Nokia 3 review – a nice budget smartphone, but also it could be better 

- Adrian Ungureanu

For more than a week we’ve been playing with Nokia 3, one of the first smartphones since Nokia’s rebirth on the market, after almost two years of absence after their break up with Microsoft. 

The phones are now produces by HMD Global, a Finnish start-up that will make Nokia-branded phones for the next 10 years. Even though it sounds like a different company, it ain’t because HMD is founded by former Nokia employees, some of them with more than 20 years as part of the company that dominated the mobile phones industry at the end of the ’90s and the beginning of the 2000s. So, we’re practically speaking about a company that shares Nokia’s vision.

HMD and Nokia introduced three smartphones already, Nokia 3, 5 and 6 and a modern version of the legendary Nokia 3310. While Nokia 6 was the first smartphone launched by the two Finnish companies, Nokia 3 is the first one to go global, as Nokia 6 was available only for a few flash sale rounds in China. We’ve got one Nokia 3 from HMD Global to test it and it’s time to share our impressions about it.

Flagship-ish design
Even though Nokia 3 is the cheapest of the new smartphones introduced in the first half of the year, the guys at Nokia and HMD didn’t make any cuts in Nokia 3’s design. They actually did a great job. First time we’ve took it out of the box we’ve got a premium impression. It sports a 5-inch HD display, protected by a fairly nice laminated protective panel (Gorilla Glass) that gives Nokia 3 some extra-points in elegance. It’s slim and light and it is reinforced with a metal frame that also boosts its elegance. The premium sensation is fading away as soon as you touch the back of the phone. The plastic back lid is a dead giveaway and you lose that premium feeling that you had before.

Overall, the design is great for an entry-level smartphone and we like it.

The specs brings us back to earth
While aesthetically Nokia 3 is a pleasant surprise, specs-wise you won’t get any wrong impressions. Under its elegant case we find a rather modest 1.4 GHz quad-core processor on a MediaTek chipset, 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB internal storage. There’s also a dedicated microSD card slot. Which is a bonus, because most smartphone makers, choose for their smartphones the hybrid trays that “kills” one of the SIM slots when you insert a microSD, so you lose the dual-SIM feature. But that’s not the case with Nokia 3.

When going to camera department, we find an 8MP rear camera and another 8MP at the front. But they’re both quite modest. While snapping pretty good photos when there’s enough light, in darker places or at night the quality drops drastically. There’s a big difference and it’s disappointing. I don’t see any selfie fans trying to take photos of them selves at night, nor photography enthusiasts trying to capture any beautiful night scenes. Check the gallery to see for yourselves.

The pure Android experience, not so thrilling at all
Nokia and HMD promised to deliver their phones with the purest Android OS experience. No UIs, no “crapware” and they kept their promise. There are so many smartphones that are delivered with different UIs installed and tweaked by their makers that you can’t get the test the true Android experience very often, so we had high hopes that it should be good. While it wasn’t completely bad, it’s pretty clear that Google still can improve the Android in many areas. Sometimes you get it why the smartphone makers feel the need to tweak the OS and add their own user interfaces.

Yeah, maybe Nokia 3 doesn’t have top specs, but since there’s nothing to interfere with the pure Android 7.0 Nougat, the lag is quite noticeable, the more demanding apps are having real difficulties in running. For instance,  I lost count of how many times the YouTube app crashed.

Personally, I was expecting for a smoother and more fluent experience and it wasn’t. It really makes you ask yourself: Is this the true Android experience?! Yeah, you might be among the first users to get the new updates from Google, but is that enough?!

When it comes to the simple tasks, Nokia 3 does its job and one good think about it is its battery. 2,630 mAh is more than enough for its specs and it really provides a full day of usage.

Nokia is sold around the world a prices equivalent to €130/$150 or are offered free by carriers at inexpensive contracts. Taking in consideration the design, the specs, the clean Android 7.0 Nougat version and its price, Nokia 3 might be the perfect choice for a first-time smartphone user or for someone who wants a second smartphone or for someone who needs a phone for jobs based of making phone calls, sending messages or emails.

As far as it goes about Nokia and HMD ambitions, maybe after we’ll test all their smartphones, including the much anticipated Nokia 8 and Nokia 9, we’ll surely be able to tell if Nokia will be coming back at the top of the industry as the officials of the two companies promised.