app. Nokia Support is a very useful app that allows the user to check the guide, warranty, find nearest care center, read tips, check some stats about the device and, most important, directly contact Nokia Mobile support team. If you have any problem with your device, contacting the support team via the app should be the first step. Additionally, the application is nicely designed and easy to use, and HMD regularly updates it with new features.
I always wanted to see a well-known phone manufacturing putting their 4-year old flagship camera hardware into low end devices, and thus far we’ve not seen that. That’s not the case on the Nokia 3, but the device comes with a surprisingly good camera. HMD installed two 8MP camera into this affordable smartphone, one on the front and one on the back. The back camera has auto focus, f/2 aperture and 1.12 micron pixel size. The front is identical to the rear in these aspects, but with a 84 degrees field of view. The 3 has a dual LED flash on the back, while the front camera uses the screen as a flash while taking selfies.
Daylight photos taken with Nokia 3 look surprisingly good for a €130 phone. Decent sharpness, color reproduction and dynamic range. Macro shots taken with the 3 turn out great, and Nokia 3 overall handles focusing like a champ. Night shots are as expected for this price segment, with lot of digital noise and steady hand is needed for photos without flash. Flash is not yellowish, like it was on the Nokia 6 before an update fix it, but mostly white.
Check some photo samples taken with the Nokia 3 down below, while the full resolution gallery can be found on our Flickr profile.
A downside to the camera (and hardware) is the fact that the phone cannot record 1080p video, but a max. resolution of 1280x720p. There still is timelaps option in the camera app, though, but no slowmotion. The video in 720p looks decent, with fast refocusing, but the lack of optical (or electronic) image stabilizations is noticeable. Night video comes with a lot of digital noise and a decrease in sharpness, which was expected.
Check some video samples recorded with the 3 in different condition down below.
A 2630mAh battery comes inside the Nokia 3. The battery in non-removeable, and chargers from 0 to 100 in about an hour and a half. Under moderate usage, that includes a dozen of phone calls, moderate web browsing, social media use, messaging, the battery endure a day, which is a standard on today’s market.
Even though Nokia 3 comes with a nice design and build quality, the weak hardware will turn off a lot of users that use their phones for more than just text, calls, and some light 3rd party app usage. The price of about 130 euros differs from market to market, so for example, the 3 can, at the moment, be purchased in Croatia for €80, which makes it a great buy for a budget device. In markets were a lot of local and Chinese players are present, like India, the 3 may not to be the best choice for many people.
For those that value design, build quality, and solid performance if the phone is used mostly for communications and not entertainment, Nokia 3 could come as an option for purchase, especially as a entry device into the smartphone world or as a first phone for children or older people.
The 3 could come handy as a secondary phone, too, and the promised Android Oreo update is something that makes the 3 unique in this price segment.