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Nokia 7.1 review: One of the best smartphone values available in the U.S.

Nokia 7.1
(Image: © Joe Maring / Android Central)

The $200 to $400 price range is one of the most competitive in the United States, and while it's long been dominated by brands such as Motorola, LG, and Samsung, Nokia's steadily been making its voice heard and letting everyone know that it too can deliver excellent smartphones at even better prices.

Handsets like the Nokia 5 and Nokia 6.1 have proven to be really great options for folks looking to spend $200 or less on their next phone, but for buyers with a little more cash lining their pockets, Nokia thinks it's crafted something special with the Nokia 7.1.

The Nokia 7.1 is the most flagship-like Nokia Android phone to hit the U.S., and while its $350 price tag may lead you into believing its a throwaway mid-ranger, I'm pleased to say that it's anything but.

Pros

  • Fantastic build quality
  • Sharp, colorful HDR display
  • Great battery life
  • Android One
  • NFC for Google Pay

Cons

  • Choppy performance
  • Ships with Oreo, not Pie

Nokia 7.1 What I like

CategoryNokia 7.1
Operating SystemAndroid 8.1 Oreo
Android One
Display5.84-inch LCD
2220 x 1080
Gorilla Glass 3
19:9 aspect ratio
HDR10 support
ProcessorSnapdragon 636
Storage64GB
Expandable up to 400GB
RAM4GB
Rear Camera 112MP
Phase detection autofocus
f/1.8
Rear Camera 25MP
f/2,4
Front Camera8MP
f/2.0
Battery3060mAh
ChargingUSB-C
SoundMono rear speaker
3.5mm headphone jack
SecurityRear fingerprint sensor
Dimensions149.7 x 71.18 x 9.14mm
160g
Network300Mbps (Cat. 6 LTE)
ColorsBlue, Steel

As soon as I pulled the Nokia 7.1 out of its box, the thing that immediately caught my attention is just how well-built the phone is. One of the things that have always been synonymous with the Nokia brand is great build quality, and the Nokia 7.1 keeps that idea going beautifully.

There's an aluminum frame all around the phone with flat edges and gracefully curved sides. The back is made entirely out of glass, and while it doesn't support wireless charging, I really wasn't expecting that for a phone of this price. The power and volume buttons feel good to press, nothing rattles when you shake the phone, and the 160g weight adds a nice bit of heft and keeps the Nokia 7.1 from feeling overly lightweight.

That may sound like a lot of praise to give to give to a $350 smartphone, but it's absolutely deserving of it. This is a phone that easily looks and feels like something far more expensive, and that all contribute to a much more enjoyable experience in day-to-day use compared to something with a lesser design.

Speaking of design, the front of the Nokia 7.1 is home to a 5.84-inch 2220 x 1080 notched display. Yes, there's also a chin at the bottom despite the cutout at the top, but I'm inclined to give that a pass due to the phone's price.

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Once you look past the notch and chin and get to the screen itself, you're in for a real treat.

When you're just interacting with the UI and apps, the LCD panel is sharp, colorful, and gets plenty bright. You won't find the same deep blacks and rich saturation of more expensive AMOLED displays, but this is still a screen I genuinely enjoy looking at and don't feel like I'm really missing out on anything with it.

The screen on the Nokia 7.1 would be perfectly fine if it stopped right there, but when you switch over to a video or game, it supports HDR10 compliant content and even converts SDR videos to HDR in real-time. This results in better detail and improved colors, and it actually works really, really well.

Running on top of the Nokia 7.1's screen is Android 8.1. I'd certainly have preferred it ship with Pie out of the box, but considering Nokia's track record with software updates and the fact that this is an Android One phone, I've got no doubt Pie will be here before we know it.

For those that aren't familiar, Android One means that the Nokia 7.1 is running a stock build of Android with a UI not unlike what you'll find on Google's Pixel phones. It's clean, snappy, and a downright joy to use. Perhaps even more important, that Android One branding on the back of the Nokia 7.1 also means that it's guaranteed to receive two years of software updates and three years of monthly security patches.

That level of software support is something you just won't find with the Moto G6s of the world, and it's a big reason to put the Nokia 7.1 at the top of your shopping list.

Lastly, let's quickly talk about battery life. The Nokia 7.1 ships with a 3,060 mAh unit, and when you combine that with the battery-sipping nature of the Snapdragon 636 that powers it, you end up with fantastic stamina. On a day with nearly 2 hours of streaming video, almost an hour of playing games, and frequently using Twitter, Instagram, and checking my email, I got 5 hours of screen-on-time and over 16 hours of total use.

Nokia 7.1 What's not so great

The Nokia 7.1 is a damn good phone and one of the best in its class, but that's not to say it's without its faults.

Simple things like scrolling through Twitter, checking emails, etc. all feel perfectly snappy, but there are definitely times where the lower-power nature of the Snapdragon 636 shines through. Opening apps often takes a hot minute and left me waiting a bit longer than I'd like. When you have multiple apps open at once, this becomes even more prevalent (along with some stutters throughout the UI from time to time).

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None of this is game-breaking in the slightest, and while the Nokia 7.1 certainly doesn't feel bad or slow, these little hiccups are noticeable and a bit irritating at times.

Another area that could use some work is the camera package. The dual rear cameras are more than adequate for sharing photos online, but there are a couple of characteristics that remind you you're using a mid-range handset. Really bright areas tend to get blown out quite easily, and depending on the light around you, colors aren't always very accurate compared to the real world. The biggest example of this is the photo of the reindeer decoration that looks silver when it was actually gold and much more colorful in person.

Finally, while I don't doubt that a Pie update will be available soon for the Nokia 7.1, it's still disappointing that the phone ships with Oreo seeing as how Pie's been publically available since early August.

Should you buy the Nokia 7.1? Absolutely!

We've seen a lot of excellent smartphone values throughout the year, with some of the highlights being the Pocophone F1, Xiaomi Mi A2, Honor 10, and even Nokia's own 6.1 Plus.

All of those are excellent phones that deliver tremendous value, but none of them are available in the United States. Sure, you can import them or buy global versions, but then you're left without a warranty and likely won't be able to take full advantage of your wireless carrier's network.

The Nokia 7.1 delivers some of the best bang-for-your-buck we've seen in 2018, and it does so while being officially sold and supported in the U.S. That's a big deal for people that have been missing out on some of the above gems from earlier this year, and it makes the Nokia 7.1 one of the best mid-rangers you can buy in the country.

4.5 out of 5

Unless you need the absolute best camera and blazing fast processing speeds, give the Nokia 7.1 a shot. Even if you can spend more than $350, you probably don't need to.

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

42 Comments
  • Concur with positive review. I've had this phone for 2 weeks and glad I didn't spend more on a higher end phone. Coming from an OP3, I like the price range (OP going up with everyone else). What I really wanted was 64gb internal storage - other midrangers have gone 32gb -- not enough for apps today with OS taking half that. Combined with SD card means the 64gb can be dedicated to apps which is plenty for me. Battery has been good for me. Anecdotally I have gone a waking day with 45% power remaining - no mid-day top offs.
  • Ha, just posted about owning the OP3. Should have ready the comments first.
  • Can you tell me if this phone has an FM radio? The Nokia site has it listed in the 7.1 support page, but I don't see it mentioned in the specs.
  • My N7.1 does not have an FM Radio app. If it does support OTA FM you would need to find an app for that -- seems like all the "FM" apps in the play store are streamers. It does have a courage port so the usual antennae strategy is there.
  • So wait, an Android One phone is supposed to update fast, but isn't updating very timely. And it's snappy, but sluggish? I'm not sure what story I'm being sold.
  • Launching with O is a negative and lessens the value of 2 major OS upgrades when one of them is the OS it should have launched with. Performance - I'm coming from a SD820 OP3 and see no noticeable difference in routine performance. I would need to have an SD8xx phone side by side to appreciate the difference. People who want top specs should likely pay another $200+ for an OP6T or better.
  • 2 years of software updates not 2 updates. It will get Android s
  • I've had mine for two weeks and really like it. I feel the same way about build quality. For what I do I don't see slowdowns unless I'm installing apps.
  • You can get an HTC U11 on Amazon for $300. Faster than an S9, better screen than the iPhone 8 or Note 8, and a camera in Pixel territory. Not disliking this phone, but just saying that you don't have to settle for lag and a meh camera...
  • Older phone (06/2017) older OS (Nougat 7.1) smaller battery, no headphone jack. Faster CPU will not be noticed by most people. Only $50.00 cheaper than Nokia 7.1 makes it not a better phone IMHO.
  • "7.62mm, full metal jacket".. great movie.. Anywho... U11 is currently on 8.0.. - so same major release as the Nokia 7.1 ...and has been confirmed that it will get 9.0... but likely nothing after that.... so the value equation right now is heavily in the U11's favour when you look purely at specs. The issue will come next year and beyond when the 7.1 gets Android Q and then R after that... and the U11 will be left hanging....
  • XFaster then an s9 lmfao 835 VS 845???
  • Why would this phone with a solid midrange chip like the 636 and all that ram be choppy yet the reviewer praised the phone highly? I could get that phone and probably never notice a thing wrong. I suppose reviewers are spoiled by all the high end devices they examine.
  • I am guessing the slow downs or stuttering is probably early software. From experience having had a few Nokia phones under HMD Global their phones tend to have some performance issues when first released. I had the Nokia 7 Plus & Nokia 6.1 and both has stuttering early software but now the phones perform well after a few updates
  • As far as the demonic notches go, the one on this Nokia is about the right size. Just a shame the chin couldn't have a millimetre or so shaved off of it to get it symmetrical. Glad to see HMD are keeping true to Nokia's legendary build quality as well. This would almost be a phone for me if the screen was a bit bigger as I prefer 6" plus and it had a beefier 660 but then that would push the price up towards $450. For what it is though it's definitely very good value for money.
  • I'm looking for symmetry too. Masking the notch out should leave you with equal top and bottom bezels.
  • My question is does it have a notch hide option?
  • I think it did, then Google removed it but now it's back. Although you need OLED for best results, the notch should be "hidden" but the clock and notification icons should stay in the black bar. Is that how it works?
  • The phone doesn't work on Verizon and Sprint or their MVNOs so that makes it less desirable in the US. It also doesn't support T-Mobile's band 71. Those things are things to consider when buying a phone when some mid-rangers which can work on all the carriers and use all their current LTE bands.
  • What mid-range phone under $500 works with band 71? I have not heard of one.
  • As far as I'm aware, there's only one mid-range (or at least not flagship) that supports band 71 and that's the LG K30. That phone is TMO only and doesn't support any CDMA networks whatsoever. Band 71 support is nice, but it really depends on where you live.
  • I know people will nit-pick the chin, and the smallish battery yada-yada-yada. And yes there may be some better phones for the same money. But the warranty can be very important if you happen to get the inevitable lemon that is in EVERY phone brand ever made. Having to try and return a phone imported from China is not an exciting adventure. The one thing I wish they had NOT installed is a glass back! Glass backs are absolutely STUPID! It's going in a plastic case anyway! Maybe they could have lowered the price a smidge by eliminating the useless glass back. Otherwise, for the money, I think it is a fairly good deal.
  • Meh. The notch, while still not my favorite thing, can be easily overlooked when it offers most things I want in a phone.
  • Not sure I agree with the camera assessment in this review. The camera isn't a pixel 3 but it's pretty darn good for it's price. Overall it's a great phone...a keeper for sure
  • I'm definitely getting this phone. My only concern is the size of the battery. My current device has a 3000 mah battery with 625 SOC and now after 18 months it's needing a charge 3 times in a day. It was well over a day when new.
  • Do you have a moto G 5 plus by chance?
  • No, it's a TCL Smart Platinum 7.
  • Junk brand = terrible battery longevity.
  • You could have a point there. Although I wouldn't call it junk, just Chinese.
  • My daughter has a BlackBerry DTEK50, which is also sold as the Alcatel Idol 4, both from TCL. Despite only running a SD617, the battery life is terrible. It's our only complaint about the phone, otherwise it was a pretty good value for what we paid. So maybe poor battery life is a TCL thing, lol.
  • Yes, it seems TCL's batteries are not very good over a period of time. My Smart Platinum 7 is the same as the Idol 4S which is almost identical to the Dtek 60. From what I've read on BlackBerry forums, both Dtek's suffered with battery issues after a few months.
  • I consider this phone to be like a Midrange Pixel of sorts. Fast updates, affordable price, smooth performance, and even with some added things the Pixel doesn't have such as micro SD card and headphone jack (!). This is the phone I've been waiting for and I think I'll keep it for 3+ years.
  • Spot on.
  • That would be a good comment if the Pixel wasn't an overpriced mid-ranger in the first place lol
  • It's a nexus in all but name really
  • A much better bet is the Honor Play, faster processor, more screen and turbo game play, it really is a fantastic bit of kit, not far of flagship specs, I paid £269 ($345) for mine, not sure it is available in the US though..
  • Im tempted. I am currently rocking the OnePlus 3 and whilst this wouldn't be an upgrade, should do for my needs.
    Like the fact it's got the updates and is stock.
    Will I miss the extra features that OnePlus offers, like close all for get apps, like gestures? For £350 (£21 more than I paid for my OP3) I think it's a possibility
  • Eurgh, just noticed in the UK can only get with 32gb storage. It's a deal breaker for me.
  • I'm also in the UK. Current device is still on marshmallow with 32gb and I have only used up about 9gb. I do have a 128gb SD card installed which holds all music and photos. When the Pie update drops, how much more internal memory will it take up? 64gb would have been far more attractive though..
  • What's the total usage including apps and system information?
  • As I stated, 9gb.
  • I purchased the 7.1 through Best Buy here in the US and returned it last night. Only had the phone less than a full week. I updated to pie several days ago and the phone was running fine until about 2 days ago it started freezing up and randomly shutting down. The phone was getting hot also. So I returned it last night because I couldn't turn the phone on and then guess what ?......it randomly comes on while waiting on line to return it. I didn't want to rake a chance as I still had the 14 day window to return it with no restocking fee . Long story short. I like Nokia hardware but I will just stick to my trusty old Windows phone for now. Will wait till we get a real Nokia flagship over here. May just go with a pixel instead....first world problems.