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Nokia 3.1 Plus review: Android One at its best

Teams excellent build quality with practical dimensions and a really good screen. The simple-to-use Android One software seals the deal.

Pros

  • Large screen
  • Incredible battery life
  • Clean Android experience

Cons

  • No fast-charging
  • Micro-USB port

First impressions and design

  • Brushed aluminium body
  • Big and beautiful
  • Old-fashioned Micro USB port

Nokia 3.1 unboxed back hero size

The Nokia 3.1 Plus, an Android One device, is a new entrant in the increasingly busy market of budget phones with large screens.

As with many of the latest releases from the relaunched Nokia brand, it is reassuringly solid and well put together.

The matte, soft-feel surface of the brushed aluminium body feels looks and feels premium. And we’ve found it does a great job at dealing with daily life without collecting scuffs and smudges.

Nokia 3.1 back on table hero size blue

The top and bottom of the device are capped with plastic but you hardly see any difference with the aluminium back.

Nokia 3.1 back camera lens fingerprint scanner in hand hero size

The Nokia 3.1 Plus is pleasant to handle with no hard corners.

The aluminium body wraps the phone with uninterrupted curves all the way to the edge of the screen.

The only hard metal trims are found around the camera lenses and fingerprint sensor, located at the back.

Nokia 3.1 back close up hero size

The fingerprint sensor, located at the back is small but well positioned. The solid metal trim around the protruding camera does a good job of protecting the lenses.

All buttons are on the right side and have the same smooth feel as the rest of the body. Nokia has not abandoned the audio jack which, consistent with their other models, is located on the top right.

At 180g and over 8mm thick, the Nokia 3.1 Plus feels hefty but the weight is well distributed and overall size is acceptable given the generously sized screen.

Nokia 3.1 charging ports hero size

There’s Micro-USB instead of the modern reversible USB-C but it is a compromise we’re happy to make on a budget device.

Build Brushed aluminium and plastic
Weight 180g
Dimensions 156.9 x 76.4 x 8.2 mm

Screen and sound

  • No screen notch
  • Wide 18:9 cinematic ratio
  • Low resolution but pleasantly large screen

Rather than the narrow 19:9 frame found on many competitors, the Nokia 3.1 Plus has a wider 18:9 ratio that Nokia calls “Cinematic”. As well as being the closest we have to a universal aspect ratio for videos, it’s a practical size if you like plenty of space for content. And if you value a display that can accommodate bigger text and watch YouTube trailers without squinting, this is one of the best budget options.

Nokia 7.1 and 3.1 comparison

The Nokia 3.1 Plus with its wide 6-inches screen next to the 5.8-inch Nokia 7.1 model that has a slightly narrower 19:9 ratio.

The display has plenty of brightness and the relatively low HD+ resolution is hardly a problem given its large size.

Colour reproduction is of course not quite as good as the one found in the more high-end Nokia 7.1 which comes with a higher Full-HD+ resolution and a high pixel density. But it’s still pretty great for the price.

The display also supports “Adaptive Brightness” mode, on by default, that optimises brightness level for the environment light.

Meanwhile, the sound from the speaker is loud and pretty immersive.

Size 6 inches
Resolution 720 x 1440 pixels
Technology IPS LCD

Camera

  • Great depth sensor
  • Excellent Live Bokeh mode
  • Easy-to-use Macro photography mode

The main 13-megapixel at the back is paired with a 5-megapixel Depth Sensor with a smaller aperture. The camera app has plenty of shooting modes including a Live Bokeh for soft background portraits and even a Manual mode.

While I usually dismiss the Manual or Pro modes on smartphones as fiddly at best, the Manual mode in the Nokia 3.1 does away with confusing dials for manual focus and ISO and instead offers surprisingly easy-to-use control. It can be used to set the White Balance (Colour Temperature), increase or decrease exposure levels and a toggle between Auto/Macro/Infinity.

Close-ups can produce very impressive results. White Balance is a lifesaver especially for indoor photography where there can be a mix of natural and warm-coloured artificial light.

But it’s the macro toggle that really steals the show by letting you take some amazingly detailed close-up shots. This is ideal when taking pictures of small labels or small objects.

I was very impressed by the level of detail in Macro Mode.

Video recording is limited to 1080p resolution and include options for slow-motion and time-lapse.

Bokeh mode is unusually good for such a budget device, even when the light is not ideal. We’ve found you get the best results by using the slider that appears when choosing “Live Bokeh” to make sure that the previewed result looks great.

Camera Main camera: 13 MP, f/2.0. Selfie camera: 5 MP, f/2.4 with Flash and HDR
Optical image stabilisation No
Unique features Manual mode with Macro option

Performance and battery life

  • Excellent battery life
  • Low processing power
  • Limited storage

The Nokia 3.1 Plus is designed to prioritise energy efficiency over processing power.

It is fitted with the Helio P22 processor that excels in energy efficiency and offers a good balance between performance and consumption.

Internet browsing is smooth and there is generally no lag when switching between apps. You won’t have any problem running casual games like Pako 2 or even Clash of Clans.

If you’re wondering how such a budget-friendly phone with entry-level specs can run so smoothly, it’s mostly thanks to Android One.

The Android operating system is usually adapted to deliver a personalised experience unique to each brand. But instead of developing its own, Nokia has instead made the very sensible decision to adopt a no-frills system developed by Google. And it works like a dream.

Android One is designed to offer all the essential tools to run a phone smoothly.

All of the necessary apps are pre-installed and of course there’s nothing you can’t find in a good quality third party app from the Play Store. And in return, you get a refreshingly clean, easy to navigate interface.

What’s more, you get all the advantages to the Google app ecosystem.

Our pick is the free high-res storage for your pictures and videos on Google Photos, which integrate seamlessly with the Nokia 3.1 camera app. And it allows you to edit, share albums and even order printed photo books.

Of course the AI-powered Google Assistant is available and can be used to recognise voice controls and interact with Google Assistant powered smart-home devices.

The advantages of a pure software approach are not just limited in the efficient use of resources. Most importantly, Android One guarantees up to 3-years of prompt security updates and 2-years of OS upgrades as they become available.

Nokia 3.1 gaming screen hero size

Nokia 3.1 Plus runs games without lag.

Nokia 3.1 gaming

Some games let you choose lower quality graphics for an even smoother experience.

Fingerprint unlocking is surprisingly fast and we’ve found very little problem with its speed and reliability, even compared with more expensive models such as the Nokia 7.1.

Face unlock is also available but it's not included in the initial setup. Instead it’s part of the standard Android system and hidden under the “Smart Lock” section within the “Security and Location” settings.

It may not always be more convenient than fingerprint-unlock due to the fact that it requires you to press the power button to activate the screen, and then swipe to unlock but it is fast to set up and incredibly reliable, even in low light conditions.

Apps such as Email and Google Maps work flawlessly.

Nokia 3.1 homescreen

The low-resolution screen allows for increased battery life.

The Nokia 3.1 Plus offers great battery life and it is one of the few budget phones out there that we can confidently recommend if long battery life is a priority.

In our test, the 3500mAh battery lasted almost two full days of casual use based on internet browsing, texting, some light gaming and the occasional YouTube video.

The 32GB of onboard storage can be boosted by MicroSD card to add an extra 400GB of storage if necessary.

RAM 3GB
Battery capacity 3,500 mAh
OS and version Android 8.1 (Oreo)

Value and verdict

  • Large battery and energy-efficient processor and screen makes the phone last all day
  • Great build quality and a large screen at a bargain price
  • One of the best cameras we’ve seen on a budget device

In the very competitive market of budget phones, the Nokia brand, now back in Finnish hands with HMD Global, should be the first port of call if you’re looking for good design, solid build quality and a no-nonsense approach to software.

The Nokia 3.1 Plus knows exactly what it wants to be: a very cost-effective smartphone with a large screen, good battery life and a clean Android experience.

Compromises have been made, of course, but its limitations are consistent with its design principles and overall this is a very good buy at around £180 SIM-Free.

Colour choice? We’d definitely go for the striking Blue version featured in this review.

Category: Reviews
Tagged: nokia
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