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May 10

Nokia 3.1 Plus Cricket Wireless Smartphone Review
Nokia 3.1 Plus Cricket Wireless Smartphone Review

Cricket Wireless has scored nicely with their carrier exclusive Nokia 3.1 Plus. It is a solid phone, with stock Android 9, a polycarbonate case that is built to last, and has received Android One certification. Cricket got Nokia to make their version of the 3.1 Plus with key features that are better than its international model.


Nokia 3.1 Plus Cricket Wireless Unboxing by Chris @24k


Disclosure: The Nokia 3.1 Plus and Cricket Wireless service were on loan at no cost. I have not been compensated for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Photos are courtesy of Cricket.

The best and most important feature of the 3.1 Plus is its long-lasting 3,500 mAh internal battery, which can recharge fast via Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 3.0. After some months of testing, I have been able to get about two and a half days of use between recharges. I did a lot of app gaming, video streaming, and web surfing with it.

This large of a battery would normally take more than a few hours to power up via a standard wall charger. Though, this model 3.1 Plus has several important bits under the glass to help with charging up faster. Powering up this Nokia’s battery is greatly assisted by Qualcomm’s special charging hardware and algorithm. This smartphone can charge with an 18W wall adapter and a USB-C cable. The international version comes with a microUSB port.

Cricket and Nokia worked together to go with a USB-C port and compatible charger. It can handle up to 18W of power too. The majority of smartphones, including some older iPhone models, cannot fast charge out of the box. While the iPhones Xs Max can fast charge, it requires the purchase of a more expensive USB-C wall power adapter.

Overview

Nokia’s 3.1 Plus comes with the Android 9.0 Pie system and Google’s current security patch. This phone is a part of the Android One program, which means it will continue to receive updates for many years, more on this later. It has received multiple updates over the last three months. This is the first Android One certified smartphone that I have tested from Cricket Wireless, which is surprising at this price point.

What’s In The Box:
- Nokia 3.1 Plus Smartphone
- Nano SIM Card
- 3500 mAh (non-removable) Battery
- Wall Charger / USB-C Cable
- Quick Start Guide

Its right edge is where all of the buttons are located. The volume rocker is above the power button. Those with headphones that plug in via a 3.5mm jack are lucky; this port is on the top right. The USB-C charging port for the 3.1 Plus is at the bottom middle, where it should be.

Cricket Wireless has a winner with this Nokia, as it comes with better hardware and features that go beyond what the international model has, like a Qualcomm Snapdragon, a USB-C port, and QuickCharge 3.0. The combination of Qualcomm chipset, rear dual-cameras, and a long-term update plan are hard to beat.

Nokia’s use of stock Android, makes this smartphone very close to the Google Pixel experience. It also learns how you use the phone and will optimize battery usage over time. You should notice slightly longer battery life.

Its squircle (curved) corners, no top notch, and edge-to-edge HD+ display is pleasing to look and is better than the iPhone 6S Plus square edged screen. I enjoyed its 18:9 aspect ratio, contrast, color saturation, and brightness when using it outside in the direct sunlight of the desert. It comes in one color, navy blue.

Nokia 3.1 Plus Front
Nokia 3.1 Plus Front

An issue I had with this phone is its rear-mounted speaker. The quality of audio was not what it should be, however sacrifices had to be made to keep the price under $200.

Features:
- 5.99” HD+ LCD 18:9 Screen
- 3,500 mAh Battery
- 13MP & 5MP Dual Camera with Flash
- 8MP Front Camera
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB ROM
- Fast 4G LTE Cricket Wireless
- USB-C Port
- 1.95 GHz Octa-core Snapdragon 435 CPU
- Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0
- NFC Google Pay Compatible
- Headphone Port
- Android 9 and Android One Multi-year Update Support

Streaming live Instagram broadcasts, Twitch channels, and YouTube videos worked well in nearly all of the cities I tried them in. Cricket Wireless smartphones that I have tested near Sacramento, used to have one bar of signal.

This is not the case with the Nokia 3.1 Plus. This phone consistently received four or five bars of signal near Sacramento, and in the downtown area. T-Mobile and Verizon signal in those same cities were three to four bars. Signal has been upgraded over the last six months due to the installation of new cell sites and 5G.

During the three months of Cricket Wireless service that I used, I was able to test it around the US. These cities included JFK Airport, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Francisco, Sacramento, and various suburbs of those cities. I finally got great results for download and upload speeds ranging from 12Mbps to 82Mbps on this carrier.

Interestingly, the signal strength outside of Sacramento, in a smaller town of about 60k, produced an average download speed result of 35Mbps and upload average was 9.25Mbps. The reason for the speed increase, which previously was around 2Mbps with other Cricket phones, was due to a new cell site that was installed and this phone having a better Qualcomm chipset.

The hotspot function was disabled on this loaner device. These speed tests were completed with speedtest.net. Compared to postpaid service on AT&T and a more premium smartphone, the ZTE AXON M received speeds of 125Mbps down and 45Mbps up in the Las Vegas area.

Under the glass of the Nokia 3.1 Plus, is a Snapdragon 435 octa-core CPU, 1.9 GHz quad-core and 1.45GHz quad-core, 3 GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. For $159.99 currently, the value for what you get in this budget smartphone is compelling. Running Android 9 Pie barely had any slowdown, even when launching app games. It has NFC for wireless payments via Google Pay.


The pre-installed Cricket software on the 3.1 Plus saves the locations and Wi-Fi hotspot information to make it easier to connect to them in the future. The AT&T MVNO prepaid cellular company knows that its customers may choose smaller data plans to save money, so they maximize your use of Wi-Fi connections.

It continually scans for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals, even when the phone is in airplane mode. This Nokia 3.1 Plus was less aggressive with automatically connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots, which is a nice change. It did turn on the Wi-Fi and connect to known hotspots while I was streaming a lot via the cellular connection. I found this less aggressive use of Wi-Fi scanning to be slightly better than what was installed on the Motorola e5 Supra.

On the rear of this smartphone are two cameras, a flash and fingerprint sensor. Nokia installed a dual-camera system on the back, 13MP and 5MP, with a bright LED flash. The secondary camera helps to create a simple bokeh effect in Live Bokeh mode.

There are many smartphones, including premium models that cost twice as much, that do not have an auto HDR mode. The 3.1 Plus has auto HDR in photo mode only, square, panorama, video and time-lapsed. There are no options to adjust white balance, ISO, or contrast when snapping photos. Its video settings include full HD 1080p, HD 720p, SD 480p, with no slow motion option. Switching between photo and video modes is as easy as a swipe.

An 8MP forward facing selfie camera is above the screen in a slightly larger than necessary top bezel. There is no selfie LED flash, so you will have to rely on a bright screen burst, which takes a few seconds. It can record video up to 1080p, which is a nice upgrade from 720p.

Nokia 3.1 Plus Back
Nokia 3.1 Plus Back

The rear and forward camera performance could be better. My photos were mostly clear, but due to phase-detection image stabilization and high fstop performance, photos can get blurry in low light and quick scenarios. The Live Bokeh mode is a novelty. At 13MP f/2.0 and 5MP f/2.4, and 8MP f/2.2, low light photography are not strong points for any of the cameras.

One of the best features of Android phones is that they usually come with a microSD card slot, like this Nokia smartphone does. By peeling off its plastic back cover, the card slot quickly becomes accessible. This makes it easy to expand storage to store files, photos and HD videos. The battery is non-removable though and this phone is not water proof or resistant.

To store everything, there is 32GB of onboard memory. This may seem like a lot for a budget smartphone, though the system takes up 10GB and pre-installed apps take up 4.2GB, with about 14.7GB left available. Apps that you do not want can be uninstalled to free up space. I like SanDisk’s A1 128GB micro SD card to record 1080p video and run apps. You can expand its memory up to an additional 256GB.

Nokia’s 3.1 Plus is an attractive polycarbonate Android 9 Pie smartphone from Cricket Wireless. The price is right and their service works much better than the last phone I tested from the carrier. I used it to make speakerphone calls and unfortunately, the speaker is located on the back right corner. It was loud enough though and the people on the other end could hear me at airports and while riding as a passenger in a car.

I appreciated that this is the fastest smartphone to shut off that I have ever used. At exactly the moment I hit the power off button on the screen, it went blank and was off. While it may have turned off the screen and is quietly shutting down in the background, I liked how instant it seemed.

Google’s Android One program has certified the Nokia 3.1 Plus to get major software updates for the next two years and security patches every month, for three years. There are many budget and moderately priced smartphones on the market that do not offer this kind of update support.

The last Cricket Wireless compatible smartphone that I reviewed was the Motorola e5 Supra and while this Nokia 3.1 Plus costs less, you still get a solid smartphone with two-day battery life, impressive features, and more importantly, an experience that rivals the new Pixel with stock Android.

Rating: 4.5/5

Pros:
- 5.99” HD+ LCD 18:9 Screen
- 3,500 mAh Battery
- Dual Rear Cameras with Flash
- 3GB RAM (Upgraded from international model)
- Fast 4G LTE Cricket Wireless
- USB-C Port
- Octa-core Snapdragon 435 CPU
- Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0
- NFC Google Pay
- Headphone Port
- Android One

Cons:
- Non Removable Battery
- No Adjustable Photo Settings
- No 4K Video Recording Option
- No Qi Wireless Charging
- Big Top and Bottom Bezels
- No Forward Facing Flash

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