The Nokia 5 is an affordable smartphone that nails the essentials. Occasional performance hitches aside, the $329 device feels like it could command a higher price tag, and Nokia's commitment to rolling out monthly security updates makes the Nokia 5 standout from the crowd.
What we love
- Great value
- Great build quality
- Pure version of Android that actually gets updates
What could be improved
- Occasional performance hitches and slowdown
- Hit and miss lowlight photography
- Only 16GB of storage
What is it?
The Nokia 5 is the middle child of the three phones the newly reborn Nokia launched with its return to Australia. While the middle child often gets overlooked, it's the one we found "just right"; the Nokia 3 cuts a few too many features, while the Nokia 6's design is a little unrefined. And at $329, it's very hard to argue with the Nokia 5's price.
Key specifications for the Nokia 5 include a 5.2-inch 720p display, a Snapdragon 430 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of expandable storage, a 13MP rear-facing camera, and a 3000mAh battery.
Above all else, Nokia's classic phones had a reputation for build quality. Many considered the 3310 unbreakable or indestructible; it felt like it could double as a bludgeon in a pinch. Modern smartphones' reliance on glass may hinder survivability, but the Nokia 5 nonetheless feels a solid device.
In a straw poll of a couple of friends, the consensus was the Nokia 5 was easily a $700 - $800 phone based on the build quality alone. For a phone that costs $329, that's bonkers.
The Nokia 5's design may not be anything special - it's a little boxy and quite heavy on bezel - but pillowed edges keep it comfortable, regardless of whether you're using it with one or two hands.
Other than heritage, one of the big points of difference with Nokia's latest batch of smartphones is that they run "pure Android". For all intents and purposes, it's Android as Google intended it. There's no additional preloaded software, no modifications, and no surprises.
Nokia has also promised two years of software and security updates, for all its smartphones, and most importantly, says it will stick to Google's monthly release schedule. This is virtually unheard of for devices at the Nokia 5's price-point. While promises can always be broken, the Nokia 5 is currently the only Android phone on my desk running the August update. So far so good.
While cheaper phones normally make compromises in terms of display quality, the Nokia 5 actually has a pretty decent screen. It's reasonably bright, has a polariser to help with outdoor visibility, and is covered with scratch resistant Gorilla Glass.
In terms of battery life, you can expect the Nokia 5 to last about a day and a half with standard usage; most will have to charge it every night, but there's enough of a buffer that a particularly heavy day shouldn't leave you scrambling for a top up before bed time.
What's not so good?
As is par the course for cheaper smartphones, the Nokia 5's camera is a mixed bag. You can get good photos if you've got enough light, but quality drops as it starts to get darker. Strictly speaking, lowlight photography isn't terrible, but a slow shutterspeed can lead to mixed results. If you've got steady hands and you're shooting a mostly still subject, you can still get a good photo - it just might take a couple of tries. If you're trying to capture movement, you'll have a much harder time.
The Nokia 5 isn't exactly a fast phone, but it's not terrible either. For the most part, the day-to-day experience is fine. Apps can take a couple of seconds to open, but performance is smooth for the most part, a couple of hitches aside. I did however find the phone tends to cull apps from its RAM fairly often, which means if you're jumping from app to app on a regular basis, they'll need to load from scratch rather than resume from a suspended state.
The Nokia 5 only has 16GB of storage out of the box, which might be a bit tight if you're planning to fill the phone with apps and photos. This is however expandable; given Android takes up about 7GB, a microSD card could very well be a necessary purchase.
Unsurprisingly, there's no water or splash resistance to speak of here.
Who's it for?
The Nokia 5 is a solid smartphone that nails the essentials. There's a bright display, solid battery, and build quality reminiscent of Nokia's heyday. You do make some compromises when it comes to performance, but this mostly comes in the form of increased load time when opening applications. Power users relying on more processor intensive apps will want to look elsewhere, however.
Nokia's commitment to monthly software updates ticks a box rarely addressed by other budget smartphones, and help in positioning the Nokia 5 as more than just a cheap burner. More importantly, it shows that Nokia isn't treating customers who don't opt for flagship devices as second-class citizens.
If you're after a bang-for-buck budget smartphone, the Nokia 5 deserves a spot on your shortlist.
What else can I buy?
If you’re looking for something a little cheaper, the $249 Moto E4 might be right up your alley. Performance is comparable to the Nokia 5, and you'll save around $70. The screen is however harder to read in bright light, and the camera is a little worse.
Moto G5 Plus
If you can make your budget stretch, the $399 Moto G5 Plus is a solid option. The biggest benefit of spending $70 or so more on the Moto G5 Plus is a faster processor, which will offer a smoother day-to-day usage experience.
The OPPO A7 is about the same price as the Nokia 5, but comes with 32GB of expandable storage out of the box, rather than the Nokia 5's 16GB. The Nokia 5 does however run a clean version of Android Nougat, while the OPPO A57 ships with a heavily customised take on Marshmallow.