The Nokia 3.1 is one of HMD Global's newest budget phones, positioned between the Android Go-equipped Nokia 2.1 and the mid-range Nokia 5.1. The phone was announced in May of this year, and went on sale in the United States earlier this month.

All the hallmarks of recent Nokia devices are present, including great build quality, a stock Android experience, and good specifications for the price. HMD Global had to make some cuts to reach the sub-$160 price point, like dropping the fingerprint sensor, but I think the Nokia 3.1 is still a solid device.

Specs

OS Android 8.0 Oreo
Display 5.2-inch 720p, 2.5D Cover Glass with anti-FP coating, Corning Gorilla Glass
Processor MediaTek 6750
Memory 2/3GB
Storage 16/32GB  (with MicroSD support for up to 128GB cards)
Rear Camera 13MP AF f/2 with LED flash
Front Camera 8MP FF f/2 84.6 FoV
Battery 2,990mAh
Connectivity and sensors Micro USB (USB 2.0), OTG, 3.5mm, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, accelerometer, magnetometer, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/, BT 4.2, GPS/AGPS+GLONASS, NFC (APAC & EMEA SKU only)
Dimensions 146.25 x 68.65 x 8.7mm
Weight 138.3g
Headphone Jack Yes
Colors Blue, Copper/Black, Chrome/White, Iron

The Good

Build quality The 2.5D front glass panel and aluminium edges make the Noka 3.1 feel like a more expensive phone.
Software The Nokia 3.1 is an Android One device, meaning it's completely stock Android and will receive updates relatively quickly.
Display The screen is 720p with an 18:9 aspect ratio, which is just fine on a phone this size.
Battery life The Nokia 3.1's battery isn't especially large, but I still ended most days with 30 or 40% remaining.
Headphone jack It has one.

The Not So Good

No fingerprint sensor The Nokia 3.1 lacks a fingerprint sensor, while some competing devices (like the Moto E5 and E5 Play) have one.
Buttons The volume and power buttons use the same polycarbonate material as the back of the phone and don't stick out much. As a result, it's hard to find the buttons without looking.
No CDMA support You can't use this phone on CDMA networks, like Verizon and Sprint.
No bootloader unlock None of HMD Global's phones have unlockable bootloaders, including the Nokia 3.1. Rooting or installing custom ROMs is out of the question.

Design, hardware, and what's in the box

HMD Global has stayed true to Nokia's reputation for well-built phones, and the Nokia 3.1 is no exception. On the front is a 2.5D Gorilla Glass panel, with a 5.2-inch 720x1440 LCD screen underneath. The display has an aspect ratio of 18:9, like on many other phones released in the past year.

There's an aluminum frame that runs along the side to help with cell reception, and the back is mostly plastic (with a glass piece covering the camera lens). The whole phone feels very premium, especially compared to other budget devices in the United States.

You may have noticed one thing missing - the Nokia 3.1 doesn't have a fingerprint sensor. That's a bit strange, especially considering some other phones in this price range (like the €150 Moto E5, the $100 BLU R1, the $150 Moto G5, and so on) have one. The lack of a sensor is annoying for sure, but given the other advantages of this phone, I can accept it.

My other issue with the Nokia 3.1's design is the button feel. The power button and volume rocker are made of the same material as the back of the phone, so it can be hard to find them without actually looking.

The phone is powered by a MediaTek MT6750 processor, with 2GB of memory and 16GB of internal storage. There is a more expensive model with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, but that version isn't being sold in the United States.

Good performance is never a given with budget phones, but the Nokia 3.1 is decently fast. I was worried the MediaTek processor would be sluggish, but the phone only occasionally stuttered - usually while switching between applications. The stock Android build probably helps performance - no laggy OEM skin or pre-installed bloatware slowing things down.

Battery life was good in my testing. The 2,990mAh battery isn't massive, especially when compared to the 5,000mAh Moto E4 Plus, but I still ended most days with 30 or 40% remaining. Expect somewhere in the range of 4-5 hours of screen-on time, depending on usage.

The Nokia 3.1 is an Android One device, meaning it's running near-stock software and should receive updates fairly quickly. That being said, the phone is still on Android 8.0 instead of 8.1. At the time of writing, my review unit had the May 5 security patch level. It's difficult to say for certain how fast Android P will arrive, but hopefully Project Treble will speed things up a bit.

Finally, the Nokia 3.1 has all the usual features found in budget Android devices. That includes a microSD card slot for expandable storage, a dual SIM tray for using two carriers at once, FM radio, and a headphone jack. You can't take headphone jacks for granted these days.

In the box, you get the Nokia 3.1, a wall charger, a microUSB cable, earbuds, a SIM card ejection tool, and a quick start guide.

Camera samples

The Nokia 3.1 has a 13MP rear-facing camera with a flash, and an 8MP front-facing camera. With enough light and a semi-stable subject, you can take great pictures. The below goat picture, for example, looks like it was taken with a Moto G6 or OnePlus 6.

If you're in a dimly-lit room, or you don't give the phone enough time to focus, the results don't look great. Here are some sample photos:

Our verdict: Should you buy it?

Probably. The Nokia 3.1 is a solid budget phone, with decent specifications, a clean Android experience, and great build quality. However, the lack of a fingerprint sensor is rather puzzling, especially when one can be found on some other phones in this price bracket.

In the United States, the Nokia 3.1 with 16GB storage and 2GB RAM is being sold for around $160. It's about the only decent ~$150 unlocked phone you can buy in 'Murica, especially since Motorola isn't selling unlocked Moto E5 devices here. It's in a league of its own - hence the title of this review.

In Europe, the phone costs €139, and there's a 32GB storage/3GB RAM model for €169. The €150 Moto E5 is the main competition, and while it does have a larger battery and a fingerprint sensor, you'll have to deal with much slower Android updates - and Motorola is only promising one major release.

The accessory ecosystem for the Nokia 3.1 is fairly decent, at least in the United States. Since this is a lesser-known device, you won't find cases from major companies like Otterbox or Spigen, but there are still plenty of options.

No matter where you buy it, the Nokia 3.1 is a good phone for the price, just like almost every other device from HMD Global.

Buy it if...

You're on a GSM carrier (AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket, etc.) and you want a good phone on a tight budget.

Don't buy it if...

You're on a CDMA carrier (Verizon, Sprint, etc.), you really need a fingerprint sensor, or you want to use custom ROMs.

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