back to article Utilitarian, long-bodied Nokia 5.3 has budget basic specs - but it does cost £150

Nokia has traditionally been typified by utilitarian phones* that get the job done — from the legendary Communicator series to the indestructible 3310. Following in that storied path is the Nokia 5.3, which delivers steely reliability in an otherwise forgettable package. If you’re looking for a Ronseal-esque blower that won’t …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wireless charging is a convenience worth having in 2020. So too is NFC.

    Both of those are just shiny baubles to me with the latter being a battery sucker and I'd never use my phone for payments or banking as it's too many eggs in one basket.

    Call me old fashioned but a hardened world traveller knows to split up his cash, cards, phone, wallet and passport for security reasons.

    1. MrMerrymaker Bronze badge

      Wireless charging is great, trust me.

      I've had to get rid of too many phones because the charging port gets used so much. Doubly so if it lacks a proper headphone jack.

      I echo your NFC comments, but wireless charging is great. I have a little wireless power brick with me, it's convenient and no need for cables.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Trollface

        You are plugging it in wrong!

      2. Eeep !

        Name the phones please

        Any chance of naming the phones so we can all agree with the build quality ?

      3. MrMerrymaker Bronze badge

        I don't get this site, why am I getting downvotes for having a portable wireless charger?

        1. JDX Gold badge

          'cos this site is full of grumpy old luddites.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Efficiency seriously wastes potential in wireless charging. It's convenient, but like driving a lambo, expensive.

          I to this day don't know why they did not do magsafe for both charging and headphones, as this would allow less ports, thinner phones (looking at this Nokia, it's not thinner!) and adaptors for existing wires.

          Wireless is good, but I've never had the desire or need for it except the free one at on McDonalds I visited. As less chance of hacking/faults blowing the phone over wireless charging.

          NFC though can be very handy if used right.

        3. George Spiggott

          >I don't get this site, why am I getting downvotes for having a portable wireless charger?

          Perhaps because wireless charging isn't very environmentally friendly, people already have millions of chargers that can readily be used across a broad range of phones (with a change of lead) and is something the EU mandated on to reduce E-waste, they also have higher energy losses than a traditional charger.

          I did not downvote you, just merely pointed out as to possible reasons why others might.

        4. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

          You may have offended someone who just downvotes everything you post.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Both of those are just shiny baubles to me with the latter being a battery sucker

      Never use NFC myself but it is generally passive, otherwise how would wireless card payments happen? But then that's what I use for paying for stuff? Why should I get my phone out to make a payment, when a far less fragile card will do?

      Wireless is charing is very convenient and becoming more available. But, particularly with USB-C, it's not as if plugging in a cable is beyond people.

      1. MatthewSt Bronze badge

        It's passive on one side yes, but when NFC is enabled on a phone it's constantly looking for devices that are also passive (or at least it used to be). Mine always used to ping when a credit card or a passport was within reach.

        1. Andy Nugent

          I would guess you've installed an NFC reader app which is then looking for NFC tags to read.

          The normal use case is the payment terminal is constantly looking for tags to read and the NFC on the phone acts as a tag.

        2. AIBailey

          I've been a convert to Android Pay over the past year or so, but only turn on NFC at the point of paying. Usually it's turned off.

          1. lybad

            Same here.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Which is a lot better than your bank card which you can't turn off and which declares its actual credentials down the line, rather than Android Pay which uses a different number. I'm sure it can be hacked, but it really is just so much easier to steal a card and use that.

        3. Mark #255
          Facepalm

          Nexus 7

          Ah yes, years ago I heard a repeated "boodle-um boodle-um" chime coming from somewhere. I tracked it down: it was my Nexus 7, sat on a pile of library books.

        4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          NFC is generally disabled when the display is off as this reduced both power draw and potential attacks – also makes some uses less attractive as you can't just "bonk" the phone. But even if it were on all the time, it really is low power compared to all the other radios the phone has.

      2. TVC

        I dasabled the contactless function on all my cards as I'm not prepared to risk losing one and having the finder use it thus causing a lot of hassle. But have been using the Samsung pay by phone function since the start of lockdown. Needs a PIN each time and typically no spending limit. Quick, Hygienic and secure.

        1. AMBxx Silver badge
          Boffin

          I've just switched my bank account to Startling. Their app lets you enable and disable your debit card at any time. I just keep mine disabled until I need it. So much easier than my old method with a hole punch.

          Just a shame they don't do credit cards (unless someone knows a credit card with similar functionality).

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            I do the same with my Revolut card, which has nice levels of security. All main online banking is done at home and secured by HBCI.

            Contactless payments are generally for the benefit of the payment providers, not the users.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              In a coronavirus pandemic, even our local farmers' co-operative now has a £75 limit on contactless. I for one do not want to stick my card in a grubby card reader and then press the buttons pressed by many other people. In fact, I didn't like it before covid.

              1. Tom 7 Silver badge

                If I'm out and about in a time of covid everything is going to be regarded as grubby, I'd imagine a card reader will respond better to a covid killing wet wipe than almost anything else out there.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  You know somewhere that does that?

              2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
                Facepalm

                You do realise that the virus is airborne, don't you?

            2. ovation1357 Bronze badge

              "Contactless payments are generally for the benefit of the payment providers, not the users"

              Really? As someone who's never been keen on carrying cash around I think contactless is a huge benefit to me as a user. Get to the till... Time to pay... <Beep>... Done..

              I get the occasional spot check where I have to enter my PIN, or a rare day where I exceed the maximum number of transactions. But it's hugely convenient to be for all my typical daily transactions. No cash, no need to touch the machine, no waiting for the typically slower PIN authentication to come through, (usually) no waste of paper card receipt unless I ask for one or the retailer still doesn't understand that contactless doesn't print a customer copy and duplicates the merchant copy for me without asking.

              Contactless using a card is a big step forward in my view. However NFC on a phone is something mine supports but I've never felt the urge to use

              I believe that I could use my phone to do preauthorized contactless payments for much larger sums like my weekly shopping or a new TV but then the debit card with chip and PIN just feels much simpler than having to unlock my phone, launch an app and then go through 2FA (or MFA).

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                "Really?"

                Yes, it pushes the onus when disuputing transactions onto the cardholder, just as chip-and-pin does.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  This was always the case. Always.

                2. ovation1357 Bronze badge

                  In my experience the banks (at least here in the UK) seem to be generally protective towards the end users - I'm sure there will be cases where they weren't but the general story seems to be positive.

                  In the days of magnetic strip and a signature along with no CVV codes it was stupidly easy for a criminal to Clone your card and forge your signature. Back in the days of BBSes there were loads of credit card number generators too. Card fraud was rife and damn-right the onus had to be on the bank.

                  With the advent of chip and PIN you've got a pretty secure chip that's extremely hard to clone plus an extra factor in the form of your PIN. I don't mind that there's an 'onus' on me to protect my PIN. There was a case I believe, of people 'cloning' chip and PIN cards at a shop which was using a tampered-with terminal to capture people's PINs. I grant that the victims could have had to fight through an initial wall is disbelief from their banks by eventually it was investigated, the perpetrators arrested and the victims refunded. If it happened to me I'd be annoyed but I'd persevere until it was resolved.

                  With contactless I can only do a maximum of 4 transactions of up to £45 before requiring the PIN. So if lose my card or its stolen then the I could find myself up to £180 lighter off. In the few cases I've heard of, the banks have immediately refunded any money taken (I believe there's a consumer protection scheme which means they have to in most cases). In the worst case they don't refund me and I'm a bit sad, but it's not a life-changing loss.

                  I'll take the risks in exchange for the convenience

                  1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

                    UK banks are notoriously lax when it comes to security. At one point they realised that they could make more money by getting customers to insure themselves against card fraud than they would lose by increasing security by adding things identification requirements or cardholder photos.

                    They want contactless because they don't like moving and processing cash. Once they can enforce that, they can introduce new charges as they have done with every change thus far. Also, the more data they collect on payments, the more they can sell it to "interested parties".

            3. Jurassic Hermit

              Hope it doesn't go the way of Wirecard. Good luck.

      3. David Roberts

        NFC?

        Some things which are non-payment but very useful rely on NFC.

        For example I sometimes wear a Freestyle Libre glucose monitor on my arm, and use the phone to read it using NFC.

        There will always be some application needing a minority function on a phone.

        [Or only working under Windows.]

        Just glad this article prompted me to remember that not all modern phones have NFC.

        Contemplating an upgrade at the moment.

    3. oiseau Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I'd never use my phone for payments or banking ...

      Finally. =-D

      Thanks you for saying that.

      I've been saying the very same thing since this NFC thing came on and been endlessly made fun of as being backward. Because, you know, new and shiny is good and ah so convenient.

      Well, not for me.

      Electronic wallet my ass.

      O.

      1. TiredNConfused80

        NFC is useful sometimes

        https://www.freestylelibre.co.uk/libre/

        Fairly specific use case though I admit..

      2. tin 2

        I thought it was a great idea until seeing a good many people screw up at the barriers on the underground. Hang on that didn't work... double-click, or was it triple-click? ah no the wallet app has disappeared, hang on a sec... sorry about this...

        And while waving your £700 phone around. No ta.

        1. Glen 1 Silver badge

          I have found a factor is not holding the device in place for long enough. It can take 1-2 seconds.

          I have a pingit device attached to my watch strap. *Very* handy. These days, its unusual for me to need my wallet (I keep other stuff in there, so I still carry it).

          As for security, my thinking is that if i'm going to get mugged, they will get my watch and wallet anyway. Skimming my wrist will be more obvious than skimming my wallet, and I'm rarely - (maybe once a year), in an environment crowded enough where it wouldn't be pretty obvious what was going on.

          Still more secure than swipe and sign.

    4. Steve Graham

      My Nokia 5 has NFC (so a regression in specs with the 5.3), and I have no problem with battery life. I turn off wifi when not needed, as that seems to be the biggest drain. Bluetooth and GPS are on all the time.

      Like you though, I wouldn't dream of trusting the Android ecosystem with my money, so I don't actually use NFC for anything, although I have played with a little app that can skim credit card numbers.

      1. retrogamer1978

        I bought the Nokia 5.3 as a replacement for my Iphone 8 and for the £150 paid it's a bargain. The Northern Lights inspires cyan coloured version is lovely. You definitely get a lot for your money here and can't recommend it enough. The 20:9 screen width is great for watching videos, the screen is decent and so too is the camera. It's quite good for playing games on the go and the two day battery life quoted more or less holds up. It also features NFC and face unlock. Can't recommend this phone enough.

    5. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Both NFC and Wireless Charging can be thought of as backups. NFC a useful backup if you lose or mislay your wallet - you can still still buy dinner, beers and your train ticket home. For sure, I do like to carry cash for similar reasons, but those wretched springy, slippy plastic notes are hard to retain. Wireless charging is a backup for a damagedng port, saving an otherwise functional phone from the recycling bin.

      Waterproofing too has saved me the cost of several new phones. It's my phone so it should be adapted to my behaviour, rather than me adapting my behaviour to suit a mere object.

      Buy well, buy once.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "[NFC] being a battery sucker and I'd never use my phone for payments or banking"

      NFC can be used to print stuff, though, which can be handy (my Brother laser supports it). :)

    7. JDX Gold badge

      I had wireless charging on my Nokia 1020. I liked the idea but I haven't missed it since I switched phones several years ago.

  2. Mystic Megabyte
    WTF?

    Bugs?

    Hopefully it will be better than my Nokia 5. I've been woken up a couple of times when I've left it on charge overnight. It beeps to tell you that it's too cold to charge, cancel that message and five minutes later it will do it again. Cancel that message and shortly it will beep to tell you that it is now too hot to charge. WTF!

    The phone did not feel hot and the ambient temperature was about 13°C so I can only assume that it's a bug.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we get a utilitarian tablet?

    I'd like an Android tablet with no GPS, no cameras, no microphones, stripped of all the third party spyware. Its a thing for running software and interacting with the screen, I don't want all the other crap.

    I've got Huawei Matepad pro's at the moment, and I find the punch through front camera to be a real PITA. I normally stick some tape over the cameras, but its not pleasant with the hole punch camera types they're doing now. They've made the front all screen and punched a hole for the front facing camera I never use.

    Also the charging thing. My tablets will be always on, they don't really do a charge-discharge cycle. I'd sacrifice the battery for a bigger screen. Why is it I cannot get an interactive screen tablet device designed for work?

    Like PC all-in ones, but a modern Android slimline portable remake of one?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Can we get a utilitarian tablet?

      So you want a tablet with few inputs, bigger than a tablet, with no battery? An odd use case, I'd say, but you can probably manage it if you're willing to fiddle around. You could, for example, get a Surface, disconnect the camera (from a teardown it looks like that's doable), and run Android X86 on it. Or you could get a tablet meant to run Linux which has killswitches for all those things and do a bit of work to make Android run well on it. And I found some large, desktop-sized all-in-ones with Android on them from several years ago. Maybe one of those product lines still exists. But if you're asking why companies haven't built that device already, it's because it isn't very useful for people. Most users use tablets and touchscreen devices for portable, not desktop, use cases. So they make them smaller and with batteries.

  4. Sulky

    Somebody is telling porkies!

    Not sure who it is though, or if they are just ill informed, the Nokia website says the 5.3 does have NFC, who's right?

    1. Degats

      Re: Somebody is telling porkies!

      They usually don't have NFC in India, but do elsewhere. Nokias tend to be available in India first (especially the lower end), so it's possible the spec list was from the Indian version.

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      NFC?

      We're double-checking -- it does appear to have NFC. Don't forget to email corrections@theregister.com if you spot anything wrong so we can fix things right away.

      C.

  5. x 7

    which Nokia

    so is this from whatever part of Nokia wasn't taken over by Microsoft, or from some random chinese company who just licenced the name?

    1. Sulky

      Re: which Nokia

      HMD Global have the rights to Nokia phones from Nokia. They are an independent company from Finland.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: which Nokia

      Microsoft didn't want the brand, or even much of the IP.

      The purchase only makes sense if you understand the financial engineering involved in borrowing money to buy shares in a company that your shareholders own stakes in.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GPS versions

    The article didn't mention the GPS flavors this phone does. Trust me, when it does A-GPS, GLONASS & BDS, it changes everything.

    The thing synchronizes almost instantly.

    I'll be having a look at the 7.3 from Nokia. This is really my comfort zone: doesn't cost thousands, does everything I need, has 2 days battery life.

    I already have a 7.1, which is doing great still.

  7. tony72

    Resolution

    The review omitted to give the screen resolution, 720 x 1600 apparently. With a 6.55" screen, I'm thinking that's some fairly chunky pixels.

    So has OLED become cheap now? I'm surprised to see an OLED display in a budget phone, but then I don't really watch the phone market, so maybe this has snuck up on me.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Resolution

      OLED was always due to get cheaper over time as the technology improved: in theory much simply than LCD. In theory.

      But, while it was initially restricted to a couple of manufacturers, it's now much more widely available, though still relatively expensive, which is why production is still devoted to phones and not TV screens. And the high resolution screens are still expensive.

    2. Andy Nugent

      Re: Resolution

      I love that 720x1600 on a 6.55" screen is now considered "chunky pixels".

      The equivelent ppi laptop would be a 13.1" 3200x1440 screen.

    3. AIBailey

      Chunky Pixels?

      That screen resolution gives a pixel density around 268ppi.

      Apple have been merrily putting the "Retina Display" moniker on many products with lower pixel densities than that, including all recent iPad's, iPad Pro's, MacBook Pro's, and the Pro Display XDR.

      So no, there won't be chunky pixels.

      You may see a slight difference between that and phones with pixel densities in the realm of 400ppi, but for general use it'll be perfectly serviceable.

    4. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Resolution

      720x1600 on a 6.5" screen is chunky?! That's not far below standard HD on most laptops at far higher DPI. I think you've been spoiled/taken in by all the marketing.

  8. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Two years of updates? That really is atrocious. And the hardware must be getting stable - so five years, at least.

    1. mark l 2 Silver badge

      My Nokia 5.1 has just recently upgraded to Android 10 and originally came with Android 8 when it was released in 2018 and it updated to 9 about this time last year. So it still much better than some of the competition whose 2018 phones have not received updates in a while.

      So for that alone I would consider another Nokia phone when my 5.1 becomes out of support or breaks.

      And although NFC would be handy to have the only thing i would probably use it for is contactless payments. And my phone case as 2 slots for holding credit cards, so i can pop a bank card in there and still tap my phone on the card reader if i want to pay contactless and no apps to open up.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        I'm not saying they are worse than the competition - I'm saying it's bad in absolute terms. You'd be able to put Windows 10 on a five year old PC. My four year old Mac Mini is getting OS updates. A right to repair is no good if the thing can't have the latest OS and is vulnerable as shit - it means perfectly good hardware going in the bin.

        And while I can be a bit forgiving of this in the early days. Modern phones aren't undergoing radical evolution. There's no excuse not to commit a phone released today to a decent run of support.

      2. dajames Silver badge

        And my phone case as 2 slots for holding credit cards, so i can pop a bank card in there and still tap my phone on the card reader if i want to pay contactless and no apps to open up.

        You can. The use case for NFC payments, though, is that there is a positive authorization step before payment can be made so the system is more secure and your money better protected. That's why contactless payments from cards are typically capped at a few tens of pounds while Android Pay is capped at several thousand.

        Your method also means that when someone nicks your phone they get your payment card as well!

        [I don't actually use Android Pay -- and I certainly wouldn't want to enable it for my main bank account -- but it does offer far more security than a contactless card (used without a PIN) in exchange for just a little convenience.]

    2. dajames Silver badge

      Two years of updates? That really is atrocious.

      It's "Android One", so it should get two Android version updates and fixes/patches for three years from the launch date.

      I do agree, though, that that's setting the bar quite low. I'd have hoped for at least five years worth of security patches. Not everyone wants (or can afford) new Shiny all the time.

  9. ovation1357 Bronze badge

    "the indestructible 3310"

    But let's not forget about the tiny 8210 which would explode into a self-assembly kit if dropped...

    Way back when Panasonic made phones in the UK and I was working for them I happened to be around when one of the testers was doing a fairly scientific 'drop test' of a new Panasonic phone whilst using a Nokia 8210 and possibly a couple of other competitive products as a kind of control/comparison sample.

    The rig consisted of a tiny platform, hinged on one side and latched on the other, about 1.5m high on which you'd lay a phone. Then a release button was pressed which would cause the platform to swing down and let the phone drop onto a concrete block below.

    The next stage of the test was to examine the phone, note anything visibly broken, turn it on and make a test call.

    The tester had to do this for something like 100 iterations.

    Every time this guy dropped the Nokia 8210 it would explode - the whole case fell into several bits, the battery would go flying and I think even the keypad was detachable. So he'd have to go around collecting up all the bits from around him, reassemble and repeat the test...

    Needless to say I don't think the 8210 made it through that test alive.

    And you thought your job was mundane!

    Not sure I'd fancy that kind of testing on many smartphones. Sure they might not fall to bits but screens these days are so much bigger and less forgiving.

  10. tiggity Silver badge

    Got one of these recently

    As a cheap & cheerful phone (sadly no cheapies with removable batteries, but at least it has dual SIM & SD card & headphone jack)

    Low spec fine for me as don't do FB, Instagram etc so don't care about taking lost of photos.

    Its low on added junk & should get android updates for a while (main reason to choose it)

    Only drawback so far is that it came with no bump case or similar (which budget rivals moto do come with) - if you buy a samsung, iphone etc its not an issue as easy to get cases for them, but for more obscure phones that sell in small numbers then a pain when not even a basic cover included as more hassle to get a cover / case.and do tend to expect a basic cover for "obscure" phones (though at least people do make them for this phone as shifts enough units for third parties to bother but its online order, not stocked by local bricks & mortar shops like sammy cases etc.)

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Got one of these recently

      I found a couple low-priced options with removable batteries. I don't know if any are good though. Here's a search with the selected criteria being removable battery, 3.5 mm jack, 2019 or later, and at least 32 GB of internal storage to get rid of the "Go Edition" useless things.

  11. Luiz Abdala Bronze badge
    Thumb Down

    QR code running from the wrong camera.

    The only gripe I have about having several cameras, is that the run-of-the-mill QR code program will pick the most incorrect (wronger?) one to do its job.

    If it has any form of tele-lens in any of the cameras that is unable to focus up close, that will be the one used for QR and barcode recognition. Or the first one in the device hardware list.

    I need barcode and QR abilities on my line of business, and some phones were so atrocious for that job that I kept an old model for that sole purpose for ages.

    Not to mention some banking software that relies on being able to read barcodes on bills to do its job, where the barcode reader part of the program is SO NOT CONFIGURABLE.

  12. MarkElmes

    what is the point in the 2mp macro shooter, surely on a budget phone it's just better to not include, the extra expense is not worth it as who is going to be pleased with 2mp shots

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