I’m a sucker for punishment. I really am. In the era of smartphones that are more powerful than computers, I decided to settle for less. Much less. Back to basics in fact. Only I’m not sure what the definition of “basic” is anymore. You see, I agreed to review the MYR300 Nokia 1.
I took up the challenge to spend an entire day, and a work day at that, with the diminutive Nokia 1.
Would I be too cool for #oldskool? Would I love it? Would I hate it? Is “cheap and cheerful” a myth? We’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?
But first, let’s have a quick look at what the Nokia 1 offers. You can also dive deeper in my earlier announcement post.
The Nokia 1 doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not. It’s everyone’s starter smartphone. Specs are nothing to shout about, certainly, but from the looks of it, not overly-crippling.
There’s a familiar quad-core 1.1GHz MediaTek MT6737M chip underneath, 1GB of RAM and “basic” 8GB of storage. Thankfully, there’s microSD expansion via a dedicated slot.
It comes with a 4.5-inch FWVGA (854×480) display and a removable 2,150mAh battery (how cool is that?) that charges up via micro-USB.
Expectedly, it’s bottom barrel in terms of optics – a 5MP rear camera with LED flash and a surprising inclusion of a 2MP selfie shooter. At least it isn’t VGA.
The ultimate 90s throwback though, is the customisable Xpress-on covers. My unit came in red, with the other option being black.
Aesthetically, I’d describe it as “cute” and it feels good in the hand, albeit slightly microscopic compared to today’s slew of gargantuan devices.
The beauty of the Nokia 1 though, is Android Oreo “Go Edition”. Android Go – the “light” edition of Android is designed to run better, quicker on phones less than 1GB of RAM. The entire OS is lighter and also includes “Go” edition apps like YouTube Go, Gmail Go, Maps Go and Gboard Go. There’s even Google Assistant, so you’re really getting the full suite of Google’s tools and apps out-of-the-box.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s see how my day went with the Nokia 1.
Disclaimer: I still had my iPhone 8 Plus with me, but only for documenting the entire experience (taking photos of the Nokia 1).
I made sure to charge up the battery the night before so I unplugged it when I woke up. At this stage, the phone has not been turned on yet, having unboxed the night before. I realized I hadn’t slotted in a SIM or microSD card, so I did this right after my shower.
For testing purposes, I used my Yoodo SIM and a new 32GB microSD card.
I spent the next half an hour or so setting up the device – powering up, connecting to Wi-Fi, logging in to my Google account, and installing apps I anticipated I’d need for the day.
Since the phone already had the entire suite of Google apps, all I needed was install the essentials in my life – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and the Yoodo app. I know, priorities, right?
This is the usual time my wife and I leave home for work. Living smack in the middle of Old Klang Road, where daily nightmarish traffic is a norm, we found that 9.15-9.30AM was the sweet spot for starting the journey. Considering that traffic peaks between 8.00-9.00AM, leaving earlier in the morning for work is a pointless exercise.
I fire up Maps Go for navigation only to realise it doesn’t have turn-by-turn navigation. Drats, I thought. So, while the car warmed up to optimal temperature, I proceeded to download both Google Maps and Waze to the Nokia 1.
With 4G, downloads didn’t take long and we were on our way in no time. I used Google Maps for our journey to my wife’s office. Ran without a hitch, although I must say, Waze is my app of choice for my daily commutes.
Oh I grabbed this pic before heading out.
I drop my wife off at work, and I switch to Waze to navigate to the office. There was no noticeable lag or performance issues with either Google Maps or Waze, and I found that they worked as well as they should.
And oh, I dropped the phone.
As I was trying to fit it into the phone holder in the car, it slipped and fell to the floor. In a retro Nokia sort of way, the phone back cover separated from the main chassis from the impact.
Wasn’t an issue though, the part snapped back into place and became whole again. And without a scratch too.
I ask Google Assistant “what’s for breakfast?” He wasn’t much help, so I headed to our usual breakfast/lunch restaurant. At least he’s feeling tip top.
I order toast and half boiled eggs for breakfast and while I waited for food to arrive, I played around with the camera.
It’s actually a whole lot better than I anticipated, although it tends to suffer from shutter lag. Not a surprise considering the price point of this device. The trick is to keep still, very still. Or expect some ghosting.
Selfies are OK, and at least the camera is located at the right place. It even has HDR even though the app offers basic controls at best.
Through breakfast I catch up on the latest news on Twitter and Facebook and browse my site just to see how it looks on the 4.5-inch screen (OK, call it vanity, whatever).
The display I must say isn’t shabby at all. It’s sufficiently bright and crisp, and being an IPS panel, delivers some decent viewing angles.
I intermittently check and respond to my social updates, while I work. My colleagues are a little surprised at my weapon of choice today. I had to explain that this was a challenge, and I told them any rude comments were not welcomed. I didn’t need additional challenges.
Something I needed to get used to pretty quick was the lack of a fingerprint sensor. Or Face Unlock. Of course, it isn’t a huge deal-breaker, just that unlocking with the finger comes almost naturally nowadays and the absence of that threw me off a tad.
PIN it is then.
Over lunch with colleagues, I was joined by someone I hadn’t seen for a long while – gamer girl Ashley Khoo, who’s now working at the same office block as I am.
I took a couple of photos, keeping as steady as I could when I pressed the shutter. There’s softness overall in all photos, and if you pull away too early, you’d end up with pretty light trails. OK, not pretty. Just blurred images.
Our tummies filled with grub, I grab a selfie with Ashley before we bid farewell. I made sure we were in broad daylight so the Nokia 1 wouldn’t have to work too hard to get a good shot.
Back in the office I continue working while intermittently checking on messages, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
I must say that the overall user experience is slick and snappy. The Android Go apps feel very optimised and don’t lack response or speed.
Things do tend to lag when you have more than several apps open at a time and you try to switch between them. I guess that’s to be expected. Still, mighty impressive for a 1GB device.
In between work, I decided to test some games on the device. Feeling ambitious, I downloaded PUBG Mobile, a large app of over 1GB. I know, a little silly but heck, if you don’t try you never know.
It took a little while to download, but once it finished, I fired up the app.
I was greeted with the opening screen and then… No go. I received an error that the game could not run on the device.
Disappointed, I searched Google Play for an alternative.
I found Shadow Fight 3, a Mortal Kombat-style game which looked graphically interesting enough to pick up. The 67MB game surprisingly ran well, with occasional dropped frames. Graphics were of acceptable quality, and audio was sufficiently loud.
I continued on for a bit before I realised I was gaming on the job. To avoid being fired, the Nokia 1 was left to its own devices while I continued to work.
By this time, the Nokia 1 was down to about 10 percent battery life. Not bad at all, considering I’ve been using it like a “regular” smartphone the entire day. Screen on time usage was over three hours, with about 10 hours usage in total from a single charge.
So, it was time to say goodnight to the little one.
Honestly, I went in with low expectations. The experience is akin to having a BMW as a daily driver, then switching to a Perodua Axia for the day. It’s far slower, it can’t corner as well, nor will it offer an engaging ride.
But like the Axia, the Nokia 1 will get you where you need to go, eventually. It does the basics well, and while I’m not the target market for this device, it will be perfect for someone just starting out on a smartphone, or a young teen or the old folks who want something simple.
That said, I’m a little surprised at how full-featured it actually is. I mean, I didn’t feel crippled using the device, and the Android Go experience is remarkably solid.
If Nokia set out to build the ultimate starter smartphone, I think they may have just done it with the Nokia 1.
Where to get one
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- Samsung releases cheaper, more colourful Galaxy S20 for fans
- #buyforimpact: MaGIC & Lazada partner to promote socially-conscious buying
- Proton X50: Pre-orders kick-off on Malaysia Day
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