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Nokia bets big on buttons with its new budget phones

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A slate of new, cheaper phones for the masses

Nokia 1

As is practically tradition, HMD Global has come to Mobile World Congress with a new lineup of Nokia phones, and this year’s group includes budget devices with some clever new features.

That starts with the Nokia 4.2, a new class of phone for the company designed to slot in between the pricier Nokia 5 line and the cheaper Nokia 3. The 4.2 is meant to offer an “affordable flagship experience,” with premium features like a notched 5.71-inch display, glass front and back design, dual camera system, and a fingerprint sensor without breaking the $200 mark.

The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 439 processor, so it’s definitely not the fastest device around. It’s rounded out by a 3,000 mAh battery and either 2GB RAM with 16GB of storage or 3GB RAM with 32GB of storage.

But the most interesting part of the Nokia 4 is its buttons. There’s a dedicated Google Assistant button, which Nokia is loading with a few tricks: press it once to trigger the Assistant, twice to bring up Google’s Visual Snapshot view, and press and hold to keep the mic open for a conversational, always listening mode like on a full smart speaker.

There’s also a “breathing” notification light integrated into the power button. If the device is face down, the light will gently glow when you have new notifications, which is a clever feature. The Nokia 4 will cost either $169 or $199 depending on the storage configuration, although Nokia isn’t sure yet which configurations will come to the US when the phone launches in April.

Nokia 3.2

Next is the Nokia 3.2, an updated version of the 3.1 that’s getting the same dedicated Google Assistant and glowing power buttons, a larger 6.26-inch notched display, and a beefy 4,000 mAh battery.

The 3.2 has the same Snapdragon 439 processor and 2GB RAM / 16GB storage and 3GB RAM / 32GB storage options as the 4.2. But the 3.2 does lack a few of the 4.2’s nicer features, like the glass back (it’s plastic, instead) and the fingerprint sensor. It is a bit cheaper though, set to cost $169 and $139, depending on the storage/RAM option. The Nokia 3.2 will launch in May.

Nokia 1

HMD is also announcing the $99 Nokia 1 Plus, which is meant to improve upon last year’s Nokia 1 as a sort of entry-level smartphone for folks looking to upgrade from a feature phone for the first time.

It features a 5.45-inch 18:9 display, removable back cover with replaceable battery, and is thinner than last year’s model. Crucially, it’ll also run Android 9 Pie Go, instead of the larger Android 9 Pie, and will be available in mid-March.

Nokia 210

Lastly, there’s the Nokia 210, a proper, classic Nokia feature phone. As you might expect, the specs here are nothing to be amazed by: a 2.4-inch QVGA display and 16MB of memory. But, it also does have Snake, physical keys, a removable 1,020mAh battery, an FM radio, and even an app store (for apps designed for Nokia’s proprietary, Java-based feature phone OS). It’ll cost $35 when it comes out in March.