The Nokia 3, the most affordable of the three new Nokia-branded Android smartphones, was launched in India last month. It is the first smartphone with the Nokia name to hit the Indian market in a long time, but it’s worth pointing out that it hasn’t been manufactured by Nokia itself. The company that once dominated global smartphone sales is getting a second shot at the mobile business thanks to a brand licensing agreement with HMD Global, a Helsinki-based company run largely by former Nokia and Microsoft employees. As per the deal announced last year, HMD Global has an exclusive global license to create and sell Nokia-branded phones for 10 years. The company has been betting heavily on the Nokia brand’s power, and fans have been looking forward to the devices which are now finally here.
The rebooted Nokia 3310 was the first to be made available in India and received mixed response. The other two Android smartphones are the Nokia 5 and Nokia 6, which are yet to be made available in India. These four Nokia phones were the biggest announcements at MWC 2017, but it will only translate into sales if the products are good enough.
HMD Global has been marketing the Nokia 3 to buyers looking for a good design and “pure Android with regular updates” at a budget price. The Nokia 3 has been priced aggressively to take on the some of the heavyweights in the Indian market. However, it will have a tough fight ahead of it, as HMD Global needs to find its place in the Indian market and compete with popular phones like the Xiaomi Redmi 4, Moto G5, and Yu Yureka Black. The Nokia 3 is being marketed as the “Android phone with all the smartphone essentials” but will that be enough? We take a look.
Nokia 3 design
The Nokia 3 arrived at our lab in a playful white retail box which reminded us of the old Nokia days. The phone has a resemblance to the Lumia range of Windows Mobile-powered phones, but only in terms of design as the Nokia 3 runs Android. If you are in the market or searching for a phone online, you will see options priced under Rs. 10,000 with all-metal unibodies and they look more or less similar – whether it’s the Yu Yureka Black or the Xiaomi Redmi 4. In our opinion, the Nokia 3 brings freshness to the budget segment. While the Nokia 3 doesn’t have an all-metal body, the quality of polycarbonate used for the back and its metal frame still make the design good overall. It’s minimalist without feeling cheap.
The feel of the phone in a hand is one of the best we have experienced in this segment. Throughout our review period, we used the Nokia 3 with just one hand without being afraid of dropping it. The squarish shape of the phone offers a great grip from all angles. Our review unit was a Matte Black version of the Nokia 3, and it is also available in Silver White. The power and volume buttons are on the right and were painted black to match the phone’s body.
On the left, you’ll find the dedicated slots for two SIM cards and a microSD card, which is good to see as many other manufacturers offer hybrid slots at this price point. The bottom has the standard charging port plus a speaker grille, while the top has the 3.5mm audio jack. If you look closely, antenna bands are visible on the top and bottom of the Nokia 3, but they blend in with the colour of the phone. There are Nokia logos on the front as well back, just like older Nokia devices.
Typing on this phone was easy enough, and at 8.48mm thick, it’s actually thinner than the Redmi 4, but the latter has a much bigger battery. During the review period, we found that the power and volume rocker buttons were placed slightly too high and we had to stretch to reach them while using the phone with one hand. We also missed a fingerprint scanner, which has become almost a standard feature on smartphones, even at this price level. We feel that this is a significant omission for the Nokia 3. The capacitive Android navigation buttons are not backlit which means you could have a hard time finding them in the dark.
Inside the Nokia 3 retail box, you will get a quick start guide, earphones, a charger, USB cable, and a SIM ejector tool apart from the phone itself.
Nokia 3 specifications and software
The Nokia 3 features a 5-inch IPS LCD screen with a resolution of 720×1280 pixels and 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass. The phone is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6737 SoC coupled with 2GB of RAM. It has 16GB of storage which can be expanded using a microSD card (up to 128GB). There are 8-megapixel cameras at the front and back. The rear camera features an f/2.0 aperture, autofocus, and an LED flash. The front camera, on the other hand, also has autofocus and an 84-degree field of view. The phone packs a non-removable 2630mAh battery. 4G and VoLTE (voice over LTE) are supported, and connectivity options include USB-OTG, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.
The Nokia 3 is among few smartphones in the budget category to offer stock Android Nougat. It offers all the bells and whistles one can expect from a stock Android device such as bundled notifications where users get group notifications from a single app instead of multiple ones; the ability to reply to messages from the notification pop-up; notification management, which allows users to disable or silence notifications from individual apps; quick app switching with just a double-tap on the Overview button, and an all-new Settings app. Split-screen multitasking, which allows you to use two apps simultaneously, is also supported. The Nokia 3 supports Google Assistant out-of-the-box, which is yet to arrive on many other phones in the same price segment.
Apart from monthly security updates, HMD Global has also promised that the Nokia 3 (as well as the Nokia 5 and Nokia 6) will receive Android O when it’s available.
Nokia 3 performance and camera
The Nokia 3 fares well in day-to-day usage. Despite using it for GPS navigation and long gaming sessions, the phone didn’t get warm, which is another advantage of the polycarbonate back.
However, we felt could feel the phone slowing down a bit while multitasking and we experienced some lags when switching from one app to another when there were over 12 apps open in the background. The phone was able to handle light games with ease, but graphics-heavy ones like Need for Speed: No Limits did slow down, which was annoying. The phone was able to play a range of video and audio files without any hiccups.
The single loudspeaker works well enough in a small room, and its clarity is decent. The bundled earphones are also good enough. We like to point out that the Nokia 3 is one of only a few phones that actually has bundled earphones in the box.
The 5-inch display on the Nokia 3 has excellent colour reproduction and brightness. We liked watching videos on the Nokia 3 and felt that this is among the better screens we’ve seen in the budget segment in terms of sunlight legibility and viewing angles. It’s worth pointing out, however, that phones such as the Yu Yureka Black offer full-HD screens at prices lower than the Nokia 3.
The Nokia 3 didn’t really impress us with its benchmark results. It managed only 27,432 in AnTuTu, 15,020 overall in Quadrant, and 10fps in GFXBench. The Xiaomi Redmi 4 (Review) and Yu Yureka Black (Review) gave better results in the same tests.
The 8-megapixel rear camera does okay in good lighting conditions, and autofocusing is quick as well. The samples we took in good light turned out to have decent levels of detail and controlled noise in the corners when zoomed in. However, we found that darker parts of the samples did lose details while large areas were often overexposed. At times, there were slight white balance inaccuracies in images as well. The Nokia 3 has an HDR mode though we noticed that it didn’t always kick in when required, and we felt that it could have helped in several cases. Unfortunately, low-light shots came out badly. Autofocus locking was slow, and the samples we took lacked detail while there was a lot of noise all over.
The Nokia 3 supports 1080p video recording, and the quality is decent. The front camera on the phone also disappointed us, as despite its autofocus capability photos still came out blurry. You can use the Nokia 3 for a quick video call or casual selfies, but don’t expect a lot in terms of quality.
However, we liked the camera app which had a very easy-to-use interface with all major functions accessible in one tap. In beautify mode, the phone tries to improve photos by applying some corrections, but this isn’t always effective.
Nokia 3 battery life
The battery in the Nokia 3 lasted for roughly 16-18 hours of heavy usage which wasn’t a surprise, considering its 2630mAh capacity. We used the phone for roughly a week and we can say that it gave us better battery life when our usage was less demanding. Our HD video loop test lasted for 10 hours and 25 minutes which is good for a phone of this size. There’s no support for fast charging, and it took roughly two hours to get up to 100 percent which is longer than other phones with bigger batteries usually take.
The Nokia 3 is now available in India priced at Rs. 9,499. It is a good-looking smartphone, and also supports 4G with VoLTE. One big positive point is that the company has promised future Android updates. Overall performance and camera results aren’t its biggest highlights. We also missed a fingerprint scanner, which really should be a standard feature now.
In our opinion, the Nokia 3 is best suited for first-time smartphone buyers and those looking for some experience with Android in general – if you can get this offline-only phone at a store near you. At this price, you could also go for the Xiaomi Redmi 4 or the Yu Yureka Black, both of which offer better all-around performance. The Asus ZenFone Live is another contender in the same price bracket.