Review | Nokia C1 budget smartphone

Released in December 2019, the Nokia C1 is yet another budget offering from HMD Global, following the Nokia 2.2. Coupling basic specs with a remarkably low price of under P3,000, it offers the Nokia brand to the extremely cost-conscious consumer. Below is my experience of spending the lockdown with it.

Design and Ergonomics

The Nokia C1 has a plastic build, similar to the recently reviewed Nokia 2.2. Where it differs is its matte finish, which is great to hold in the hand. Though the design is quite simple, the device looks nice. Kudos to HMD Global for the look and feel, notwithstanding its budget pricing.

The screen is 5.45-inch in size and features a resolution of 480×960. The panel is an IPS LCD, which looks okay; though I did notice that it had poor viewing angles. That said, the screen is capable of good brightness levels and is sharp enough for content consumption. Reading articles were good while watching videos were decent. Given the low asking price, you absolutely cannot fault it.

There is a noticeable chin at the bottom, a top bar housing the earpiece, front camera, and front flash, and thick bezels on the sides. It certainly gives the C1 a dated look. Despite the chunky chin, there are no physical buttons; meaning it’s just dead space.

The button placement is standard fare, with Power and Volume on the right, and a dedicated Google Assistant button on the left. At the top, there is a 3.5mm audio jack and a micro-USB 2.0 port at the bottom. The rear cover is detachable, allowing for a battery, dual SIMs, and a MicroSD card.

Specs and Performance

The Nokia C1 is powered by a quad-core CPU, clocked at 1.3 GHz. Memory is just 1GB, and the storage is 16GB. No doubt that these are very budget-oriented specs, with the limited memory being my fear in terms of day to day usability.

Using it for a bit, the app launch speed was noticeably slow, taking a few seconds to launch even basic apps. Switching between open apps also took a few seconds. That said, the device never stalled while swapping content in and out of memory, which was good.

The basic Google Apps and OS occupy just around 5GB of the 16GB internal storage, leaving 11GB for user files. This is not too much but can be bolstered with an SD card.

App installations and updates are slow, but switching between apps during an install is surprisingly not too bad.

Battery and Charging

The included battery has a capacity of 2500 mAh and is removable; again, similar to the Nokia 2.2.

Below is the charge matrix, starting from 1%.

Charge Matrix

  • 10 Mins – 9%
  • 15 Mins – 12%
  • 30 Mins – 21%
  • 45 Mins – 28%
  • 60 Mins – 37%
  • 90 Mins – 56%
  • 120 Mins – 74%
  • 150 Mins – 91%
  • 180 Mins – 99%
  • 190 Mins – 100%  

At a mammoth three hours, it’s evident that without fast-charge capability, it takes quite some time to fill up the battery. My suggestion would be to charge the device overnight or carry a secondary battery as it can be easily swapped out given that it’s removable.

Software and User Experience

The Nokia C1 comes with Android 9 Pie Go Edition, which is a stripped-down version of Android and optimized to provide a good experience on basic hardware. It also features alternate app versions that take up less space. The YouTube Go app for example both has a smaller file size and prompts the user for data saver features to view the content at a lower bitrate.  

Initial setup is simple and easy, with the step-by-step wizard being pretty straightforward. I have to attest to the frugality of Android Go, as in many cases I was expecting terrible performance, but was surprised with adequate performance. Just be prepared to wait 2-5 seconds when opening and switching apps and you should be good.

The device features face-unlock which works okay; surprisingly better than the slightly higher tier Nokia 2.2. It takes about two seconds on average to unlock and works in moderately dim lighting as well.

Camera and Optics

The hardware on the Nokia C1 is very basic; a single 5-megapixel rear camera, and a 5-megapixel front camera with a flash for selfies. Based on my testing, the optics were quite weak.

In extremely well-lit circumstances, it delivered good results. But in other situations, even when lit, but perhaps moderately, the color vibrance dropped. The below examples were taken with very high levels of daylight coming in through the windows.

While taking photos, using the onscreen slider to increase light often resulted in blown-out overexposed pictures. Likely that the hardware was not capable of dealing with the light well, and thus needed extremely mild input from the user.

Focusing on small objects even in very well-lit conditions was poor; detail was noticeably lacking.

Low-light photography was very poor, almost always resulting in severe graininess.

On the positive side, picture-taking speed as well as image preview speed was quite acceptable. In fact, faster than the higher-tier Nokia 2.2 

Clearly, this phone is not meant for photography and rather just makes the functionality available.

Value and Competition

The Nokia C1 for P 2,990 is very well-priced. Despite the low spec’s performance is acceptable; thanks in part to Android Go edition. Not to mention the good build quality, which is no surprise for a product carrying the Nokia name.

The bulk of the competition at this budget price bracket is from Cherry Mobile and the Nokia offering from HMD Global is undoubtedly a better bet.

Conclusion

Even as someone who mostly uses flagship phones, I have to say that I am impressed with what the Nokia C1 affords given its low cost. While the camera performance is quite poor, if you just need smartphone functionality, the C1 has you covered. With largely acceptable performance and the backing of the reliable Nokia brand, I’d safely conclude that if you’re on a tight budget, you should look no further than the Nokia C1.

  • Model: TA-1165
  • Price: P2,990
  • Verdict: All hail the new budget king
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