Home Mobile devices Review: Nokia 1, where its 1 best thing is the price

Selling for as little as $99 at Harvey Norman, and normally priced at $149, the Nokia 1 is a feature phone masquerading as a smart phone, but if that's all you need, it "works".

If you just need a phone to make calls and send text messages, Nokia has its 3310 3G, and there are other traditional feature phones in "candy bar" or flip phone style, but what if you want a little more?

Say the occasional Google search or even access to Google Maps (via a downloadable seven-year-old Java version of Google Maps), but on a bigger screen than you get with the Nokia 3310 3G?

Well, to cater to this segment of the market, Nokia released its Nokia 1 phone earlier this year, with low-end specs, but with Android Go 8.1, an officially optimised version of Android for phones with such specs.

There are even a whole stack of Go-optimised apps, like Gmail, Facebook and others specifically cut down for use on Android Go, which help to make the experience smoother, and which are vital for getting the best use of an Android Go phone.

That's because traditional apps are designed for phones with more processing power and more memory, and while they can still be run on Android Go-enabled phones, you obviously won't get the same performance as other phones.

Well, the simple and honest truth about this phone is that it is low cost, and thus low end. You obviously will not get the smooth performance of flagship phones, nor even the smooth performance of mid-range phones.

This is a low-end phone with a low-end price, designed for those who want a feature phone but need the occasional Google search, or very light email, Facebook or app access.

If you are used to anything faster, this phone will feel slow. Switching between apps is slow, multi-tasking is slow – it's really designed for use with one app at a time.

But given the specs, the OS and even its size, with a 4.5-inch screen, this is what you should expect.

The screen is also something to note – it's nowhere near as sharp or clear as screens you're used to seeing, and presumably this is also in aid of keeping costs low.

As a spare phone to have handy should you ever lose or break yours, or to purchase as an in-betweener until you get your phone back, it will just do the job.

As a phone to give your kids when they mistreat, break or carelessly lose their more expensive phones, this phone is perfect – they will quickly learn their lesson and treat their more expensive phones, when they get one again, with much greater care.

Thus Nokia has invented an ideal parental teaching and legal children's tech torture tool, which some parents might find quite handy.

The biggest problem for Nokia with the Nokia 1 is that there are better phones for not much more, and you'd be advised to stretch for those.

I mean, the Nokia 1 has an RRP of $149 in Australia, but it was on sale last week at JB Hi-Fi for $99, and is currently at a half-yearly sale at Harvey Norman for $99 as you can see here.

But Harvey Norman is selling the higher spec and better performing Nokia 3, with 5-inch screen, for $169 at its "half-yearly sale" – obviously, the regular RRP is higher. 

It "only" has Android 7.0, but that will do everything you want at this price point, will still run Android Go apps if you want them, as well as running regular Android apps, and gives more bang for its greater buck.

Nokia has its 5 model as well, but there's also the Motorola e5 at an RRP of $229, but just over $200 at Megabuy (including the delivery fee), which comes with an 18:9 screen and much better performance than the Nokia 1.

Plenty of sites have gone to the trouble of avoiding offending Nokia with the Nokia 1, and this is easy to see as I'll illuminate below.

Fairfax says "Nokia 1 review: a $150 smartphone that works", while Android Authority asks "Nokia 1 review: Best low-end phone ever?", presumably safe in the knowledge of Betteridge's Law which states that "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

Now, I've purposely written articles in the past where the answer was yes, or at least, my answer was yes, just to playfully mess with Mr Betteridge's famous law, but those were for fun and I can't remember what those articles were at this moment, save that I did write them.

Anyway, back to those articles. Gizmodo pointed out all the flaws while noting it would be good for that journalist's father, and that the reviewer "wasn't the target market". 

Android Pit was the most honest, simply stating: "Nokia 1: Android Go and weak hardware still doesn't cut it."

Look, I'll be generous too, as I guess I have been above. If your smartphone needs are very simple, and doing several things at once on your phone is something you just don't do, and you want a small phone that easily fits in any size pocket, the Nokia 1 will do the job.

It "works", as Fairfax says.

But that's about it. For less than double its price there are phones from Nokia and others that will do a much better job, and while those phones are still a far cry from the available mid-range to flagship models, they will be vastly more satisfying than the Nokia 1.

So, the 1 best thing about the Nokia 1 is its price, and it has a pretty good trailer, too, as you'll see below.

That said, you obviously know what they say about movie trailers and the movie itself, so be your own judge, but spend a few dollars more and get a better Nokia, or Motorola or Alcatel or anything else, please don't buy the Nokia 1 unless you've only got $99 and simply can't spend another penny.

Or unless you've got a recalcitrant teen who needs a good lesson in respecting what they own.

Here's that Nokia 1 video:


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.


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