6.0
Score

Pros

  • AndroidGo
  • Good Battery Life
  • IPS LCD Display
  • Completely Useable

Cons

  • Display is Small for some

I’ve reviewed countless number of smartphones over the past years and so on. Most of them are flagship grade smartphone that has a lot of capabilities. You name it – Best in class performance, top notch cameras and the list goes on. Then the mid-range smartphones started offering performance and sorts that can give a run for it’s money. It even slimmed the gap between getting a flagship. There is one other lineup that people tend to just ignore – that’s the entry level smartphone. These tend to have mediocre specification but for the price that it offers – it’s a not entirely a bad phone either. But what makes it worse is the experience – certain companies tend to load so much into it, making it unbearable to use.

This is where the Nokia 1 comes in. I was genuinely excited to check this particular phone out for various reasons. This won’t be a review where I am going to talk about the benchmark and sorts, but instead talk about how usable, what really made it usable and who is it exactly catered for. Let’s dive in.

Design and Build Quality

1/6

The Nokia 1 is a blast from the past. The moment you lay your eyes on it – you’ll feel like as if you’re holding one of the classic Nokia Asha smartphone with that curved design all around the phone. On the back, you’ll notice that the phone has a striking color – just like the Xpress series we’ve seen a long time ago. It’s a very nostalgic design all around.

The phone is completely constructed in plastic and it has a soft touch finish on the back shell. I have seen this exact type of shell with my very own Nokia Lumia 520. The back shell is removable and you can get add-on covers to have that different shade of color to make things pop and stand out from the rest. The display counterpart uses plastic as well. Holding the phone in my hand felt very petite and cute in a way. I am very confident that the phone won’t slip out of your hand (hah!).

Battery

For a petite smartphone, the Nokia 1 packs a 2160 mAh removable battery under the hood. For an entry level smartphone with entry level specification, the phone survived just fine. The phone survived during my time using it with no hiccups. The moment the phone hits 20% or below, it enters into battery saving mode – which prolongs the battery life a bit more. I did turn on my phone’s hotspot on the move to get some things done on my laptop and there was an impact on the battery life. The battery life obviously got shorter – which was pretty much expected.

Camera

1/2

Few years back, it was nearly impossible to get an entry level smartphone with a front facing camera. But the Nokia 1 has one on the front – a 2MP shooter. On the back, it has a 5MP shooter with HDR capabilities. It takes pictures. Pictures with a quality that you’d expect from an entry level smartphone. It feels like both the camera on the back and the front has a fixed focus. But I was impressed when it took 1-2 nice shots that made happy too. Considering the fact that it supports HDR. The selfie camera isn’t too shabby either. Just don’t compare it to a flagship standard please.

1/7

 

The best part: Usability

Entry level smartphones have suffered in this particular part and honestly, for what it came with back in the day – it was completely useless. But that changes with the Nokia 1. This is possibly the first smartphone with the cleanest OS and UI, I’ve personally seen. Now, I was using the Nokia 1 for a week and yes, I am not kidding. When I was moving my essential applications over to the Nokia 1 – it was quick and easy.

Most of the Social Networking application was available in Lite – a version that was meant for phones with low requirement. I installed that. Next up, I did install my WhatsApp over on my phone but the problem was – when it was restoring my existing messages for one hour – the phone crashed. it’s not the phone’s fault because my backup was 3GB – so, I just had to use my WhatsApp on a different phone (not my flagship smartphone).

I started using it. I launched Facebook Lite, Messenger Lite and Instagram – logged in and started using it. Looking through the small IPS LCD display, it wasn’t too bad at all. The colors were good for that display at most of the angle. Jumping between apps with just that 1GB RAM is still nice – surprisingly. The display is 4.5”, one thing I was worried is typing on it – because certain phones has this tendency of not catching the input correctly. But the Nokia 1’s digitizer was impressive – it knew where I was tapping and it registered my key strokes accurately.

After all that, I did install 2 of my favorite games – Monument Valley and Limbo. I did play two of my favorite indie games and it worked like a charm. I enjoyed playing it on the phone. Answering calls to texting phones – there wasn’t a single noticeable glitch.

After reading all this, you might be wondering – What made the Nokia 1 this useable?

The Sauce: AndroidGo

Possibly one of my personal favorite announcement back in Google I/O 17’. The whole idea behind AndroidGo is pretty simple – that is to only offer the essentials only. So, you have the Android OS, Google Play and Lighter Google Service applications. To put it in simple words – it’s a stripped down version of android that only has the core functionality. Google removed all the full fledged applications that we’ve seen with our daily drivers and went for a stripped down variant – the Go Variant.

These applications are very similar to Progressive Web Apps, that runs a light web based app – taking up very little storage – which we have seen back in I/O 16. On top of that, there’s no bloatware or any extra feature.

The Go apps – Files Go, YouTube Go, Google Go, Assistant Go, Gmail Go and so on – it worked very well. It did not hang and gave a pleasurable experience indeed. I can even say “Hey Google!” to activate the assistant. There’s always room to improve – like Maps Go which didn’t work that well as it uses Chrome and it tends to save data then and there.

This is what made the phone – a usable one. Honestly, if I were to try an entry level smartphone from a different brand – it would have been a completely different experience. The phone would definitely have a Custom UI which would take a bit of space and also have bloatware. The Nokia 1 soars into the sky leaving the rest of the entry level smartphone to shame. The Nokia 1 has LTE capabilities for good connectivity, you can pop in an SD card and use that as your internal memory.

Conclusion

Coming from a flagship phone (My personal daily driver is a Note8, fyi) and knowing the fact that I am going use a very petite looking smartphone with an entry level specification was exciting. The one week I had with the Nokia 1 was fun and it’s memorable. After all these while, I can finally say – there is still a chance for Entry Level Smartphones after all. I am also very happy that Nokia took the initiative to make one. Nokia’s goal was to make a feature smartphone – and that is exactly what we get here.

People did ask me this, “We have smartphones from X and Y brands that has smartphones for RM 379 and so on. How are you going to compare with that?”

Here’s what I have to say about that,

Most of those X and Y brands does have something – a Custom UI, better camera, bigger display and so on. But the real question is – is it easy for users who still use a Feature phone? It’s going to be confusing and the moment when they realize that it’s too much, they are just going to revert back to their feature phones. There’s always a step by step process to learning something and I think the Nokia 1 fills that gap in offering simple yet useful experience. In short, the Nokia 1 is the modern day 3310 with the essentials.

I am looking forward to more phones like this in the future and other company should learn from Nokia. They got it right. Personally, I’d like to look forward to a AndroidGo powered phone with a bigger display – that’d be cool. 🙂

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