Saturday , 4 April 2020

Nokia C1 Review: Android Go for Tight Budgets

Does HMD Global’s most affordable smartphone make the cut?

HMD Global has been quite successful in offering promising Android Go phones starting with the Nokia 2.1 back in 2018. Since then, other brands launched their own Android Go offerings to compete, which has flooded the market with ultra-budget Android Go smartphones.

HMD Global wants to keep its market share in the Android Go segment in the Philippines despite the tight competition and has released the Nokia C1 – the most affordable device in the Nokia lineup, priced at under Php 3K.

Can HMD Global’s latest Android Go phone maintain the brand’s reputation for compelling ultra-budget phones?

Pros:

-Great implementation of Android Go

-Compact and pocket-friendly

-Decent display for an ultra-budget phone

 

Cons:

-Cameras are useful only in daylight

-Dated processor

 

A Nokia 2.1 in a smaller package

Unlike HMD Global’s recent phone offerings, the Nokia C1 uses an older design that reminds us of the Nokia 2.1. The Nokia C1 has a 5.45-inch display with an 18:9 aspect ratio, resulting in slimmer bezels and a better screen-to-body ratio despite being physically smaller than the Nokia 2.1.

Like the Nokia 2.1, the Nokia C1 has a familiar matte plastic build that’s associated with legacy Nokia phones. It’s not as sexy as the glasstic material we’re used to seeing on other phones, but the upside to this is that the Nokia C1 is less prone to fingerprint smudges and is more resilient to normal wear and tear.

Just like all HMD Global phones that launched since last year, the Nokia C1 also comes with a dedicated Google Assistant button on the left side of the phone.

Decent display for an ultra-budget phone

Most sub-Php 3k phones we have previously reviewed have less than stellar displays, but that’s not the case with the Nokia C1. Despite having only an FWVGA+ resolution, HMD Global equipped the Nokia C1 with a decent IPS instead of a TFT one. The use of that IPS panel means that the display has good color reproduction and viewing angles even at the highest brightness settings. The display is also good enough and bright enough to use under direct sunlight, which isn’t always the case for ultra-budget phones.

Uncommon processor gets the basics done

Instead of the usual Qualcomm of MediaTek processor, HMD Global used a three-year-old Unisoc processor with the Nokia C1, paired with 1GB RAM and 16GB internal storage. The good news here is that despite the bigger 28nm process used on the phone, the Nokia C1 didn’t warm up significantly when we tried gaming with it. The bad news is that it’s definitely not for gaming, as the phone’s low AnTuTu score, low RAM and low storage make it more a device for casual use like emails, web browsing, and social media.

Having a stripped-down version of Android Pie, the Nokia C1 comes with Go versions of Assistant, Maps, Gallery, YouTube, Google, Gmail—all helpful in offering the best possible Android experience with the phone’s modest internals. Since it uses a dated processor, the Nokia C1 only supports 3G connectivity. That can be a deal-breaker for some, but it is very rare to see a sub-Php 3k smartphone that has LTE connectivity.

As for battery life, the Nokia C1’s rather small 2500mAh battery got us a little under 9 hours at PCMark’s battery test. While the battery capacity is below average for 2020 standards, the upside is that the battery is removable—you can just swap a new pack instead of fumbling for a power bank.

Cameras have a lot of limitations

Ultra-budget phones usually compromise when it comes to the imaging department, and the same can be said for the Nokia C1. While the rear camera does have autofocus, it only functions properly in daylight—in other lighting situations, the camera had trouble focusing subjects. Like the Nokia 2.2, the Nokia C1 does have HDR shooting, though its image processing is limited by the phone’s modest internals. The same goes for the front camera, though the LED flash helps in taking better selfies.

On the video side of things, the Nokia C1 can shoot HD video natively and Full HD video by interpolation. Unlike the Nokia 2.2, the Nokia saves videos in a friendlier, more familiar .MP4 format.

Verdict: A more affordable alternative to the Nokia 2.2

If you like the Nokia 2.2 but you are looking for a more affordable phone, you can save Php 2k and get the Nokia C1 instead. While there are a lot of compromises to keep it at a sub-Php 3k price point, the Nokia C1 is ideal for those looking for a backup phone and for those who want to give their children their first smartphone.

Nokia C1 specs

  • 1.3Ghz Unisoc Sc7331e quad-core processor
  • Mali-T820 GPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 5.45-inch IPS display; 18:9 aspect ratio
  • 16GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD
  • 5-megapixel f/2.4 rear camera with AF and LED flash
  • 5-megapixel f/2.2 front camera with beautification and LED flash
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS
  • Xpress-On Covers
  • Android 9.0 Pie (Android Go)
  • 2500mAh battery

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