Any discussion of the best budget smartphones is going to include entries from Motorola and HMD Global, which makes Nokia phones. The Moto G line has been our default recommendation for years, but recent Nokia phones have dethroned Motorola.
Can the Moto G7 win back the crown as the best budget phone? We decided to compare it with the current king — the Nokia 7.1 — to see which phone is better.
|Moto G7||Nokia 7.1|
|Size||157 x 75.3 x 8 mm (6.18 x 2.96 x 0.31 inches)||149.7 x 71.1 x 8 mm (5.89 x 2.79 x 0.31 inches)|
|Weight||172 grams (6.06 ounces)||160 grams (5.64 ounces)|
|Screen Size||6.2 inches MaxVision LCD||5.8-inch PureDisplay IPS LCD|
|Screen resolution||2270 x 1080 pixels (403 pixels-per-inch)||2280 x 1080 pixels (435 pixels per inch)|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie||Android 9.0 Pie|
|MicroSD card slot||Yes||Yes|
|Tap-to-pay services (NFC)||No||Google Pay|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 632||Qualcomm Snapdragon 636|
|Camera||Dual 12-megapixel and 5MP main camera, 8MP front||Dual 12MP and 5MP rear, 8MP front|
|Video||Up to 4K at 30 fps, 1080p at 60 fps, 720p at 120 fps||Up to 4K at 30 frames per second|
|Bluetooth version||Bluetooth 4.2||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack||USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Fingerprint sensor||Yes (back)||Yes (back)|
|Water resistance||Water repellent||No|
|App marketplace||Google Play Store||Google Play Store|
|Network support||All major carriers||AT&T and T-Mobile|
|Colors||Ceramic Black, Clear White||Midnight Blue, Gloss Steel|
|Review score||Hands-on||4 out of 5 stars|
Performance, battery life, and charging
These two phones are very similarly matched in the performance stakes, but the Nokia 7.1 has the slightly more powerful Snapdragon 636 processor, while the Moto G7 relies on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 632. The Snapdragon 636 has a slight edge in benchmarks with a higher clock speed, but it also offers slightly better image processing, a faster LTE modem, and faster charging than the 632.
Both phones have 4GB of RAM, which should be plenty for most people. They also have 64GB of storage and support for MicroSD cards to expand that if necessary.
Battery life is also a close run too, with a 3,060mAh battery in the Nokia 7.1 versus a 3,000mAh battery in the Moto G7. The Nokia 7.1 can charge slightly faster, at 18W, versus the Moto G7’s 15W.
Winner: Nokia 7.1
Design and durability
With an aluminum frame, glass front and back, and silver or copper accents, the Nokia 7.1 looks and feels like a much more expensive device than it is. The vertically stacked, pill-shaped camera module on the back has a recessed fingerprint sensor below it. On the front, there’s a notch at the top of the screen and a fairly sizable bezel at the bottom. We think it’s a good-looking phone.
The Moto G7 has a familiar look. It’s also glass front and back, with a plastic frame that’s coated with metal. It has more curves than the Nokia. The large, round, signature camera module dominates the back with a fingerprint sensor marked by the Motorola logo below that doubles as a fingerprint sensor. The screen has a teardrop notch at the top for the front-facing camera and a fairly big bezel below. It also looks very good for the price. It’s clear from these two phones that smartphone design trends are filtering down to the budget market faster than ever.
Both phones will want a case to guard against drop damage. There’s no IP rating for either, in fact, there’s no mention of water resistance at all for the Nokia 7.1, whereas the Moto G7 has a basic water repellent coating from P2i.
Design is subjective, but we think the Nokia 7.1 looks and feels more expensive than its price tag. It takes the win for us here.
Winner: Nokia 7.1
The Moto G7 has a 6.2-inch display with a resolution of 2270 x 1080 pixels, which translates to 403 pixels-per-inch. The Nokia 7.1 has a 5.84-inch screen with a resolution of 2280 x 1080 pixels, which, because it’s slightly smaller, is also slightly sharper at 435 pixels-per-inch. Both are LCD, and we don’t think you’ll see much difference between them. The notch carved into the Nokia 7.1 display is larger than the teardrop notch in the Moto G7 display, but the Nokia 7.1 wins points for supporting HDR10, which means you’ll enjoy wider color support and stronger contrast with some Netflix and YouTube content.
Winner: Nokia 7.1
On paper, these smartphones are evenly matched in the photography department. Both have dual-lens main cameras which pair a 12-megapixel lens with an f/1.8 aperture with a 5-megapixel lens for depth sensing. That combination allows you to capture great portrait shots with blurred backgrounds, emulating the bokeh effect you get with DSLR cameras. They also both have 8-megapixel front-facing cameras.
We’ve tested the Nokia 7.1 camera out and found that it’s fairly responsive and capable of capturing accurate colors and plenty of detail. Blur is a problem if you don’t have a steady hand and detail fades away when the light does, but overall we think it’s one of the best cameras you’ll find in a phone in this price range. Only time and testing will tell if the Moto G7 matches or surpasses it.
What we can say is that the Moto G7 camera app offers more options and effects, but that’s obviously less important than the quality of the shots it can capture. Both can capture 4K video, but the Moto G7 also offers slow motion and hyperlapse modes. We’ll call this a tie for now, pending further testing.
Software and updates
The Nokia 7.1 was released with Android 8.0 Oreo, but has already been updated to Android 9.0 Pie. This is partly because it’s an Android One phone, which means it’s free of bloatware and there’s no manufacturer user interface, or skin, on top of Android. It also means that the Nokia 7.1 is guaranteed to get at least three years of security updates and two years of Android releases, which will include Android Q.
The Moto G7 comes with Android 9.0 Pie out of the box, but it does have a few extras on top, including Moto’s gesture shortcuts, the camera app, and probably a few extra apps. Motorola has promised an Android Q update, but beyond that, it’s unlikely the Moto G7 will get further updates, which is disappointing.
Winner: Nokia 7.1
It’s rare to find much in the way of special features on budget phones, but there are a couple of things worth highlighting here. The Nokia 7.1 supports NFC, which means you can use Google Pay with it. Sadly, the Moto G7 does not have an NFC chip inside. The Nokia 7.1 also supports Bluetooth 5, which is faster and has a higher range than Bluetooth 4.2, which is what you’ll find in the Moto G7. However, the Moto G7 does offer some handy gesture shortcuts, like chop twice to turn the flashlight on, extra modes in the camera app, and at least some water resistance.
Winner: Nokia 7.1
The Moto G7 will cost around $300 at launch, and will be available in the U.S. and Europe soon. You’ll be able to buy it unlocked from Best Buy, B&H Photo, Walmart and Amazon, with subsequent availability at Google Fi, Republic Wireless and Ting. It will work on all major carriers.
The Nokia 7.1 is a bit more expensive at around $350. It’s available from Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H in the U.S. but it’s important to note that it won’t work with Verizon or Sprint, you’ll want to be with AT&T or T-Mobile if you buy this phone.
Overall winner: Nokia 7.1
The Nokia 7.1 edges a narrow victory here and it’s the phone we would pick if given the choice between these two. The slightly faster performance is further enhanced by stock Android, the presence of NFC is handy for payments, and a slightly bigger battery with faster charging is always going to be desirable. However, there isn’t a big gap here and it’s debatable whether it’s worth shelling out the extra $50 if money is tight. The Moto G7 will likely be a better choice for some people.