Nokia 3

The Nokia name is experiencing a resurgence in the phone market in 2017 and the latest releases to excite you include the Nokia 6, Nokia 5 and Nokia 3. 

They follow the Nokia 3310 (2017), a ‘reboot’ of the classic feature phone that was launched earlier this year to try and drum up attention for the brand – it’s these new handsets that are the real reintroduction to the market the Nokia brand deserves.

The Nokia 3 is the most affordable of the new range, but still packs a punch with a fantastic design for a low-end device – but does everything else add up on the new phone?

This isn’t, we should make clear, a device created by Nokia as you used to know it. Neither the Finnish company that made the original Nokia 3310, nor Microsoft, which made the Lumia Windows Phone products with Nokia since 2011, are involved in these new handsets.

Startup device manufacturer HMD Global is licensing the Nokia branding for phones, and this is a very different device to what we’ve seen in the past.

Nokia 3 price and release date

  • The Nokia 3 is out now in the UK, but uncertain if it will launch in US or Australia 
  • Costs £129.99 with contracts starting at £12.99 a month 

The Nokia 3 is out now in the UK and costs £129.99 from Carphone Warehouse. Deals for the phone on a contract start at £12.99, making this a very affordable device, although most people will likely buy it outright and use it with a SIM bought separately.

It’s the cheapest of Nokia’s new range of devices, apart from the Nokia 3310 reboot that sits separately to the three main phones.

It's currently uncertain if the phone will be launching in the US or Australia, but if it does we expect prices to be around $ 150/AU$ 200. We'll be sure to update this review when we hear news about release dates around the rest of the world.

Design

  • Premium look despite low price point 
  • Polycarbonate back and metal edges, comes in four color options
  • The power button can be a little hard to hit sometimes 

When you’re in the market for a cheaper device you can usually expect to have to settle for a less-premium build quality, and forgo some of the design quirks of the best-looking devices.

The Nokia 3 doesn’t have the most attractive design, but considering its price point it has a premium feel, great build quality and looks brilliant compared to some of the competition.

It’s a squared design that instantly reminds you of the design of the Windows Phone generation of Nokia devices, but instead of having a bold primary-colored plastic back it has  metal edges that look superb.

Those edges may not be what you want from a phone, though, if you’re a fan of the rounded lines of many other handsets.

The back panel is polycarbonate, but despite that it still has a premium air. The Nokia 3 comes in four color options: black, dark blue (pictured throughout this review) and two options for white; both white variants have a white back panel, with one having white edges and the other a peach-colored rim around the phone.

During our testing we did find the power button on the right-hand side of the phone to be a little small if you have larger fingers and thumbs. That may mean you’ll spend a little bit longer trying to hit that button and not the volume rocker, which is just above it.

On the top edge of the handset sits the 3.5mm headphone jack, which allows you to use wired headsets with the phone, while the bottom edge has a micro USB port in the centre for charging and data transfer.

The phone sits easily in the hand, but the lack of fingerprint scanner on the Nokia 3 means it takes a little longer to unlock than other phones, as you’ll need to press the power button and then use an on-screen unlock.

For comparison, the Moto E4, which is a similar price to this phone, has a fingerprint scanner that makes it a breeze to unlock the phone – but if that’s not a deal-breaker for you then you won’t have a problem here.

Display

  • Small-ish 5-inch screen makes for an easy-to-use screen 
  • Only 720p resolution, but still offers sharp images when watching video 

The Nokia 3 comes with a 5-inch display with a 720p resolution. That equals 294 pixels per inch, which is a bit below what you’d expect on a modern smartphone.

The lower resolution does mean you’re likely to spot the odd pixel compared to a Full HD resolution screen, but considering the price of this phone you shouldn’t be too disappointed with the sharpness of images.

We did find the screen to be a little dull on the Nokia 3. Brightness isn’t particularly impressive compared to other phones, so again the Moto E4, which has a bright display at the same resolution, might be a better option if that’s important to you.

The display on the Nokia 3 is the optimum size though, with the phone sitting comfortably in the hand and all areas of the screen are easy to reach no matter how small your hands are.

Interface and performance

  • Running stock Android 7 software, looks like Google intended
  • Packs MediaTek MT6737 processor, but it's not particularly powerful

 

The Nokia 3 is running the latest Android 7 software right out of the box, and it’s the stock version, so it looks and behaves exactly as Google intends it to. That means there’s no Nokia branding on top, and the phone doesn’t come packed to the brim with Nokia or third-party apps that HMD has decided to put in.

You’ll get all of the new features of Android 7 here, including split-screen mode and the newly designed quick settings pull-down menu, plus it looks great.

Stock Android also allows you to swipe up from the bottom of the homescreen to open up the app drawer and it’s a much smoother experience than on other Android phones where it takes a while to load the app drawer after a tap.

However, performance on the Nokia 3 isn’t fantastic, and you may find yourself getting frustrated with this phone at some points, especially if you’ve used a more expensive phone in the past.

The Nokia 3 boasts a MediaTek MT6737 system-on-a-chip, which is a chip we haven’t seen running on many devices released in the West, with 2GB of RAM to back it up.

On multiple occasions during our time with the Nokia 3 we found apps would take a frustrating amount of time to load, and we experienced some crashes as well.

This was especially noticeable when we were using Android Pay with the NFC sensor on the back of the phone. We regularly found ourselves waiting much longer than we’d expect to with other phones, and in a time-pressured environment, with fellow shoppers shuffling their feet and muttering behind us, it became quite frustrating.

Even undemanding apps such as Twitter or Spotify were regular culprits when it came to crashing – and there’s nothing more  annoying than when you want to complete simple tasks but your phone won’t allow you to.

Benchmarking-wise, we ran the Geekbench 4 software on the Nokia 3 and it turned in a disappointing score of 1,464.

The Moto G5, by way of contrast, managed 2,377, while the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus – a UK-exclusive phone that costs about the same as the Nokia 3 – achieved a score of 2,073.

In conclusion, the Nokia 3 will struggle to load many big-name apps, although all of them will work eventually – you may just have to wait a little while longer than you’d like to.

Movies, music and gaming

  • The Nokia 3 has a 3.5mm headphone jack and a built in FM Radio app
  • Will play most games, but load times will take a long time

It’s unlikely that music and video will be your main focus if you’re planning to buy the Nokia 3, but any major app you want to use to entertain yourself is likely to run well on the Nokia phone.

We found watching films and video on the Nokia 3 an enjoyable experience despite the small and not particularly high-resolution screen.

There’s okay audio through the headphone jack, but sometimes the phone would struggle to maintain the Bluetooth connection – we found we couldn’t move very far from the phone before it would start to cut out, and sometimes it would even struggle in a pocket while walking.

The speakers on the Nokia 3 are not impressive either – there’s only one driver, which you can easily cover with your hand when holding the phone.

The Nokia 3 will be capable of running any video app you install, including Netflix and Amazon, while YouTube and Google Play Movies are pre-loaded on the device.

There’s no specific video app on the phone, so if you plan to upload video files to your phone to watch you’ll be using the generic and easy to use Photos app unless you install a third-party alternative.

We also found listening to music and other audio on the Nokia 3 to be an okay experience, although the sometimes-temperamental Bluetooth connection may cause you the odd issue. If you only plan to use wired headsets, though, you shouldn’t be concerned.

We used Spotify, Audible and podcasting apps, all downloaded from the Google Play Store. The phone’s preinstalled apps will limit you to Play Music, while there isn’t an easy alternative to your favorite podcast apps.

If you’re a fan of listening to the radio on your phone you’ll be glad to find an FM radio app on the Nokia 3 – you’ll need to have a wired headset attached for this to work as it acts as an aerial.

When using the (flimsy and cheap) pair of headphones included in the box with the Nokia 3 we found the FM connection worked well. When you first boot the app up you’ll be able to scan for all the available channels, and switching between these proves easy to do.

It’s probably not a key feature that will encourage you to buy the Nokia 3, but it’s a good alternative service to entertain yourself, especially if you have a limited internet allowance so don’t want to use a internet based radio app on your phone.

Gaming on the Nokia 3 was a surprisingly relaxing experience. Loading times can be a little extended compared to more expensive phones, but most modern games ran smoothly.

We tried out Real Racing 3 and Monument Valley, which ran well on the phone despite the sub-par processor setup for most everyday tasks. Don’t buy this handset if you’re looking for your games to load immediately and play at the optimum level though.

Battery life

  • Features a 2630mAh battery, that doesn't impress with day-to-day usage
  • Scored well in our video battery test

Battery life isn’t a highlight of the Nokia 3, and you won’t be particularly impressed by how long the phone will last on a full charge.

Alarm bells started to ring when we saw the spec list detailing a 2630mAh battery, which isn’t a particularly big cell. It doesn’t have to power too much, as there’s only a 5-inch 720p display and this isn’t an especially power-hungry phone,, but the battery generally doesn’t last that long.

With typical usage of popular apps like Spotify, messaging and social networking throughout the day we found ourselves getting to around 7pm or 8pm and being greeted by a black screen as the phone died – and the Nokia 3 often didn’t alert us when it was close to dying, which was irritating.

Battery saver mode is an option when you get low on juice, but that won’t add too much extra time to your charge.

If you're not a heavy user though, you should find the battery life to be adequate.

The Nokia 3 made it through our battery test, where we run a 90-minute video clip at full brightness and with Wi-Fi enabled, with 84% of its battery life remaining, a loss of 16%. That’s a little better than the Moto E4, which lost 18%, while the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus lost a whole 24%.

When playing video we found the Nokia 3 to do particularly well compared to its competition, but that strong battery life isn’t reflected in real-world usage where it struggled to make it through a whole day.

There’s no fast-charging tech here, so the Nokia 3 will likely take some time to charge up. If you leave it overnight you’ll have a full battery though.

Camera

  • 8MP rear sensor makes sharp images but is slow
  • Front-facing 8MP shooter takes great selfie shots

Chances are if you’re looking at the Nokia 3 you’re not looking forgoing to want a top-of-the-range camera phone – and that's just as well.

Both the rear and front cameras are 8PM units. Neither will particularly impress you though, and we found using the camera on the Nokia 3 frustrating at times.

It’s not very fast at booting up, and also takes quite some time to shoot once you’ve pressed the button, so it’s easy to miss those fleeting opportunities that can often make for great images.

In good lighting, the Nokia 3 manages to take some sharp images, and for an 8MP sensor that’s missing many of the bells and whistles of most modern smartphones it could be a lot worse.

There’s a powerful LED flash for darker shots, which you’ll probably need as the low-light image quality from this phone isn’t very good.

Top-end features such as HDR, 4K video recording or optical image stabilization are nowhere to be seen, so don’t buy this phone if you’re looking for a great camera.

We found video footage to be fairly stable considering the lack of any stabilization tech, but you can only record in low-resolution 720p.

The front camera is a similar affair, but an 8MP lens isn’t as bad if you just plan to take the odd image of your face or use it for video calling sometimes.

Camera samples

The arrival of new Nokia phones is an exciting development for fans of the original Finnish brand, but the Nokia 3 is not the low-end highlight we hoped it would be.

The quality in the sub-£200/$ 260 tier of the smartphone market is improving with almost every release, and new phones such as the Lenovo P2, Moto E4 and even the Nokia 5 put the Nokia 3 to shame.

The Nokia 3 is at the cheaper end of this price bracket, so if you can afford it we’d recommend spending a little more money to get a better phone. 

Who’s this for?

The Nokia 3 is aimed at first-time smartphone buyers, and anyone looking to spend the least amount possible on their new phone but still have access to all their apps, along with the features you’d expect to see at this price point.

If you love the design, and want a high-end looking phone without paying high-end money, you may want to go for the Nokia 3 – but you’ll also get a slightly more premium look for only a little extra cash with the Nokia 5.

Anyone who's invested in the idea of a Nokia phone, but doesn't want to indulge their nostalgia at the expense of performance and features, may also want to opt for the Nokia 5.

Should you buy it?

If you’re able to spend a little bit extra, there are several alternative phones we’d recommend over the Nokia 3.

The Nokia 5, Moto G5 and Moto E4 are likely in your reach, and all offer a better camera and better performance, and don’t cost all that much more.

Everything works on the Nokia 3, but its slow performance with everyday tasks will likely mean you’re bugged by the fact that you didn’t spend that extra bit of money. We think you’ll enjoy a better phone experience with one of the alternatives we’ve listed below.

First reviewed: July 2017

Competition

Want an alternative budget phone to the Nokia 3? Here are three of our top picks that may suit you.

Moto G5

Motorola’s mid-range wonder will cost you a little bit more than the Nokia 3, but overall it’s a more attractive and well-built package.

We loved the part-metal design, which is similar to the look of the Nokia 3, as well as its crisp Full HD display. 

You’ll also get a fingerprint scanner for your extra money, which is something the Nokia 3 is lacking. For only £30 or $ 40 more, the Moto G5 offers a lot more features.

Nokia 5

The Nokia 5 costs a touch more than the Nokia 3 too, but it comes with a few extra features that you may think are worth paying for.

There’s a slightly more premium build quality, a lot more power under the hood, and a fingerprint scanner below the screen.

The Nokia 5 still has a few issues of its own, including just 16GB of storage and a 720p display rather than Full HD, but overall it’s a better option than its cheaper sibling.

Moto E4

If you’re looking for a phone for around the same price as the Nokia 3 (if you’re living in the UK), you’ll want to take a look at the Moto E4. You may even be able to get it for a little less money, and again you’ll get a fingerprint scanner.

You’ll enjoy good build quality, as well as Android 7 software and a swappable battery, making the E4 a compelling alternative to the Nokia 3 for your next phone.

TechRadar – Technology Reviews

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