Nokia C1 hands-on review: the entry-level Android phone you want to buy

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I doubt that there is any phone that has been rumoured longer than the Nokia C1. Well, hold on a minute. The Nokia 9 PureView is surely a contender here. Both phones were rumoured for about 2 years. One is the king of the hill, the other sits at the bottom of the barrel.

We got our hands on this long-rumoured entry-level smartphone at the launch event, played with it a bit, took some pictures, and cooked you this delicious Nokia C1 hands-on review.

Nokia C1 hands-on review
We go hands-on with the Nokia C1, a cheap Android phone

The C1 is not a new line of phones. On the contrary, it is a successor to the Nokia 1 Plus, which was the successor to the Nokia 1. Is this the debut of a new naming convention for that line of products? Will 2020 bring a Nokia C2 or Nokia D1? I have no idea. We will all have to wait and see what HMD Global releases next in this line-up.

But it is unmistakably an entry-level line-up – the most affordable range of Android smartphones from Nokia. That means it runs Android Go Edition. It should also mean that it has the barest minimum of features, but these days, we see brands squeeze in one or two more premium features into phones in this class.

In the case of the C1, HMD Global has added a layer of toughened glass to protect the display from scratches. That is an attention grabber, if ever there was one. We are talking about a cheap Android phone here. It carries a price tag of ₦18,500. Anyway, let;’s have a quick look at key specs.

Nokia C1 Hands-on Review: Quick Specs

  • 5.45-inch, 480×960 pixels, IPS LCD display, with toughened glass protection
  • Android 9 Pie (Go Edition)
  • An unspecified chipset clocked at 1.3 GHz
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
  • 5MP camera with LED flash
  • 5MP selfie camera with LED flash
  • 2500 mAh battery, with standard charging.
  • Colours: Red; Charcoal.

Having looked at the specs, how is the phone itself in the hand?

Nokia C1 Hands-on Review and First Impressions

The Nokia C1 is typical Nokia – it is well built and feels a little more premium than other smartphones in its price bracket.

We are talking basic features here, so what we have is a single camera with LED flash at the back and a single selfie camera at the front. Both of them have a 5-megapixel lens. Both of them have flash to assist your photograpjhy in the dark.

Nokia C1 hands-on review

It is too early to give a valid verdict on performance. But out of the box and with no apps installed, it runs smoothly. This is thanks to pure Android 9 Go Edition. Android Go Edition is an optimized version of Android that runs smoothly on devices with basic specs. Also. the lack of bloatware on the phone helps. We will get to see how smooth it runs after we have installed apps on it, but all things being equal, Android Go Edition has been proven to run well on devices like the C1.

Official specs sheet does not specify what processor powers the Nokia C1, which is odd, but it is a quad-core unit clocked at 1.3GHz. For running and switching between apps, there is 1GB of RAM. These are adequate internal hardware specs for an Android Go Edition phone. There is a generous 16GB of internal storage for your files.  Many phones at this price point offer 8GB.

Does the Nokia C1 phone support 4G LTE networks? Well, it does not. This is one of those areas where a comproimise had to be made to keep the cost down. It isn’t out of place: the most basic entry-level smartphones tend to lack 4G LTE, so this is not exactly out of place. I do wish HMD Global had found a way to squeeze in, say, 4 LTE bands though. But I won’t hold it against this plucky little guy.

Nokia C1 hands-on review
Nokia C1 hands-on review: 5MP camera with LED flash at the back.

At the bottom of the phone is a microphone hole, a micro-USB port and a loudspeaker grill.In addition to the volume and power buttons on the right side, there is a dedicated Google Assistant button on the opposite side, right below the SIM card tray slot. The Assistant button is nifty for activating the voice assistant. If it gets in your way, as it sometimes does, you can disable it. There is no known way to remap it yet, but hopefully, someone will come to your rescue with a solution.

Nokia C1 Hands-on Review: Software

As mentioned earlier, Nokia C1 runs Android Go Edition. What does this mean? Android Go Edition is the lighter version of Android OS designed for smartphones with low resources. It has all the features of regular Android, but they are leaner and smaller in size. That way, entry-level smartphones do not run slowly and run out of space quickly. The version of Android on the C1 is Android 9 Pie.

As is common to Nokia smartphones, there is no bloatware on the phone and the user interface is Pixel-like. This is stock Android here, whuch is a good thing. Entry-level smartphones do not have powerful procesors (think of a processor as the engine of the phone), and the lack of bloat and customisations means that the engine has less load to carry. So the phone runs smoothly.

The C1 may be an entry-level smartphone, but Nokia says it will get 2 years of Android software updates and 3 years of secuirty patches. That means it will get updated to Android 10 and Android 11. This is a benefit that is hardly ever found among entry-level Android phones. Only Nokia phones at this price point enjoy this benefit.

Nokia C1 Hands-on Review verdict: Is Nokia C1 a good phone?

From what I have seen of the Nokia C1, I would say this is a good phone and a good deal for money. Setting it apart is the toughened glass screen and ample storage space, as well as the fact that it will get Android software updates for the next two years and monthly security patches for the next three years. These on an ₦18,500 smartphone. That is about $60. If you find any phone from a rival brand that gives you all of that, do say hello and point me at it.

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By Mister Mobility

I have been tech blogging since 2003, I have owned and reviewed hundreds of smartphones since my first in 2001.

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