As more and more smartphones reach (or even cross) the $1000 threshold, it's more important than ever that we have access to a good helping of quality budget handsets. The $300, $400, and $500 price ranges have more than enough variety to choose from, but what about devices that cost even less? What if you need a new phone, but have a max budget of just $200?
Assuming you're already on Cricket Wireless or have been thinking about trying the service out, one device that could fit the bill perfectly is the Nokia 3.1 Plus. The Nokia 3.1 Plus is a new Cricket exclusive, and in addition to this being Nokia's first phone to launch on a U.S. carrier in quite a while, the 3.1 Plus also delivers a winning combination of quality, style, and features at a really great price.
- Fantastic build quality
- Large 18:9 display
- Battery easily lasts two days
- Ships with Android Pie
- Guaranteed software updates
- Performance can be a little sluggish
- Single rear-facing speaker
- Only available for Cricket customers
Nokia 3.1 Plus The good
If you're shopping for a phone in the $200 price range, chances are you just want something that can do the basics and won't fall apart a month after buying it. The Nokia 3.1 Plus absolutely delivers on those fronts, and even then some.
|Nokia 3.1 Plus
|Android 9 Pie
18:9 aspect ratio
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 435
Expandable up to 256GB
|Rear Camera 1
|Rear Camera 2
|Mono rear speaker
3.5mm headphone jack
|Rear fingerprint sensor
|NFC for Google Pay
|156.88 x 76.44 x 8.19mm
One of the things about the phone that stuck out to me the most is its build quality. You typically don't expect much from a phone that costs this little, but the Nokia 3.1 Plus both looks and feels like something much more expensive. The sturdy polycarbonate body has a great amount of heft to it and feels like something that'll last for a good while to come. Plus, it doesn't hurt that it's presented in a striking navy blue colorway.
The back of the Nokia 3.1 Plus does come off to reveal easy access to the SIM card and microSD slot (expandable up to 256GB from the base 32GB), but the battery is not removable.
Other design features worth pointing out are the 3.5mm headphone jack (yay!) and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor (double yay!).
Another big win for the Nokia 3.1 Plus is its software. Aside from a few preinstalled apps (that can be deleted), the Nokia 3.1 Plus delivers one of the best experiences you'll find for under two hundred bucks.
First thing's first, the phone ships with Android 9 Pie out of the box. This means you have instant access to Pie's new gesture navigation system, improved notifications, etc. Even better, the Pie that you have access to looks and feels like what you'd find on a Google Pixel phone. In other words, it's pure, vanilla Android with no unnecessary aftermarket modifications.
That's all good enough on its own, but since the Nokia 3.1 Plus is part of Google's Android One program, it's guaranteed to receive major software updates for the next two years and monthly security patches for three years. This is important if you plan on holding onto your phone for the foreseeable future, and to be perfectly honest, there are a lot of devices out there that cost double or triple what the Nokia 3.1 Plus does and can't offer that sort of software update support.
And, last but not least, the Nokia 3.1 Plus has phenomenal battery life. Between the large 3,500 mAh battery, power-efficient processor, and lower-res display, this is a phone that can easily last 1.5 - 2 days on a single charge depending on how much you use it.
Nokia 3.1 Plus The bad
While the Nokia 3.1 Plus does get a lot of things right, a perfect phone it is not.
Perhaps the biggest fault of the device is its performance. Likely in an effort to cut down on costs, Nokia's outfitted the 3.1 Plus with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 processor. The 435 isn't a bad chipset by any means, but it also won't be confused for its more powerful siblings anytime soon.
The Nokia 3.1 Plus handles apps like Twitter, Instagram, and more just fine. If you want to do some light gaming, it's got you covered, too. The phone will do just about anything you ask of it; it just takes a bit longer than you might like. You'll sometimes have to wait a hot second for an app to open, animations aren't always the smoothest, and if you're trying to run multiple apps at once, the modest 3GB of RAM will force close them fairly quickly.
This is all pretty nit-picky considering how much the Nokia 3.1 Plus costs, but it's important to set your expectations realistically so you're not let down if/when you do get your hands on the device.
Another area where the Nokia 3.1 Plus is just meh is with its cameras. The dual 13MP + 5MP camera combo take fine photos that will serve your Instagram feed perfectly fine, but outside of that, don't expect much else. The Nokia 3.1 Plus unsurprisingly struggles in low-light scenarios, the camera's performance isn't always the fastest, and photos often come out looking rather soft. Again, nothing deal-breaking but something worth keeping in mind.
Finally, I do wish that Nokia wasn't limiting the 3.1 Plus to Cricket in the U.S. I understand that this is a big move for the company to once again have its phones sold and supported by a carrier in the country, but it would have been nice to see the 3.1 Plus available through more brands other than just Cricket or with an unlocked option available, too. All this does is limit the potential customers that can buy the phone, and that's never great to see.
Nokia 3.1 Plus Should you buy it?
If you're already subscribed to Cricket Wireless or have been thinking about making the switch over to it, the Nokia 3.1 Plus should absolutely be on your shortlist. Despite its slow performance and average cameras, the phone shines through thanks to its great battery life, fantastic software package, and sturdy build quality.
Add that together with touches like the fingerprint sensor, headphone jack, and an NFC chip for Google Pay support, and you end up with a device that ticks a lot of the boxes for not a lot of money.
4 out of 5
This may not be the best phone we've seen from Nokia as of late, but it's a great reminder that this is one of the few companies in the business that knows how to make an exceptional phone at a low cost.