Nokia 215 review:

Nothing could be simpler than this one-track cheapie

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Nokia 215 (black)

(Part #: A00023207)
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Nokia 215 is ultra-affordable and immensely pocketable. FM radio and a camera are useful extras on such a basic phone.

The Bad Since the 215 only works on two bands, you won't be able to use it everywhere in the world.

The Bottom Line There's no need to hold back from buying this cheap, simple Nokia 215, which does exactly what it promises.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 6.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Performance 7.0

Being told you have a one-track mind isn't usually a compliment, but that's the Nokia 215's entire reason for existence. It's a phone whose primary objective is to make calls and it costs just $30, which translates to £19 or AU$35, not including tax. The barriers for success for this kind of handset are ridiculously low: achieve good call quality, have sturdy construction, be cheap.

Unfortunately, the 215 isn't a truly global device because it only works on the 900 and 1,800MHz bands, frequencies found predominantly in parts of Asia and Africa, as well as the Middle East and Europe. The phone may also get signal in select countries in Latin America, but not North America. It will work in the UK and Australia, but it's unlikely to be widely available there as it doesn't even have 3G, let alone 4G LTE.

Folks in the regions where it does go on sale could use the 215 as a starter device they can give to kids or elderly people, out-of-town visitors, or simply keep as a spare if they don't want it as their primary device. There's definitely room in the market for the most basic of handsets.

Design and build

Design-wise, the Nokia 215 has just about everything you'd want in this type of phone: a short, thin profile and sturdy build. It measures 4.6 inches tall by 2 inches wide by 0.55 inch thick (116 by 50 by 12.9mm) and weighs just 2.8 ounces (78.4 grams).

The back pops off to reveal the battery and microSD card slot within, but apart from that, the 215 has a sturdy polycarbonate plastic build that tucks easily into pockets and purses. Rounded edges make it easy to palm and carry around. The slippery, matte finish isn't a problem for a phone this small and easy to contain in one hand.

A 2.4-inch screen with a 320x240-pixel resolution adorns the face; and I do mean basic. It does support 262,000 colors, which is admittedly better than black and white. You navigate through two soft keys and a four-way directional pad you can press down on to select. There are a few other keys on the alphanumeric keypad you should know, like the power/end button and one to silence the phone. The buttons themselves are rubbery and responsive.

The Nokia 215 comes in white and black as well as this screaming green. Sarah Tew/CNET

You will find a camera on the back; it's the most basic resolution, a 0.3-megapixel lens. There's no flash, but there is a flashlight (torch) up at the top, next to the 3.5mm headset jack and Micro-USB charging port.

In keeping with Nokia's modern use of neon colors, you can get the 215 in bright green; otherwise, it comes in two more sedate shades, white and black.

Navigation and apps

The proprietary OS is dead simple to get around. The Go To soft key can launch a few features, like the camera or flashlight. For more apps, the Menu button pulls up your call log and contacts, along with apps for your music player and alarm clock. There's Internet, in a fashion. The Opera browser will load pages slowly over 2G and compress data and images to accommodate the slower speeds.

You'll find a messaging app as well, and the ever-useful FM radio. For entertainment, there are a few apps and games you can download through the app store. Microsoft makes its presence known in the Bing search tool you find preloaded. Separate apps let you view your photos and videos, and you can pull up the weather through a dedicated program.

There's a flashlight up top, a useful addition. Sarah Tew/CNET

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