TechNow: Nokia makes a comeback with budget phones

The 2.3 and the 1.3 costs €99 and €79, respectively, and are quite capable for the price, writes Noel Campion
TechNow: Nokia makes a comeback with budget phones
The Nokia 1.3 running on Android Go 10.

The 2.3 and the 1.3 costs €99 and €79, respectively, and are quite capable for the price, writes Noel Campion

Over the last few years, Nokia have been making a comeback with some decent budget phones that look great and won’t hurt your pocket. However, their more expensive, flagship models don’t seem to feature here in Ireland, which is a pity.

I’ve been testing two new budget phones, the Nokia 2.3 and Nokia 1.3, which are updates of models from last year.

The more expensive Nokia 2.3 has a once-off cost of €99.99 (Vodafone) and sports a water-drop notch for the front-facing selfie shooter in the 6.2-inch HD+ display, which has a 19:9 aspect ratio. Being an LCD screen means there are thick bezels and a large chin at the bottom, but, despite this, it feels comfortable in the hand and isn’t too big or heavy.

My review model is the cyan green version, which looks fresh and modern, but it’s also available in

a charcoal colour. The plastic polymer back uses what Nokia call a 3D nano-texture with a stunning, two-tone graduated, metallic finish. It has a die-cast metal chassis that is painted in the same colour as the back.

On the left edge is a Google Assistant button. This is handy, but you can’t use it for anything else and you can turn it off in the options. On the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack and you also get Bluetooth 5.0.

On the bottom edge is the micro-USB port for charging, instead of the faster and now more common USB-C port, and a decent-sounding mono speaker.

Incredibly, for a budget phone, the Nokia 2.3 has a massive 4,000mAh battery. That’s good enough to get you through two days of use on a single charge. In my testing, I found this was easily achievable with medium use. Nokia is able to do this thanks to adaptive battery technology. It can detect when apps are draining the battery. It can limit battery usage for infrequently used apps. It will even improve this over time. On the downside, there’s no fast-charging option, so it can take up to three hours to fully charge using the 5w charger.

Performance is more than acceptable for a budget phone, but you can’t expect too much from the Mediatek MT6761 Helio A22.

I did notice a delay when opening apps, and scrolling through social feeds or web pages is a little laggy.

Nokia 2.3 and Nokia 1.3 from European company, HMD Global.
Nokia 2.3 and Nokia 1.3 from European company, HMD Global.

My review unit came with Android 9, but is now updated to the latest Android 10 software, running on an almost stock version of Android. Nokia guaranteed at least two system updates via the Android One update programme.

The Nokia 2.3 runs on a mere 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, although there is a microSD card slot, so you can add to this.

The 6.2-inch display is nice and big, with good colour reproduction. It gets plenty bright for indoors, but it can be a struggle to see text in direct sunlight.

The Nokia 2.3 has a dual-camera system with a 13Mp main camera and 2Mp for depth. The front selfie camera is 5MP. Overall, camera quality is fine, but nothing special, as expected for a budget phone in this price category. Images lack fine detail and can look soft. In good light, it is possible to capture good photos, but it’s more difficult to get good results in low light.

The Nokia 2.3 doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor; instead, it has face unlock. This works well most of the time, but is slow. There’s no NFC, so you won’t be able to use it with Google Pay for contactless payments.

Overall, the Nokia 2.3 is a decent upgrade on the Nokia 2.2 and is good value for money. It’s not the fastest, but it does get the job done.

Nokia 1.3

The Nokia 1.3 shares a lot of the same features as the Nokia 2.3 (€79 Vodafone), including a 3.5mm headphone jack, dedicated Google Assistant button, microSD card slot, no NFC, micro-USB charging, and face unlock. However, the Nokia 1.3 runs on Android 10 Go. This allows the hardware to operate on 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage and run a slimmed-down version of apps like Go Maps, Gmail Go, and Facebook Lite, although you can still install all regular apps.

I intentionally installed only the essentials and the system ran fine. If you install too many apps, it will get sluggish and slow down badly.

The Nokia 1.3 has a removable battery, but it isn’t installed on the phone when you get it.

Unlike any other removable back cover on a phone I’ve ever used, this one takes good fingernails and determination to get off. You have to take the cover off for the battery and to install the SIM and microSD card.

The display is a decent 5.71-inch LCD panel with a water-drop cut-out for the selfie camera. Around the back is an 8MP camera, while the front shooter is only 5MP.

The camera works fine for basic photo-taking, but image quality matches the budget price of the phone.

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