Nokia 3.4 review: Nokia's latest ultra-budget phone on test

The Nokia 3.4 is very cheap and just about okay at what it does

Nokia 3.4
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Nokia 3.4 comes with one major selling point, and that's its low, low price. You'll struggle to find a smartphone available for much cheaper than this, but if you're going to limit your budget to this level, make sure you know what you're getting in return.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Very affordable

  • +

    Clean software

  • +

    James Bond link

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Slow performance

  • -

    Okay camera

  • -

    Average battery life

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The Nokia 3.4 sees Nokia (or rather parent company HMD Global) continuing to churn out satisfactory, budget Android handsets – if you want a phone for as little money as possible, then Nokia is a brand worth turning to, and that's definitely the case with the Nokia 3.4.

The key selling point, and just about the only stand-out feature of this phone, is the price: it's about a tenth the cost of some of the top-end flagships from Apple and Samsung, and with that in mind we're prepared to give it a lot of leeway in terms of a few compromises.

And you will get compromises – in terms of the screen, the performance, the camera quality and so on. If you're willing to take slightly inferior tech for a much lower price though, then the Nokia 3.4 – and this in-depth review – should be of interest to you.

Whether you're wondering about the Nokia 3.4 battery life, or how well the smartphone runs, or the camera quality of the Nokia 3.4, or anything else about the handset, we've got the answers here. This is what we found after several days of using the phone extensively.

Nokia 3.4 review: price and availability

The Nokia 3.4 is out and available now, for around £130 in the UK and around $180 in the US. You can buy it direct from Nokia as well as from third-party retailers including Argos and Tesco. It's also available on contract at networks including O2.

There's also a James Bond tie-in here: the upcoming Bond flick No Time To Die has been extensively referred to in the promotion of the Nokia 3.4, though we're not sure if this is one of the handsets that will be in the film when it appears in 2021 (there will definitely be one or two Nokia models on show at least).

Nokia 3.4 review: design and screen

Pick up the Nokia 3.4 and it has that slightly cheap, slightly insubstantial feel of a budget phone, but then you wouldn't expect a premium slab of glass and metal at this price. As always with a Nokia phone, it's well put together and comes with an aesthetic that's not unappealing if also a little bit dull. We've seen worse-looking handsets at this price point, let's put it that way.

Purple, blue and black (the colour we reviewed) are your colour choices, and we quite like the textured plastic back of the phone, which gives it a decent grip and is something different from the norm. We're not so keen on the circular rear camera arrangement, just above the rear fingerprint scanner, but that's more of a personal preference.

As well as the usual volume controls and power switch on the right of the phone as you look at it, there's also a dedicated Google Assistant button on the left, which we actually find useful for calling up the digital assistant app. There's a USB-C port on the bottom, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the top. As is the norm for budget phones, you don't get any sort of water or dust protection, so be careful what you do with it.

As for the screen, the 6.39-inch LCD panel runs at a resolution of 720 x 1560 pixels, with a single punch hole notch for the selfie camera. It's a respectable display – watching movies and browsing the web is fine – but it's by no means a stand-out. You're certainly going to notice the difference in display quality if you put this up next to something like the OnePlus Nord.

Nokia 3.4 review: camera and battery

Nokia 3.4

(Image credit: Future)

Around the back the Nokia 3.4 packs in three cameras: a 13MP wide, a 5MP ultrawide and a 2MP depth camera. There's no optical zoom, but there is some HDR processing, as well as that ultrawide mode for fitting more into the frame. The choice of modes is fairly limited here once you open up the camera app, with Portrait, Photo, Video (1080p up to 30 fps) and Night the choices you've got.

The quality of photos you'll get from the Nokia 3.4 is variable, with occasional problems with noise and blurring as you snap away. Shutter speed is a little slow, and some pictures can end up muddy and flat. That said, we were testing the phone on a drab, wet day (which is pretty much unavoidable at this time of year), and if you've got a lot of natural light and a steady hand, you can still get decent shots for social media.

The dedicated night mode isn't really much help, as it boosts the brightness but tends to introduce even more noise and fuzziness – photos in the darkness often look better in the standard mode, though you will need some light to see anything. Overall, the camera quality is only okay, which is perhaps what you'd expect at this price.

Battery life was fairly average too, with around 30 percent or so of a charge remaining at the end of each evening. The phone doesn't seem to lose much juice in standby – perhaps due to the adaptive battery management in Android – but fares less well in use. In our two-hour video streaming test (at maximum display brightness, which is a bit unfair), the battery dropped from 100 percent to 71 percent, suggesting you'll get about 6-7 hours of streaming in total.

Nokia 3.4 review: other specs and features

Nokia 3.4

(Image credit: Nokia)

The Nokia 3.4 comes with a budget Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 chipset, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage – that's really the bare minimum for running a smartphone these days, though you can at least expand the storage by slotting in a memory card (though that adds to the cost of the phone of course). This is really just a phone for doing the basics, like sending messages, browsing the web, and checking social media.

Geekbench 5 scores of 249 (single core), 1116 (multi core) and 256 (OpenCL) show that this phone and its specs are a long way behind the mid-range handsets that'll cost you three or four times as much – the savings are significant, but so are the performance levels. Some of the more demanding games we tried struggled to run properly, for example, although watching streaming video is no problem at all.

While the phone is by no means unusable, there is a sluggishness here when you're doing many interactions, whether that's opening new browser tabs or flicking through photos. Still, it's almost impossible to find a phone that's cheaper than the Nokia 3.4, so that always needs to be taken into consideration – if this is just a handset for occasional, undemanding tasks then it'll get by okay.

We do at least like the software, the uncluttered and bloat-free version of Android that comes with all Nokia handsets (it's Android 10 in this case). As part of the Android One program, the Nokia 4.3 is guaranteed timely software updates for a minimum of two years, and security updates for a minimum of three years (though we suspect you might have upgraded by the time the phone is three years old).

Nokia 3.4 review: price and verdict

Nokia 3.4

(Image credit: Nokia)

The Nokia 3.4 is a fairly straightforward proposition: it gives you a usable smartphone for not very much money at all. If you're looking to get a new Android handset while spending as little as possible, then we'd suggest getting the Nokia 3.4 somewhere on your list – you're not going to find a working handset for very much less than this if you have a look around at what's available at retailers.

Nokia being Nokia, this is a well put together handset that feels like it's going to last from a hardware perspective - it actually looks better than you might expect from a phone at this price point. While the display isn't particularly brilliant, you can certainly get by on it, and we were able to do everything from watching streaming video to browsing across the web without noticing any problems with the display.

On the downside, in terms of performance, battery life and camera quality, you're really getting close to the bottom of what's acceptable from a smartphone. The Nokia 3.4 does okay in these three areas, but no more than that, and the improvement is very clear in phones that occupy the £300-400 range. If you can afford to stretch to that higher price point, then we think it's worth doing.

Overall, the Nokia 3.4 is going to be able to do everything you need a smartphone to do, apart from run demanding apps and games – it's just not going to do anything to a very high standard. If that's a compromise you're willing to make to get a phone at this low, low price, then this is a handset that you'll want to investigate further.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.