Is this Budget Android One Phone worth looking at?

While the Nokia 7 Plus is arguably one of the best Android One phones in the market, it’s not exactly what you’d call an affordable phone. For people who can’t pay top dollar for the Nokia 7 Plus, HMD Global has released several more affordable phones at different (and friendlier) price points to cater to different budgets.

The Nokia 3.1 is the most affordable of the bunch: at a hair under Php 10k, this relatively small phone is guaranteed for at least two years of major updates. But with the under Php 10k segment being saturated and very competitive, does the promise of pure Android with the Nokia 3.1 make it worth considering?

 

What is it?

It is the most wallet-friendly Android One phone under HMD Global’s 2018 lineup. A successor to last year’s Nokia 3, the Nokia 3.1 gets a few upgrades—both inside and outside.

 

How does it feel?

For someone who has been handling large phones as of late, the Nokia 3.1 is a rare sight. It is more slender and smaller compared to many of its rivals in the same price point.

Just like its predecessor, it comes with an aluminum frame and plastic back that gives it the right amount of heft to Being relatively more compact, the Nokia 3.1 feels easier to use one handed even if you have dainty fingers.

The IPS display produces good colors, though you’ll have to adjust the brightness as its automatic brightness feels dimmer than usual. You only get an HD+ display, which isn’t too bad considering the overall display size is just 5.2-inches.

The nice thing with the Nokia 3.1 is its Ambient Display feature, which lights up the display when you receive notifications for a short period. It’s not as convenient as say, the Always On display common with AMOLED panels, but it’s a nice way of quickly checking your notifications without unlocking the phone.

Is it fast enough?

While you get an octa-core processor with the Nokia 3.1, we’re disappointed with HMD Global’s decision to use a MediaTek MT6750 processor.

While we got a sub-60k score in Antutu, the MT6750 shows its age in handling apps like DJI Go. When we tried using the Nokia 3.1 with the Osmo Mobile 2 for vlogging, we encountered a bunch of lag here and there—an issue we did not encounter when we used DJI Go with other phones.

Other than difficulties in handling some apps, multitasking is decent on the Nokia 3.1 in spite of using an aging processor. As for games, you’ll need to tone down your graphics settings if you want smooth gameplay.

With the MT6750 being a relatively outdated processor (it is roughly 2 years old and uses a 28nm process), the Nokia 3.1 does heat up under heavy load. Throttling issues come into play when the phone gets too warm, and this is evident with our gaming tests.

With PUBG Mobile, you are getting an average 19FPS with drops in between that can affect your gameplay.

 

With Asphalt 9, it averages at 21FPS (though it can go as high as 25FPS). However, to achieve higher FPS, you will need to tone down the graphics settings.

 

How is the Android One experience?

Old processor aside, the Nokia 3.1 stays true as advertised with its Android One branding. You get a clean build of Android devoid of any unnecessary bloatware.

During the time we had the Nokia 3.1, we received two updates—one of them being the latest security patch—proof that HMD Global is putting extra effort to keep its phones up to date. The Nokia 3.1 is scheduled to have an upgrade to Android 8.1, but our review unit has yet received the update as of this writing.

While the Nokia 3.1 is an Android One device, it has a few drawbacks: one of these is the absence of a fingerprint scanner and face unlock. This means you are stuck with pattern and PIN unlock methods until HMD Global decides to update the Nokia 3.1 to have face unlock.

 

How good are the cameras?

Sporting a single 13-megapixel rear camera, the Nokia 3.1 produces okay shots-nothing mind-blowing. The cameras need decent lighting to produce decent shots. Quality dips in low-light shooting, as images become soft with little light. Dynamic range is not the best, and its HDR mode can only do so much.

Videos recordings are another story: while it is capped at Full HD 30FPS and does not have EIS, we managed to get decent footage off the Nokia 3.1. We used it as a vlogging tool and it managed to keep up in spite of throttling issues due to its processor. Here’s a video we made using the Nokia 3.1:

What’s peculiar about its video recording, however, is that it records in 3GP format—an aging video format—instead of the usual (and more common) MP4 format. Not all devices can play back 3GP files, so we advise converting them to MP4 before playing back any of the Nokia 3.1’s video content to other devices.

Can it last me through the day?

While the battery is smaller than average, we recorded almost 8 hours of battery life in PCMark’s battery test.

This means that the Nokia 3.1’s 2990mAh battery can last you at least a day. As our daily driver, the phone lasted us through the day while using it for calls and as a vlogging tool.

Charging the Nokia 3.1 via its MicroUSB port takes a while since there’s no fast charging. It took us around 2 and a half hours to juice it up to 100%.

 

Should you buy it?

Nostalgia for the brand aside, it is hard to recommend the Nokia 3.1 given its Php 9,990 price tag. Save for the Android One branding, there are other phones that offer a better spec sheet at roughly the same price. Speaking of Android One, Xiaomi’s Mi A2 Lite offers vastly superior specs compared to the Nokia 3.1 while having the same price.

Not considering Android One, Motorola’s Moto E5 Plus may be bigger than the Nokia 3.1, but at the same price, it offers a better set of cameras, a huge battery, and a more capable Snapdragon 430 processor that trumps over the Nokia 3.1’s MediaTek MT 6750 processor.

Aside from pricing, there are some kinks with the Nokia 3.1 such as its video recording format and the absence of a face unlock feature to make up for the absence of a fingerprint scanner. With that in mind, HMD Global has to reconsider its pricing for the Nokia 3.1 if it wants it to be a good deal.

 

Nokia 3.1 specs

  • MediaTek MT6750 octa-core processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 5.2-inch HD+ IPS display, 1440 x 720 resolution, anti-fingerprint coating, Gorilla Glass
  • 32GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD
  • 13-megapixel rear camera, AF, 1.12um sensor size, f/2.0 aperture, LED flash
  • 8-megapixel front camera, AF, 1.12um sensor size, f/2.0 aperture, 84-degree wide angle
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth
  • GPS, A-GPS, NFC
  • 2990mAh battery
  • Android 8.0 Oreo (Android One)