★★★★★ £130 • From www.carphonewarehouse.com
Nokia’s first budget Android phone is a decent first effort, but a handful of niggles hold it back
IN 2014, NOKIA left the smartphone arena. After years of producing great phones, the once-dominant mobile firm had let it all slip through its fingers, selling up to Microsoft after a disastrous few years as the only big firm making Window Phone handsets.
Now, however, Nokia is back. Not only is there the Nokia 3310 remake (Shopper 355) on the feature phone side, but there’s also a new range of true smartphones, powered by Android. The simply named Nokia 3 is the cheapest of these devices, coming below the only slightly pricier Nokia 5 and Nokia 6.
Aimed at those less able to justify spending top dollar on a smartphone, its specifications are hardly industry-leading. There’s a 5in, 720p IPS display, 16GB of internal storage, a quad-core processor paired with 2GB of RAM, 8-megapixel front and rear cameras and support for expandable storage up to an additional 128GB via microSD.
The Nokia 3 is cheap, at £130, and undercuts much of the competition from other big brands. Motorola’s Moto G5 (Shopper 353), for instance, costs £165; Samsung’s Galaxy J5 is £169. There’s also our current favourite to contend with: Lenovo’s long-lasting P2 (Shopper 352), at a pricier £180 or so. Its closest competition probably comes from the 2016 Moto G4 (Shopper 353), which you can pick up for £140 these days.
Despite the three-year absence, the 3 is very much a Nokia design. In fact, the Nokia 3 adopts a similar look and feel to the Lumia phones of old, with metal edging surrounding a matt-finish polycarbonate rear panel and a handsome screen up front. Nokia’s logo is subtly etched into the back, beneath the solitary rear camera at the top.
It’s also nice and pocketable, weighing a dinky 140g and measuring a slim 7.5mm. Throw in a 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD slot, and you have a handset that’s both attractive and practical. Don’t expect USB Type-C and fast-charging, though, nor any kind of dust- or water-resistance.
The Nokia 3’s 5in display is uninspiring at first. It’s only 720p, a far cry from the Full HD offerings on the Moto G5 and G4. You’ll only see the difference if you look closely, though, and in most areas it’s a fine display. A contrast ratio of 1,119:1 ensures the onscreen image is punchy, and it’s readable in bright sunlight, too, thanks to a maximum brightness of 473cd/m2, a polarising layer to cut glare and the fact that the glass is fully laminated to the LCD beneath.
Its colour performance is what drags it down. Spend five minutes with it and you’ll spot some off-looking colours, with reds in particular looking awfully muddy. A high delta-E measurement of 4.04 (scores of between 0 and 2 are ideal) affirms this, and the end result is a screen with strangelooking colours across the board.
The core components aren’t particularly impressive, either, with a quad-core 1.4GHz MediaTek MT6737 processor paired with just 2GB of RAM. Performance in the Geekbench benchmarks wasn’t impressive – its multicore score of 1,559 is well below its similarly priced competitors, and its single-core score of 563 is only average at best. Even the ageing Moto G4 outpaces it.
In practice, navigating apps and menus wasn’t taxing, but panning and zooming around Google Maps was sluggish at times.
Likewise, gaming performance isn’t up to much. While simple games such as Threes! posed no problem, more action-heavy titles will provide a stiff challenge. In the GFXBench Manhattan 3 test, the Nokia 3 returned an average frame rate of 2fps – the same as the Galaxy J5 and behind the Moto G4.
Battery life isn’t too bad, but as is the case with general speed, the Nokia 3 still trails behind. Lasting 10h 40m in our continuous video playback test, it will survive a day on a single charge provided you’re a little conservative, but again it’s worth spending a touch more to get better longevity.
Budget smartphones typically fall flat when it comes to the camera, and the Nokia 3 is no exception. The 8-megapixel, f/2.0 rear camera has very little going for it: there’s no laser or phasedetection autofocus, no image stabilisation, and video can only be shot at 720p.
Performance is as you might expect. Low-light shots are bland, lacking both vibrancy and detail, with some very washedout images. Shots in good light didn’t fare much better, with overexposed highlights and a general lack of detail throughout. It’s typical budget smartphone fare, but as Motorola has proved over the past few years, you shouldn’t have to put up with that.
Nokia’s first stab at a budget Android smartphone is decent enough, but it doesn’t bring anything noteworthy to the table. It’s a looker, sure, and its display is passable in certain regards, but elsewhere it’s disappointing. Performance is below par, battery life is relatively short and the camera isn’t up to scratch.
Admittedly, there isn’t much direct competition at £130, aside perhaps from the 2016 Moto G4. But, as long as you don’t mind buying a generation-old phone, the Moto is the better choice. It has a bigger, higher-resolution screen, faster performance, a better camera and superior battery life.