Nokia 1 is an honest, reliable $149 entry-level phone (review)

Nokia 1

The Nokia 1 is a $149 phone aimed at the unlocked, pre-paid sim market. Its quality and heritage alone make it a good buy. But more than that. With the right use case it is more than fit for purpose.

I admit to being a little perplexed at how to review a $149 phone. What should my expectations be? Does it need to take great photos or play music? Well no, it does not, so any of these things are a bonus.

A $149 phone is just as crucial to its buyer as a $1000 phone is to someone better off. While it is back to basics, reliability needs to be right up there.

A $149 smartphone should

  • Be reliable and take a knock or three
  • Use a pre-paid sim from any MVNO or carrier (not locked to a carrier)
  • Make and receive calls, SMS and have good reception – a real bonus if it has 4G
  • Handles email, calendar, contacts
  • Takes adequate photos (unless you are a ‘photo-phile’)
  • Battery should last at least a day
  • The screen is reasonably outdoors readable

Sure a $149 phone will reach its limits faster than other phones. Anything else is a bonus.

The Nokia 1 met or exceeded all those paradigms.

Nokia 1 – In the box

  • The phone
  • USB 5V/1A charger
  • Micro-USB to USB-A cable
  • Basic earbuds/mic
  • And a removable 2150mAh battery.

The first impression is a small, plastic, almost toylike phone with big bezels. Insert the battery, charge it and up comes Android 8.1 Go Edition. I like the grippy feel and the smaller 4.5” 16:9 fits well in-the-hand.

Specifications – Nokia 1 Model TA-1079 (single sim for Australia)

There is only one specification that matters – price. Can it do a good job for $149?

Rather than go through the full suite of tests and a lengthy review (which we did anyway), GadgetGuy’s comments below encapsulate our findings.

 Nokia 1 TA-1079 SS (Black with white highlights)GadgetGuy comments
Screen4.5”, 854 x 480, 16:9 ratio, 218ppi, IPS screen
5-finger touch. 24-bit for 16M colours.
61.8% S-T-B-R.
Plastic screen has no ‘toughened’ glass so can scratch.
250nits and contrast 2000:1 makes it just daylight readable.
Colours are vibrant but not accurate.
ProcessorMediaTek MT673M ARM-A53
Four-core 1.1GHz
Media Tek calls it the most cost-effective all-in-one solution. Many sub-$250 phones use it.
The adage – never use a four-cylinder to tow a caravan!
There were some lags, but overall it did well.
GPUMali-T720MP1Will play basic low fps games like Angry Bird
8GB eMMC (5GB free)
MicroSD slot it 128GB.
Android Go is for 1GB. Yes, it can be laggy, but overall it’s pretty good.
MicroSD for both internal or external memory and apps
Rear Camera5MP, 2592 x 1944 pixels
LED flash
HDR (can slow things down – disable it)
1280x720p@30fps (.92MP)
Passable daylight photos but limited depth of field.
The video is ‘rough’ at .92MP
Front Camera2MP, 1600 x 1200 pixels
No, fill or LED flash
480p@30fps (.32MP)
Fixed focus and low MP means selfies are adequate. Video frame rate regularly drops to 15fps
CommsWi-Fi N 2.4GHz only
Bluetooth 4.2
FM radio
60Mbps download
A-GPS works but lacks a compass or finer location position. Maps Go version lacks turn-by-turn navigation.
SoundEarpiece speaker
Rear-firing speaker vented through Express cover
3.5mm audio jack
One Mic
Fine for calls.
Handsfree gets the ‘tunnel effect’.
70dB volume is adequate
Don’t expect any bass – it is for voice only
IP RatingIP52 (drip protection)All you need
OtherMicro-USB connector
OTG support
Fine. OTG works well with Windows and Mac
Battery2150mAh removable battery BV-5V
USB 5V/1A charger
Expect all-day 24+hrs life.
We exhausted it in 10 hours of hard use.
Recharge is four hours. The chip supports the use of 2-3A chargers for faster charging (not tested)
LTELTE Cat 4 150/50Mbps
single sim plus microSD slot
Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40
The chip supports VoLTE, VoWi-Fi depending on the carrier.
Higher quality than expected and all Australian bands.
Download reached 65Mbps at 4 bars signal strength.
VoWi-Fi is vital for small cell use.
Dimensions133.6 x 67.8 x 9.5 mm x 131gLight in the pocket
OSAndroid 8,1 (Go Edition for basic phones)
Google manages all updates until the hardware cannot handle it.
Google Assistant
Special “Go’ versions of Google apps for power and memory management.
This is a ‘lite’ version that only loads what is needed. Otherwise, the experience is the same. Some apps simply can’t run.
ColoursExpress polycarbonate changeable covers
Warm Red, Dark Blue and other colours
Plastic without looking cheap
MissingLet’s no go there 

GadgetGuy’s take

How much can you expect from an entry-level phone?

The Nokia1 provides more than I expected. It is a competent phone, hardy, the screen is OK, and battery life should give a full 24-hour day.

I did not mind Android Go, but compromises are evident. But I think I would spend more to get pure Android One on the Nokia 3 or Moto e5.

OK, If I had $149 and wanted a phone that is a step above a disposable, this is it. I would give it to kids and elderly parents.


$149 from Harvey Norman.

Value for money
Ease of Use
Good value as an entry level phone with Android Go
It is what it is