We had high hopes for the Nokia 3, but the final phone is a bit of a disappointment. We can’t deny that it looks absolutely fantastic for the price, and we’re fans of Nokia’s decision to stick to stock Android, but it’s just cut too many corners on the internal specs to make the 3 stand out amid a fiercely competitive budget smartphone market.
Nokia is back, and with it comes new Android phones. HMD Global, a Finnish startup, is using the Nokia brand to bring the new phones to the market, as well as a reboot of the famous and much-loved Nokia 3310.
Here, we take a closer look at the Nokia 3, the cheapest in the new range. You can also find out more about its bigger siblings in our Nokia 5 review and Nokia 6 review, as well at the latest Nokia 8 and 9 rumours.
Nokia 3: Price & availability
The Nokia 3 is the cheapest phone in the new Nokia Android range, with a price of £129.99. That means we can place the Nokia 3 firmly in the budget smartphone category, where it’s up against the likes of the Moto G5 and the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus, though it’s cheaper than both of those.
The good news is, it’s pretty widely available. You can pick it up SIM-free from Amazon, John Lewis, or Carphone Warehouse, or you can pick it up on contract from just £12.99 per month – with nothing upfront – from Carphone Warehouse.
Nokia 3: Design & build
The Nokia 3 has a 5in, 1280×720 Gorilla Glass screen housed in a compact polycarbonate body, with a rounded aluminium frame that looks impressively premium considering its price tag, and a soft-touch finish to the back of the body.
Obviously that resolution is a little lower than you might hope for these days, but once you factor in the smaller form factor it still delivers 294 pixels per inch, and the visuals are still crisp and bright – this display is only likely to disappoint if you were hoping for a phone to watch movies on.
You might find you prefer the 5in screen size to some of the bigger screens in flagship phones, because it means you can fit the phone comfortably in the palm of your hand. At 143.4×71.4×8.5mm and 143g, most people should find they can use the Nokia 3 one-handed without running into any problems.
The Nokia 3 is available in Tempered Blue, Silver, Matte Black or Copper, and is 8.48mm thick. There is a very, very slight camera bump, but we love how symmetrical the camera, flash and Nokia logo are on the rear of the device, continuing the deceivingly premium look and feel even in those smaller details.
In terms of ports, you’ve got the usual headphone jack, Micro-USB (no USB-C here, we’re afraid), and a microSD slot to expand the on-board storage – though there’s no fingerprint sensor or water-proofing to be found here.
Overall, we’re big fans of the design of the Nokia 3. It’s simple, but it looks great, and people who saw the phone were consistently surprised at how little it cost – this is a phone that looks premium, even if it isn’t.
Nokia 3: Specs & performance
Inside the Nokia 3 is the MediaTek MTK 6737 quad-core 1.4GHz processor paired with 2GB RAM, which is definitely a budget chipset, so don’t expect anything particularly speedy from this handset. In fact you should expect it to run noticeably slowly – we experienced lag running all but the least demanding apps, and any attempt at multi-tasking is nothing more than an exercise in frustration.
That experience is borne out by our benchmarks, which show a phone that struggles to keep up even compared to budget rivals. At only £20-30 more both the Moto G5 and Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus deliver consistently better performance – both in the raw benchmarks and in actual daily use.
Going beyond processing power, there’s 16GB built-in memory with support for up to 256GB more thanks to the microSD card slot.
The non-removable battery is 2,650mAh, which manages a day or so of typical usage without too much trouble, but not much more than that – this is definitely a phone where you’ll be aware of the need to get back to your charger on a daily basis.
Connectivity is better. Micro-USB remains fairly standard for the budget market, and it’s no surprise to see 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi – though Bluetooth 4.0 is a little less expected, rather than the more modern 4.2 standard. Still, there’s one pleasant surprise too: NFC, which drives services like Android Pay, and is rare at this price range. So if you’re on a tight budget but want to pay for coffee with your phone, the Nokia 3 might be your best bet.
The cameras are another serious compromise for the Nokia 3, which features near-identical 8Mp f/2.0 shooters on both the front and rear of the device – the only difference is an LED flash on the back.
The selfie camera will get the job done fine, and is high enough quality for most purposes, but the rear camera is likely to disappoint. Sluggish autofocus makes it tricky to capture fast-moving targets, and photos tend to come out lacking detail:
That’s even apparent in more close-range shots, which never quite seem crisp, and the camera struggles even more when dealing with low light conditions:
The included camera app is also a no-nonsense affair, with a few simple options like HDR, but much in the way of effects or filters.
The video set-up is similarly basic – the quality is fine for a quick Snapchat or a video call, but there’s no image stabilisation, and the quality drops noticeably with any sudden movements.
If you just want a phone camera for Skype calls and taking the occasional photo of your dogs, the Nokia 3 will probably do you fine. But Instagrammers or anyone relying on their smartphone for holiday pics is likely to be disappointed.
Nokia 3: Software
There’s not all that much to say about the Nokia 3’s software, but we think that’s for good reason: it comes with an almost-stock version of Android 7.0 out-of-the-box.
The downside of that is a lack of exciting, novel features; the upside is that you get Google’s smooth, consistent user interface with none of the clutter that other manufacturers often throw into their Android devices.
That’s a relief, because given how sluggish the Nokia 3 often feels as is, it would be a nightmare to have it slowed down even more by bloated software.
One big perk is the inclusion of Google Assistant, the smart Siri rival that’s missing on plenty of more expensive Android devices. You may find that you don’t put it to much use, but it’s likely to be a welcome benefit for some.
Nokia 3: Specs
- Android 7.0 Nougat
- 5.0in 1280×720 IPS touchscreen, 294ppi
- Mediatek MT6737 with quad-core 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU
- Mali-T720MP1 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB storage, microSD support up to 256GB
- 8Mp main camera with f/2.0 autofocus, LED flash
- 8Mp front camera f/2.0 autofocus
- Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Micro-USB 2.0
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- 2,630mAh non-removable lithium-ion battery