Nokia 1 is Nokia Mobile’s first Android Go device and the most affordable member of the Nokia smartphone portfolio for 2018. Nokia 1 furthers Nokia Mobile’s commitment of connecting more people to the internet and is being positioned as the transition device from the world of feature phones to the world of smartphones. If this sounds familiar, it should be because Nokia announced the “Next billion” initiative in 2012, with a goal of switching the, as of now, 1.3 billion feature phone users to smartphones. Nokia 1 is also the first globally available Android Go device, which represents a great first step for Google in bringing Google services to lower price points. Our review of the Nokia 1 follows down below.
Starting from the compact box, one can see that this device is meant for the lower end of the spectrum. On the front, there is the iconic Nokia “handshake” and the picture of the device. On sides we have “Nokia 1” written and the specifications, while the back is reserved for photos of the device and some legal info.
The box is smaller than the one of other HMD Nokia smartphones, but you still get headphones with the device, which is nice for a low end model. In the box we can also find the micro-USB cable and wall adapter, the device itself with the removable battery, and a lot of paperwork.
Nokia 1 is an interesting designed low-end device. Maybe the best description would be imagining the new Nokia 3310 as a smartphone. Yes, it shares a lot of design lines with the re-born featurephone, including the white frame around the screen and a very similar back – not to mention that the blue color we got for review is exactly the same as the one on our 3310 (2017).
The phone is compact in size, measuring 133.6mm in height, 67.78mm in width, and being 9.5mm thick. The back and the sides are curved, making the phone really comfortable to hold. On the front we have the 4.5-inch screen, with the front camera, sensors, speaker grill and Nokia logo above, and nothing below, expect the small hole for the microphone. The bezels surrounding all sides of the screen are there, as it was expected from the cheapest device Nokia Mobile offers.
The right side of the device is clear from any elements, just as every Nokia smartphone is, while on the left side of the device we can find the power button and volume controls. Keys are relatively large, easy to differentiate and harder to press. On the top we have the headphone jack, while on the bottom there is the Micro USB (2.0) port for charging and data transfer.
The back cover of the phone is removable, which is also one of the selling points of the device. To be clear, the selling point is all the additional covers HMD is offering with the device, that are branded as XpressON, not the sole fact of the removable backside.
XpressON covers come in different colors and are sold at a fairly affordable price of 6-8 euros, somewhere maybe for less. Under the cover is the 2150mAh battery, that is also removable and slots for nano SIM cards (2 if the device is Dual-SIM) and a MicroSD card slot.
The housing is well made for a low-end device. It feels plastic and on hard pressing you can hear the cover pressing the housing beneath, which is a common sound on devices with removable plastic back covers, but it will also give an impression that it will survive falls and similar torture techniques a device can be subjected to.
The 1 also looks attractive for a low-end device. Most devices in the sub-100 euro category look generically the same, but “the one” does stand out with its funky design and different colors. For starters, it doesn’t come in black, but in blue and red as the main color options, with more XpressON covers to choose.
Overall, Nokia 1 fits nicely in the hand, thanks to its compact size and curved body. The feeling is not premium as on metal phones or unibody polycarbonate devices, but its good enough for its price class and it feels like it surely will physically survive a longer period of usage.
Screen, Hardware and Connectivity
Nokia 1 features a 4.5-inch FWVGA (480 x 854 pixels) LCD screen. The display is low-resolution, the colors are a bit washed out. The brightness is all right and the phone can be used in outside conditions, but under direct sunlight, the screen isn’t visible.
Inside the Nokia 1 runs MediaTek’s MT6737M quad-core CPU clocked at 1.1GHz. It works in couple with a single gigabyte of LPPDDR 3 RAM. From the 8GB built-in storage, about 5GB are user accessible, which means that system (Android 8.1 Go) takes about 3GB of memory, compared to 6, 8 or 10GB on regular Android devices.
The device supports 4G LTE, 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, FM Radio, but unfortunately no NFC. Sensors include Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, G-sensor, and there is also GPS for navigation. For charging and data transfer the 1 uses MicroUSB2.0 port and we also have the already mentioned 3.5mm headphone jack.
The rear speaker on the Nokia 1 is fairly loud, with expected low quality. Unsurprisingly for a Nokia device, call quality is decent, with the really loud speaker. The lack of the noise-cancellation mic is noticeable, so folks on the other end of the line noticed all the background noise during our conversation.
Android Go on Nokia 1
Surely the most interesting aspect of the Nokia 1 is the software it runs. Nokia 1 comes as the first globally available Android 8.1 Oreo (Go Edition) device. Android Go is Google’s version of Android for low end devices. To be precise, for devices with 1 or less GB of RAM.
The difference between “real” or “full” Android and Go version is that Go comes with fewer apps pre-installed. Apps like Gmail or Maps come in the new “Go” edition and are optimized for low end hardware.
The performance of Android Go is surprisingly consistent. I was expecting a lot of “out of memory” messages and app crashing, but the OS is stable on Nokia 1, and performs talks like messaging, browsing, using preloaded apps in a consistent way. It is slow(er), but when you press an app, it opens it and you can use it, send it to background, open another app and so on.
I installed on Nokia 1 apps like Facebook Lite and Messenger Lite, designed for lower end devices and they are useable. For 5 days the 1 was my primary device and I normally handled emails, Whatsapp, calls, web, Instagram, Subway Surfers and Twitter on it. It requires patience, but the 1 gets the job done, though if you use the before mentioned apps on a daily basis, the 1 is not for you, unless you’re a masochist. Also, the YouTube (Go) app works surprisingly well.
I also used the 1 as a secondary device for 5 days, and it was a lovely experience. Listening to music (it has FM radio), quick Google searches, using the calculator and so on were all done smooth. I can again best describe it as the new Nokia 3310, but a smartphone.
Android Go shares visuals with the regular version of Android Oreo, but with some features missing. For example, Google Assistant isn’t deeply integrated as on regular Android devices, and in fact, you have to download the app “Google Assistant Go” to use it fully. Preloaded with the 1 come just voice commands, that work OK, but a lot of time don’t hear what you say. The mentioned Assistant app is a lightweight Google Assistant that lacks a lot of features. I use it mainly to check the weather and that feature is onboard, but setting reminders, for example, isn’t supported.
A surprising feature I found on the 1 is the inclusion of Ambient display. The data saver app and preloaded “Files GO” app, that suggest you what memory to clear, come quite handy if you’re restricted in data or memory.
Down below you can find a gallery of Android Go screenshots from the Nokia 1.
I’m not really sure what’s the development cycle of Android GO or in other words, will Nokia 1 receive Android P Go or however Google will call it, but I did get the April security update last month. HMD advertises it as “Pure, Secure and up date”, which suggest regular software care for the device.
Nokia 1 comes with a 5MP rear camera on the back with LED flash, and a 2MP front camera, both with fixed focus. That’s the only info that HMD shares on their official site about the camera. The camera app is one of just two apps HMD preloads (the other is Nokia Support) and it is identical to the camera from other lower end devices like Nokia 2 or 3 – in other words, this means that there is no “Pro mode”, that we praised on the new Nokia 6.1 for example.
The photo quality of Nokia 1’s camera is as expected for a low end model. Though the color reproduction is quite precise, the lack of auto focus on the rear camera makes it really hard to snap a “in focus” photo, that would give decent sharpness and details. The same goes for front facing camera, where the lack of auto focus isn’t that noticeable, but the small sensor can’t get enough light so photos lack details.
The video on the rear camera can be recorded in 720p, which is a nice thing considering the low end hardware. The video is OK for the price category, even though 720p is a decent resolution and I expected it to be a bit better. The lack of autofocus is noticeable and the digital noise is present no matter the conditions.
Overall, the camera on the Nokia 1 won’t excite anyone, but it in good light it could take decent shots, that can later be edited on one of the available apps in Google Play and then it could be good for social media and sharing. If you take a lot of photos with your device, the 1 isn’t what you are looking for.
Nokia Mobile decided to put a removable 2150 mAh battery inside the Nokia 1. During the usage of Nokia 1 as my primary device I ended a normal day with about 20% of the battery left. As a secondary device the battery life went well into two days. The battery life for the average Nokia 1 user will probably sit between one and two days, depending on the usage. If the phone will be used more as a feature phone, than it could be even more. The charging process takes a little more than 2 hours from 0 to 100%.
Nokia 1 got the tough role in the portfolio of Nokia smartphones to switch the current Nokia feature phone users to Nokia smartphones. In offline channels in countries with high feature phone share, it could attract customers because of its looks, colors and the familiar logo on the front.
Customers of the Nokia 1 could primarily be people that will use it as feature phone and maybe kids whose parents don’t want them to get hooked up on mobile as their first device to stay in contact after school or practice. The 1 is not for regular users that use their devices for email, social media, messaging, and overall in a more “poweruserish” level. It can be done (I did it for 5 days), but I wouldn’t recommend it, and it would be better to look for alternatives in the same (or a little higher) price range if they exist (like Nokia 5, if you can afford it).
What I see as the main obstacle for people that want to relax from the world of powerful smartphones on a simple smartphone for communications and browsing the web now and then, is the screen size (for some) and the rear camera (lack of autofocus). My mother, for example, a current Lumia 535 user, likes the looks and size of the Nokia 1, but considering that she likes to take photos now and then, the camera on the Nokia 1 wouldn’t be sufficient. That doesn’t mean that other people won’t find the 1 perfect for their needs, either as a primary or a secondary device, after all, it is priced really competitively in some parts of the world at just 65 euros, but in others the price goes above 100 euros.
Overall, the 1 left a positive impression on me, and depending on your needs and pricing in your market, this device could serve well.