Nokia. It is not a name which needs any introduction. It is embedded in the memories of everyone who went through the evolution of mobile phones from simple machines used to text and call to these intricate and complex smartphones of today. Unfortunately, with the rise of smartphones, Nokia lost a lot of its ground and was forced to relinquish the control on our digital lives. Going from its aging Symbian OS to a brand new Windows Phone OS, Nokia lost both its market share and its hardware division to Microsoft. Now, after about 5 years, Nokia has a new owner, HMD Global, and it hopes to make a comeback into the smartphone market by piggybacking on the most popular kid in the playground — Android.
Nokia 3 is one of the first of a range of new devices being introduced by Nokia powered by Android. Let’s see if Nokia has learned some lessons from its ghost in the past or if this device is doomed to make the same mistakes as the failed Nokia devices in the past.
- 1.4 GHz Quad-Core Cortex-A53 processor with MediaTek MT6737 chipset
- Mali-T720MP1 GPU
- 2 GB RAM and 16 GB internal storage.
- Android 7.0 Nougat
- 5.0 inches HD (1280 x 720 pixels) IPS LCD
- 8MP front and back camera with f/2.0 focal length
- 2630 mAh battery
Pros and Cons
Before going through with the in-depth review, here are some things which make this phone stand out from the crowd:
- Good battery life
- Decent front and back cameras (excluding occasional erratic behavior, more on that later)
- Sleek design and good built quality
Here is a couple of things which you should keep in mind before purchasing this phone:
- Occasional auto-focus issues, especially in darker environments
- Slightly sluggish performance during resource intensive tasks
What do you get in the box?
- 5V/1A wall adapter with standard USB-A port (no fast charging)
- Standard length USB-A to micro-USB cable
- 3.5 mm hands-free
- SIM Card slot ejector tool
- Warranty information and product guide
Design and build quality
Although Nokia phones are now being made and distributed by HDM global, there is still some sense of familiarity when you pick up the Nokia 3. Similar to Nokia phones of the past, the device supports rounded edges and is very comfortable to hold in hand. The device uses an Aluminum strip which runs across the edges of the device and houses four antenna bands on the top and bottom of the device. The back and front are of the same shade of color and the sleek unibody design with a clean back-cover reminds me of Lumia phones of the past. Although there is nothing extraordinary about the device, it still exudes a sense of thoughtful and premium design, something which isn’t present in abundance in phones of this price category.
The right side of the device houses the volume rockers and the power button, both of which are very tactile and easy to press. Left side is home to the microSD card slot and the SIM card slot. The top side has the 3.5 mm headphone jack and noise cancellation mic, while the micro USB port and the downward firing speakers reside at the bottom of the device.
Nokia has used a 5-inch 720p display in Nokia 3. While some may frown over the exclusion of a FullHD display, you can’t really complain about it at this screen size and price range. The display is plenty sharp and there are no issues regarding grainy texts or pixelation at closer angles. Being an IPS LCD panel, it has good color reproduction and very decent viewing angles. The color temperature is a bit on the cooler side and there doesn’t seem to be any built in method to adjust that. Apart from that minuscule issue, the display does what it’s supposed to do and there shouldn’t be a lot of complaints in this department.
Surprisingly, Nokia 3 runs a near stock version of Android Nougat. The only noticeable additions that I could find in the software were an inclusion of FM Radio app, tweaks to camera application and the option to enroll in Nokia’s software experience program in the settings. Rest is stock and vanilla Android experience. It’s not a bad thing by any measure, I enjoy using stock Android and prefer it over most custom skins and ROMs available today.
All the usual goodies that come with Android Nougat like Google Assistant, Multi-window mode, quick replies in notifications and pixel launcher are all present with the software onboard the Nokia 3. The exact version is Android 7.0 and it is currently not confirmed if it will be upgraded to Android 7.1 in the near future or not.
Performance and battery life
Nokia 3 is powered by a 1.4 GHz Quad-Core Cortex-A53 processor running on a MediaTek MT6737 chipset. There’s also 2 GB of RAM to make sure that multitasking 5-6 apps in the background aren’t too much of a strain on the phone. It’s not a powerhouse by any definition of the word, and this shows up in both the benchmarks results and the real world performance. There won’t be any issues in completing day to day tasks like messaging, using social media or playing some light games, but as soon as you throw something a little heavy on resources, there is a big chance that you might experience some lag. It’s not that bad but you can definitely feel some sluggishness while doing heavier tasks. These are the results from Geekbench and AnTuTu benchmarking applications:
Coming towards its battery life, there is a 2,630 mAh Li-Ion battery powering all the internals in Nokia 3. It’s not an insane amount of juice for a 720p screen and a low to the mid-range chipset, but it gets the job done pretty well. If you charge the phone at night and put it through a day of moderate to heavy usage, it will definitely last 11-12 hours and might still have about 15-20 percent power left at the end of the day. The screen on time lies within the range of 4-6 hours, depending on what kind of applications and tasks are running on it.
Finally, coming towards an exciting aspect of this device, let’s talk about the camera used in this device. The camera has always been a strong suite of Nokia devices in the past. With 8 MP cameras with f/2.0 aperture and autofocus on both the back and front of the device, it seems on paper that Nokia 3 would follow in the footsteps of Nokia phones of past — and it nearly does that. Why nearly? Although the camera used on Nokia 3 is pretty adequate for its price, it does have some issues with over-smoothing the picture after it has been taken and with autofocus in some areas. It seems to lose the focus a lot when used in poorly lit areas. However, if you have the appropriate amount of light, you can expect some pretty good looking shots from this phone. The front camera is very similar to a back camera, with the same focus issue. However, considering that there are very few phones out there in the market which provide auto-focus in front cameras, I can overlook that issue and say that it is a very capable camera for taking selfies or group photos.
The camera app used in Nokia 3 is not the stock Android one. It’s fast to launch and takes pictures very quickly, something which the stock Android camera app sometimes fails to do. There are also some basic setting like HDR and timer which will help a little in taking photos. However, unlike the Nokia camera apps of past, there are not a lot of manual controls like exposure and manual focus.
Review of any phone is not complete without mentioning its price. If we are to measure a 15K phone and a 60K phone with the same yard stick, the budget phones will always be at disadvantage. Before making any conclusion, the launch price of Nokia 3 must be kept in mind. Coming at a price of 16,900 Pakistani Rupees, Nokia 3 provides a lot of value for its money. With a good screen, sleek design, decent camera and battery life, it is definitely worth the money. Although there are a couple of minor issues with auto-focus of the camera and slightly below par performance at times, it is a good purchase for anyone looking for a decently built smartphone with good picture taking capabilities at under 20,000 PKR.