Nokia 3.1 Review: Nokia could have done better

The Nokia 3.1 started selling in the country in June this year. HMD Global is selling it at Ksh.15,999 and the device is a complete upgrade, especially in terms of design from the earlier Nokia 3.

Remember the Nokia 3 was Nokia’s flagship ‘’budget’ device when Nokia relaunched as an Android smartphone brand back in 2017. That’s before the Nokia 1 came along at the 2018 Mobile World Congress (MWC). The Nokia 1 was unveiled in Kenya in April, selling at a reduced price of Ksh.7,999.

The Nokia 3.1 is an Android One device and according to the company, it promises a refined design with more power than the original Nokia 3. The device is undeniably a budget-friendly device but even with the impressive design, it is a phone I would? Well, this is one of the things I wanted to find out from the review unit that was sent to us by the company.

What’s in the box?

The Nokia 3.1 come in a white box with a clear photo of the Nokia 3.1 splashed at the front.


Inside the box, you have the phone itself and the usual accessories, which include a SIM eject tool, a 5W wall charger, MicroUSB cable, headset and some documentation.

Design and Display

As I mentioned earlier the Nokia 3.1 design is quite an upgrade from what we saw with the Nokia 3. The device has a more refined approach to its look, that’s largely due to the fact that Nokia decided to shift from a 16.9 display through to an 18.9 one. Well, this should not actually surprise us. This shift is one if the top smartphone trend we have seen in 2018.

Still, the Nokia 3.1 design is really nice. The phone comes with a 5.2-inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 720 pixels and 1440 pixels and is 138.3g in weight giving it a light feel in the hand.

The HD+ display on the Nokia 3.1 isn’t quite as bright and colourful or detailed as I had expected. Compared to other options available out there, Nokia should have done better, but for the most part, it gets the job done. Nokia also ditched the capacitive buttons we saw on the Nokia 3 and instead decided to go for in-display buttons with the Nokia 3.1.

You also get an aluminium frame with slanting edges and a matte polycarbonate back cover. I loved the cover because its resistant to smudges.

The SIM and MicroSD trays on the Nokia 3.1 are on the left, power and volume controls on the right, the headphone jack on top, the MicroUSB and loudspeaker are all at the bottom. No major changes here from the predecessor. There’s no fingerprint sensor and the phone still uses the older MicroUSB charging standard. How I wish it came with a USB C, considering the type C charging standard is already starting to creep down to the budget-friendly smartphones.

Check more photos of the device on our Instagram page.

The cameras

When it comes to the cameras, the Nokia 3.1 delivers what we have seen in previous devices, sometimes producing powerful images. Remember Nokia premium and mid-range cameras trade on their partnership with ZEISS, a partnership that was unveiled in 2017. Unfortunately, Nokia is yet to being those premium lenses down to the budget-friendly devices like the Nokia 3.1.

The device comes with a single 13-megapixels rear sensor, while the selfie shooter is 8-megapixels f/2.0 sensor. Well, honestly, the Nokia 3.1’s camera is a little disappointing, even for a budget-friendly smartphone.

Well, you’re really going to work hard to get decent shots with the Nokia 3.1 even in the reasonable light. The camera is also very slow to start and focus as well. Below are two sample shots I took with the device. More photos are available on our Instagram page.


Nokia 3.1 Performance

The Nokia 3.1 comes with a MediaTek Helio 6750 processor, an upgrade from the quad-core Mediatek MT6737 we saw on the Nokia 3. The device also has the advantage of being an Android One phone which is in line with most of the recent smartphones we have seen coming from Nokia.

Google first introduced Android One in 2014 and was mainly targeted at low-end devices especially in developing countries. The programme has ever grown and Android One phones are no longer exclusive low-end or entry-level or targeting developing markets. Google is now partnering with bigger brands and more expensive phones are now Android One. The devices offer clean Google interfaces with limited clutter and Google also promises at least two years worth of software upgrades.

The Nokia 3.1 also comes with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage which seriously affects the phone’s performance. It’s 2018 and any smartphone coming with 2GB of RAM is just a NO!

For the storage as I mentioned you get 16GB which again is disappointing. Why? After letting Google my accounts sync to my Nokia 3.1 review unit and some of my apps restore from the could, a huge chunk of space was already used up. The system itself uses around 9GB meaning I had only 7GB to use and had to be careful on what I download just to make sure I don’t run out of storage. You, however, have an option of adding an SD card for more storage.

The performance is not smooth and consistent like, of course, this is due to the limited RAM. Apps take too long to open, there’s also so much sluggishness when you try to multitask. I tried listening to music in the background while swapping between apps, and I had to wait for multiple seconds for each app to open. Well, you definitely cannot multitask with the Nokia 3.1. I hope the 3GB RAM and 32GB of storage model being sold in other markets will provide better performance, but for the Nokia 3.1, it’s quite disappointing. Remember there are other smartphone options in the same price range that offer 3GB of RAM alongside a faster processor.

Nokia 3.1 battery

Most of the budget smartphones I have used this year always offered me exceptional battery life. The Nokia 3.1 comes with a 2990 mAh battery capacity, I had actually expected it to come with more than that. I had no problems going through a full day of use and ending up with about 15% battery. I loved the fact that the Nokia 3.1 is really good with standby battery life, that’s if you’re not using it, it hardly drained the battery.

Would I recommend it?

Well, the Nokia 3.1 is a good upgrade from the previous Nokia 3, especially in terms of design. The design is considerably more pleasant to use, the processor is also better.

The Nokia 3.1 is, however, a let down in terms of performance compared to its competitors in the market. Nokia should also have done better with the camera. There are so many available options out there right now but if you’re a die-hard Nokia fan on a tight budget then the device is worth considering.

Pricing and Availability

The device is available for Ksh 15,999. You can buy it on Jumia or Nokia authorized retailers across the country. If you’re in Nairobi here is a list of shops you can buy the phone together with other latest Nokia devices.

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Nixon Kanali

Tech journalist based in Nairobi. I track and report on tech and African startups. Founder and Editor of TechTrends Media. Nixon is also the East African tech editor for Africa Business Communities. Send tips to

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