Forget flagships costing thousands: the Nokia 1 Plus is the ultimate blue collar smartphone. In the Android world, you just won't find anything cheaper than this.

For the kind of cash you might spend on the weekly supermarket shop, you can get a sizeable screen, capable-ish camera and a slice of Android Pie. Good luck finding anything else for less dollar without trawling through eBay.

Nokia is able to sell its entry-level handset for peanuts because it runs Android Pie (Go edition), a specially streamlined version of the OS built for low-end hardware.

That means you get the bare minimum in terms of specs, and anyone used to more expensive phones is going to notice the difference on the daily.

For a certain kind of shopper, though? This could be the bargain blower they've been looking for.

DESIGN & FEATURES: 1 GROWS UP

The 1 Plus (not to be confused with OnePlus) is the sequel to Nokia's first Android Go experiment, the Nokia 1. Where that phone was a curvy, colourful candybar, this updated model feels a lot more mature.

The rounded corners have gone, replaced with a more straight-faced shape. There's a lot less bezel this time around (though there's still plenty of it) and in the subtle black of our review sample, it looks positively business-like.

That rear cover is exactly that, though: a cover. You can peel it off and swap it for something a lot more vibrant if you want to stand out. Each one has a textured finish that should stop it from slipping out of your hands.

A lot of today's glass and metal phones feel like slippery bars of soap just waiting to jump from hand to pavement, so we have no complaints here.

All the usual mod cons have been jettisoned to keep the price down, so there's no fingerprint sensor, no face scanning and no superfluous cameras: you get one snapper on the back, one on the front, and need onscreen security to get past the lock screen.

It's slimmer than last year, and despite being made almost entirely of plastic, feels pleasantly weighty.

The only major clue you're dealing with a proper bargain phone is the microUSB port on the bottom.

PERFORMANCE: WHAT WERE YOU EXPECTING?

A quick look at the headline hardware reinforces what a budget handset this is. The quad-core MediaTek CPU running the show doesn't even have a fancy name, just a code number. MT6739WW really rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

It ticks along at 1.5GHz and is paired with a humble 1GB of RAM. That's enough to run Android, sure - but run it smoothly? Not a chance.

Android Go might be optimised for entry-level kit, but you're still looking at several second waits whenever you open apps, stuttery performance while in them, and reloads and redraws whenever switching between multiple apps. Even basic web pages can bring the phone to a crawl, with the keyboard taking a second or two to pop up when trying to enter text.

Things do eventually speed up after they've been loaded into memory, but performance will come as a shock to anyone more familiar with flagship phones.

Gaming hits the 1 Plus particularly hard, with even the simplest titles like 2D action puzzler Super Hexagon stuttering through its opening few levels.

Artificial benchmark tool 3DMark is reduced to a slideshow. Not that there's much room for installing games, anyway, with only 8GB of storage on-board and all but 2GB taken up by the operating system. At least there's a microSD card, so you aren't completely out of luck.

OS & SOFTWARE: TIME TO GO

Near-stock versions of Android have become something of a Nokia hallmark, and that's exactly what you get here - only we're talking Android Pie (Go edition) instead of the main event.

That means all the usual Google apps have been replaced with their Go equivalents, which are essentially web browser-optimised versions that mimic the behaviour of individual apps. They're a bit more basic, but get the job done and look very similar to their full-fat counterparts, while taking up less storage.

You do still get the Play store, but a lot of familiar apps and games don't explicitly support Android Go. That means no Android Auto, no Amazon shopping, no Asphalt 9 to provide your racing game fix - and that's just the As.

There are some Go-optimised versions of big-name apps that run a little better on the limited hardware of the 1 Plus, but you've got to go hunting for them. Even the homescreen has been simplified, with only four icons in the app tray, no Google Now baked in to the far left page, and no option for Pixel-like gesture controls instead of the usual navigation keys.

It all feels familiar, so fair play to Google and Nokia for distilling the Android experience down for lesser hardware.

CAMERA: SIMPLE SNAPPER

With a rear sensor that tops out at 8MP, the 1 Plus isn't setting out to please camera geeks. It'll do the job in a pinch, but with the unmistakable image quality of a budget phone.

Autofocus is painfully slow, even in perfectly lit scenes, and it often refuses to lock onto a subject, continuously seeking for a focus point and resulting in blurry images.

Pressing the shutter sees another wait while the phone takes the photo and saves it, leaving you hanging for several seconds.

The basic camera app can take an age to open, either from standby with a double-tap of the power button or through the app shortcut. A five second or longer wait before you're able to start snapping can often mean you've missed the moment.

There's no HDR shooting at all, so you have to pick your shots carefully to avoid mixing high- and low-light areas.

It tends to underexpose most scenes, and shots appear soft in virtually all lighting conditions.

Only pictures taken outdoors in good light show any real detail, and even then the subject needs to be fairy close to the camera - landscapes are not this phone's strong point.

At night, the basic LED flash isn't all that effective at illuminating scenes, and the autofocus issues continue, so it can be a struggle to get a usable snap on the first try.

The 5MP selfie camera also leans towards softer images, with lower light shots in particular looking more like oil paintings than photos.

Should you expect better? Not without spending a fair bit more money.

 

BATTERY LIFE: DAY TRIPPER

With a meagre 2,500mAh battery, the 1 Plus wasn't ever going to put in a marathon performance away from the mains - despite what Nokia may claim. 83 hours of pure music playback might indeed be possible, but only if you flick on Airplane mode - hardly how most of us use our phones.

We saw a more realistic dawn-to-dusk lifespan with some YouTube videos, camera use, media streaming and social media thrown into the mix, spread across Wi-Fi and mobile data.

It's hardly a surprise that wireless charging is absent, and you don't get fast charging either, with a now-outdated microUSB port handling top-up duties.

On the plus side, this is one of only a few modern phones that'll actually let you swap out the battery, which could be handy in a pinch if you buy a spare.

NOKIA 1 PLUS VERDICT

This phone is a bit like a Go-kart with a flat battery: it does everything you ask of it, just not as quickly as you were hoping. If you've used rivals that are even a little bit more expensive, you'll quickly be frustrated with the slow performance and the limitations of Android Go.

The Motorola Moto E5 and Nokia's own 3.1 Plus are only £130 SIM-free, and they run the full version of Android. Sure, you're looking at almost twice the price, but if you'll be using it as your main phone, even the small step up in performance is worth the extra.

Accept that this is a pared back taster of the full-fat Android experience, though, and things make a lot more sense.

The 1 Plus has a much more modern design than the toy-like original, full access to the play store, and a camera that can snap a decent enough picture given the price. That makes it the ideal candidate for your child's first phone, a dedicated business line or a backup handset that can still run all your usual apps.

For everyone else, it's better to keep saving those pennies and buy something with just a little more oomph.

Tech Specs 
SCREEN
5.45in, 960x480 LCD
CPU
Mediatek MT6739WW quad-core
MEMORY
1GB RAM
CAMERA
8MP rear w/ autofocus, LED flash. 5MP front
STORAGE
8GB on-board, microSD expansion (up to 128GB)
OPERATING SYSTEM
Android 9.0 Pie (Go Edition)
BATTERY
2500mAh removable Li-Ion
DIMENSIONS
145x70x8.6mm
Stuff says... 

Nokia 1 Plus review

A handy spare or a smart idea for a kid's first phone, but Android Go has limited appeal for anyone that can afford to spend even slightly more
£70
Good Stuff 
Low price affordable for almost everyone
More grown-up styling than last year
Android Go makes the best of limited hardware
Bad Stuff 
Anyone coming from a mainstream phone will notice poor performance
Camera quality to be expected given the price
Speaker still too easy to block accidentally