Nokia 1 Plus: In-depth, Australian Review
In many ways, the new Nokia 1 Plus makes for a fascinating companion piece to the company’s latest flagship.
While the Nokia 9 Pureview strives to take the resurrected brand into competition with Samsung and Huawei, the Nokia 1 Plus is all about the basics - the balance between good fundamentals and hard compromises. That approach plays into the brand’s strengths.
For a device as cheap as the Nokia 1 Plus, it gets a lot right. However, the shine quickly begins to wear off and the more time I spent with the device, the more and more I felt its compromises nag at me.
It might be true that with Android smartphones this cheap, compromises are inevitable. While that might be true, the caveats and shortcomings that Nokia are asking you to live with here aren’t always easy to overlook.
Display size: 5.45-inch
Display type: FWVGA+ IPS
Processor: Mediatek (MT6739WW), Quad Core 1.5 Ghz
Operating System: Android 9 Pie (Go edition)
Fingerprint Sensor: No
RAM: 1GB RAM
MicroSD slot: Yes
Ports: Micro USB 2.0 + 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity: Cat 4 LTE + Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.2
Rear Camera: 8-megapixel AF camera with flash
Front-Facing Camera: 5-megapixel
Colors: Black, Blue
Dimensions: 145.04 mm X 70.4 mm X 8.55 mm
Price: Starts at AU$169
Compared to its predecessor, the Nokia 1 Plus stands out as a more conventional and modern affair. It’s much closer to the rest of the Nokia lineup, courtesy of thin(ish) bezels and the 18:9 aspect ratio of the display. There’s even a headphone jack.
Rather than the metal or liquid glass material design found in more expensive Nokia phones, the Nokia 1 Plus opts for a snazzy and rubberized plastic back cover. It’s got a nice texture to it, and it can be removed to access the battery, SIM and MicroSD slot. For what it’s worth, the overall feel-factor here is surprisingly decent.
That being said, the screen on the Nokia 1 Plus isn’t much to look at. There's rarely a moment when you’re using it that the low resolution doesn't leave the pixels visible - which might irritate those used to sharper and retina displays. It’s perfectly decent for stuff like answering emails or reading eBooks, but less so when it comes to consuming video content or playing games.
Finally, as far as features go, the Nokia 1 Plus is pretty barebones. There’s no fingerprint sensor here, no beefy speaker system, no wireless charging - or even USB Type-C charging. There’s a single lens camera on the front, a single lens camera on the back, and no sort of face unlock. It’s easy to compare this to something that costs twice as much and see what you’re missing.
The results you get out of those cameras is largely what you’d expect.
The Nokia 1 Plus has a single-lens 8-megapixel AF camera with flash on the back, and the shots you can take with that camera feel like a step backwards through time.
There’s nothing in the way of stabilization or post-processing here, and the results look closer to something from an iPhone 3GS or 4 than anything you can buy nowadays.
Low-light results don’t give you much to look at, and daylight shots aren’t much better. The camera app is also slow to use, often subject to stuttering and delays. If you think you deserve a decent smartphone camera, you’ll almost certainly come away wanting from the Nokia 1 Plus.
Moment to moment, the performance and experience offered by the Nokia 1 Plus isn’t great.
In fairness, it’s worth noting that this is a budget phone. But where I expected this device to build on the strengths of its predecessor, HMD seem to have stumbled and lost momentum.
Apps frequently hitch, multi-tasking is a far-off dream, and even basic tasks come saddled with prolonged pauses. As someone who’s been fortunate enough to jump from phone to phone over the last few years, the Nokia 1 Plus felt like stepping back in time. The gap between the experience of using this phone and the experience offered by even something in the mid-tier, like the Moto G7 or Pixel 3a, is almost vertigo inducing.
Storage space is another issue. The Nokia 1 Plus is kitted out with a scarce 8GB of storage space and a single GB of RAM, so there’s not much room to move. Moving my usual suite of apps onto the device, I had to cut almost half of them.
And when it came to the benchmarks, the Nokia 1 Plus didn’t exactly blow us away either. It presented a solid improvement over its predecessor but, anecdotally, we found less hitching and performance issues with the original Nokia 1 than we did here.
As for battery life, I’d easily make it through the usual 9-5 work day and often well into the evening as well. I’d still have to charge the device back to full overnight - but if I accidentally forgot, I’d usually still have a little bit to go on until I found a power source.
We’re talking nine or ten hours of average use here, though as always, your mileage may vary - particularly if you watch or film a lot of video content.
Sometimes, budget phones can offer better battery life by virtue of their limited processors, though it felt like any gains in battery life that I got from the Nokia 1 Plus came from the fact that using it was such a bad experience, that I found myself actively choosing to use my phone less.
The Bottom Line
The asking price might be cheap, but the Nokia 1 Plus asks you to make plenty of compromises in return.
The feel and form-factor is right here, but performance often leaves too much to be desired. It’s not an uncommon compromise, and in the right situations, I can see it doing the trick. Nevertheless, this feels like a tired refrain.
The Nokia 1 Plus is a budget phone that takes the usual shortcuts, but ends up hitting all the expected roadblocks regardless. It's really good for the price but it doesn't take that much more to get that much better.
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