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Nokia 1.3 review: The best smartphone you can buy for under £100

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
80
inc VAT

Cheap, cheerful and surprisingly competent, the Nokia 1.3 is cracking value for money

Pros 
Cheaper than cheap
Bright, vibrant display
Sturdy build materials
Cons 
Battery life isn’t great
Sluggish performance
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Not that long ago, it would be hard to imagine a sub-£100 smartphone that was actually worth buying. Cut to 2020, and I’m reviewing the Nokia 1.3, an £80 Android Go phone that’s far better than its bargain price suggests. While you might be able to find better low-priced handsets for a bit more money, it has the credentials to quickly become the best-value budget phone on the market and when it comes down to sheer affordability, the Nokia 1.3 could be the perfect pick.

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Nokia 1.3 review: What you need to know

Over the past couple of years, we’ve tested a number of budget Android-less Nokia feature phones, such as the Nokia 8110 and Nokia 3310. However, this is the first time we’ve had a chance to test one of the Finnish tech giant’s sub-£100 smartphones. The Nokia 1.3 is a compact 5.7in Android phone running the latest version of Android Go, which is a light version of Android 10 created for low-powered devices such as this.

Inside the handset is a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 215 processor backed by 1GB of RAM, and it has 16GB of onboard storage, which is expandable up to 400GB using a microSD card. The Nokia 1.3 is also a dual-SIM phone with a removable 3,000mAh battery.

Nokia 1.3 review: Price and competition

With an RRP of £80, the Nokia 1.3 is astonishingly good value for money. It’s even cheaper at the time of writing, too. It’s currently on sale across most major online retailers, going for a mere £65 from the likes of Amazon UK, Argos and Carphone Warehouse.

There are some worthy rivals, though they aren’t quite as cheap. The first of them is the Vodafone Smart V10, a smart-looking and functional handset that has a 5.9in HD display, 32GB of storage and runs full-fat Android. Vodafone sells the Smart V10 for just £105, an amenable price that includes a £10 credit top-up.

Next up is the £99 Xiaomi Redmi 7A. Like the Smart V10, it runs the standard version of Android and has an HD display. Since our review was published, we’ve seen the 16GB Redmi 7A going for as little as £83 on Amazon, which puts it neck and neck with the Nokia 1.3 on the value front.

Despite launching in 2016, the original Apple iPhone SE is also a strong contender. It’s starting to show its age but has continued to receive iOS updates over the years, and it currently runs the most recent version, iOS 13.5. You can pick up a refurbished iPhone SE for as little as £89 from Giffgaff. It may not look or run like new, but it’s a bargain all the same.

Nokia 1.3 review: Design

Nokia hasn’t exactly flexed its design muscles when it comes to the Nokia 1.3’s design. The phone is quite simple, with a robust plastic chassis and basic, symmetrical layout to the front and back. The 5.7in glass-coated display has reasonably slim bezels for such a cheap phone, however, with rounded corners and a semi-circular drop notch at the top that houses the selfie camera. Nokia hasn’t applied any oleophobic coating to the display and there’s no official waterproof rating, though at this price, it’s hardly a deal-breaker.

Flip it over, and you’ll find the single 8MP rear camera and LED flash, centrally positioned towards the top of the phone. The textured rear plastic cover feels cheap but there’s no give when you press down or squeeze the phone. Phones with removable backs can lack stability, so Nokia has done well to make the 1.3 feel as sturdy as it does. The Charcoal model I was sent for review is rather dull, and I much prefer the two other colours, Cyan and Sand.

Once you pop off the back (most easily done with a thumb under the microUSB charging port on the bottom edge) you’ll have access to the removable battery and two SIM slots. The SIM slot on the upper right can hold a SIM and a microSD at the same time.

On the top edge of the phone is a 3.5mm audio jack, and the power buttons and volume rocker are on the right-hand side. Nokia has also added a dedicated Google Assistant button on the left edge. I accidentally triggered this button a few times, momentarily mistaking it for the power button, and was relieved to find that the button can be disabled in the settings.

Nokia 1.3 review: Display

The Nokia 1.3’s 5.71in IPS display has a resolution of 1,520 x 720, with 295 pixels per inch. Based on my prior experience with ultra-budget smartphones, I didn’t have high hopes for the display quality of the Nokia 1.3. However, the screen is actually rather good, for the price.

With a measured luminance of 407cd/m², the screen is nice and bright, and it still looks decent when viewed at an angle. The display’s 1,264:1 contrast ratio is surprisingly high too, ensuring that on-screen screen images are sharply defined, with plenty of pop. Compared to the Xiaomi Redmi 7A’s dull 525:1 contrast ratio, the Nokia 1.3 absolutely dazzles.

Covering 80.6% of the sRGB gamut, with a gamut volume of 91.1% and an average Delta E score of 3.83, the Nokia 1.3’s display isn’t the most vibrant or colour accurate. Then again, its colour reproduction is not much of a step down from the likes of the Vodafone Smart V10 and Xiaomi Redmi 7A, and it’s miles better than anything I would have expected from a phone as cheap as this.

Nokia 1.3 review: Performance and battery life

Of course, you can’t win them all. The Nokia 1.3 is brilliant in many ways but its lacklustre performance is definitely a drawback. It uses a 1.3GHz, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 215 processor and only 1GB of RAM, so it’s about as low-powered as it gets, and this really showed in our performance testing.

In the Geekbench 4 CPU benchmark, the Nokia 1.3 hit a single-core speed of 608 and only managed a multi-core high of 1,520. As shown in the chart above, that’s markedly slower than the results recorded by both the Redmi 7A and Smart V10.

The sluggish performance of the Nokia 1.3 during everyday use bears out these results. Apps take a moment or two longer to open than you’d like, web pages are quite slow to load and, once several apps are running at once, everything feels noticeably less responsive. With that said, the Nokia 1.3 is far from a pain to use, and the slimmed-down Android Go versions of Google’s most popular apps help it to handle multi-tasking a little bit better.

In the GFXBench Manhattan 3 graphics test, the Nokia 1.3 squeezed out an on-screen frame rate of 5fps and managed just 3fps in the offscreen segment. As far as gaming is concerned, it’s one of the weakest phones we’ve tested, but that doesn’t make it useless. It can still run popular Android titles like Chess Free, Candy Crush Saga and Pac-Man with ease. You can forget about achieving reliable frame rates in Call of Duty: Mobile, though.

The Nokia 1.3’s 3,000mAh removable battery kept it going for 10hrs 37mins in our battery rundown test, which isn’t fantastic. Unless you barely touch your phone, you’ll probably need to give it a top-up at least once each day to stop it running out of juice. The Vodafone Smart V10 and Xiaomi Redmi 7A both lasted hours longer in the same battery test.

Nokia 1.3 review: Camera

Unsurprisingly, there’s not a whole lot going on in the camera department. At the rear, the Nokia 1.3 has a lone 8MP camera with auto-focus and LED flash. On the front is a 5MP selfie module. Both cameras can record video in 720p at 30fps but there’s no image stabilisation so you’ll need to keep your hand steady in panning shots.

The Nokia 1.3’s camera software is fairly simplistic, as there are only a few modes: Photo, Portrait, Video and Translate (aka Google Lens). You can’t alter the resolution of the image, but you can turn on High Dynamic Range (HDR) to help soften highlights and brighten up shadows.

^ HDR

HDR isn’t on by default, but it should be, because shooting in the camera’s standard mode results in extremely dark and flat-looking images. The 8MP module struggles with excess light, so it’s best to avoid shooting with the sun (or any bright light source) behind the subject unless you want massively overexposed images.

^ Non-HDR

Low-light performance isn’t ideal either, as demonstrated by my still life shot here. Colours and textures seem to blend into one, and finer details are lost in a pixelated blur. The flash function does a good enough job at cutting through the darkness, however.

Meanwhile, the 5MP selfie lens isn’t all that bad, provided you get the lighting right. With the beautifying ‘Face enhance’ setting engaged, the Nokia 1.3 actually produces some decent, if overly flattering, self-portraits. Once you zoom in you can see that the detail isn’t all that crisp but, on the whole, it’s a solid effort from an £80 phone.

Nokia 1.3 review: Verdict

The Nokia 1.3 exceeds all expectations for a phone so cheap. It has a bright IPS display, a neat and compact design and a camera that isn’t too bad for the price.

Its sturdy build materials should help it last the test of time, too, and the removable back cover makes for easy battery replacements in the future. Performance-wise, it may be lacking, but with Android Go apps that best cater towards low-end hardware, it’s able to make the best of its weak internal specifications.

If your budget is absolutely capped at £80 then there really is nothing else on the market quite like the Nokia 1.3. However, should you be willing to cough up an extra £20 or so, it’s well worth considering the Vodafone Smart V10 instead.

Nokia 1.3 specifications
ProcessorQuad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 215 (1.3GHz)
RAM1GB
Screen size5.71in
Screen resolution1,520 x 720
Pixel density295ppi
Screen typeIPS
Front camera5-megapixel
Rear camera8-megapixel
FlashLED
Dust and water resistanceNo
3.5mm headphone jackYes
Wireless chargingNo
USB connection typemicro-USB
Storage options16GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
Wi-Fi802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth4.2
NFCNo
Cellular data4G
Dual SIMYes
Dimensions (WDH)147 x 71 x 9.4mm
Weight155g
Operating systemAndroid 10 Go
Battery size3,000mAh

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