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Nokia 3.1 Plus review: A rock solid entry in Cricket's budget lineup

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.

Pros

  • Fantastic build quality
  • Large 18:9 display
  • Battery easily lasts two days
  • Ships with Android Pie
  • Guaranteed software updates

Cons

  • 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.

CategoryNokia 3.1 Plus
Operating SystemAndroid 9 Pie
Android One
Display5.99-inch LCD
HD+
Toughened glass
18:9 aspect ratio
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 435
Storage32GB
Expandable up to 256GB
RAM3GB
Rear Camera 113MP
f/2.0
Rear Camera 25MP
f/2.4
Front Camera8MP
f/2.2
Battery3,500 mAh
ChargingUSB-C
SoundMono rear speaker
3.5mm headphone jack
SecurityRear fingerprint sensor
NFC for Google PayYes
Dimensions156.88 x 76.44 x 8.19mm
180g
ColorsNavy Blue

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.

Performance and camera quality leaves a bit to the imagination, but at this price, what do you expect?

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.

See at Cricket

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

11 Comments
  • That's nice that is has NFC for Google Pay. Most Android phones under $200 do not have NFC
  • And to think I left Cricket for Verizon prepaid just before this comes out. Oh well I'm definitely getting the new Nokia 2V on Verizon for a backup. It's Android Go status makes it perfect for a second phone.
  • For those not on Cricket, I've had great luck with the Nokia 6.1 for only a few bucks more. Maybe it'll have a successor released soon...
  • A replacement will be announced at MWC
  • A decent phone. Though I would say that the battery life is not great despite the 3500mah battery because of its inefficient snapdragon 435 soc. I got an Huawei Elate with a bigger battery and it doesn't last 2 days. A phone with the 14nm process like the snapdragon 439 or 450 can last longer than this phone even if you don't put a bigger battery.
  • It does have a Snapdragon 439 according to pretty much every other site, but if you have it can you run a Geekbench to see who's wrong?
  • From everything else that I've read about it it's been said that it has a Snapdragon 439, bit 435; exluding the Cricket site, they are terrible at specs sheets and even said it had "Type C micro USB" (which are two different things, but probably meant as just Type C). Can you run Geekbench if you have the phone to check who's right?
  • 1. Doesn't have android one. 2. Has snap 439, not 435.  https://nokiapoweruser.com/nokia-3-1-plus-for-cricket-wireless-with-snap...
  • The Cricket version is only 2GB of RAM. The international version has both 2 GB and 3 GB. I picked this up the day of release from Cricket. It's a solid entery level phone. The camera is meh as stated but for $160 (plus the $25.00 extra they charge you for an "upgrade" fee) out the door I'm happy with it as a backup phone. Also, the screen while only being 720P is sharp enough...it is dim. I have it at 85% and it's bright enough for everyday use. My Essential Phone I can have the slider at 50% and its as bright as the Nokia. As the battery is bigger running the screen at almost full still gives me close to 1 1/2 days of battery power.
  • No more entry level phones. At $100 (£100) these should be running on Android Go not full Android with these low end processors that clearly cannot cope with running Android Pie. Edit : my bad this phone is under $200 (£200) but still performance shouldn't be sluggish though.
  • This phone (Noikia 3.1 plus) is the worst P.O.S I have ever bought. I should've saved my 70 bucks and trained a messenger pigeon. the 2nd day I had the phone, it would not charge nor restart. You can't take the battery out unless you get an Allen key, and even then it would not charge. It magically came back on 2 days later with connection issues to my network and poor sound. Now after only a week it did it again and now it's a paper weight. Don't buy cheap phones; I am not the only one I know with this crap; Don't believe the hype in the positive comments for this lame device. They are ripping you off with this garbage during the holiday season.
    Ret. Cpl Zimmerman