I have a confession: I’m tired of hearing that Indians are no longer buying budget phones. While more people may be buying premium smartphones than ever before, it is strange to claim that everyone in a country with a population of 140 crore is doing so. This brings me to the new Nokia G42 5G, a budget phone that aims to be your everyday smartphone without the need to take a loan from the bank or pay monthly EMIs. That’s certainly a relief at a time when the cost of living is at an all-time high, and it’s nearly impossible to save money. But the question is, how good is the Nokia G42, and does it make sense to buy this device over the competition?
Classic Nokia design
I’m one of those people who gravitate towards products that look different than what others have. This inclination has been deeply rooted in me since my childhood when I would pick the weirdest watch I could get my hands on or the most bizarre pair of shoes. It’s not about price or brand; instead, the intention has always been to set my eyes on something with a unique identity. When I first saw the Nokia G42, I knew I’d want to check the device out – liking it or not is a whole other discussion. Firstly, it doesn’t come from the same mold as other smartphones which I find creepy and boring. Second, the device I received for review comes in pink, but that shade is subtle.
It wouldn’t be wrong to call the Nokia G42 the “Barbie phone”; it is both eye-catching and refreshing. I don’t know if you remember the old days when brands tried to experiment with colors and bring devices in fancy color schemes. Anyway, the back of the G42 is made from 65 percent recycled material, and while it might not sound premium, it’s good that the plastic back has this smooth finish that feels very premium in your hands. And yes, you don’t have to worry about smashing the glass back if the phone were to accidentally fall, as is the case with large smartphones these days.
Just for reference: the Nokia G42 is bigger than the iPhone 15 Pro, and that’s because of its taller 6.56-inch display (more on that later). However, the Nokia G42 is noticeably heavier than the iPhone 15 Pro but does not feel much heavier to hold.
The G42 follows the same design language as many Nokia smartphones I’ve reviewed over the past few months. I think this phone will be appreciated by those who don’t want an over the top design. It’s a simple phone with a clean design, with a small rectangular camera module in the upper left corner of the back, and the power button on the right edge doubles as a fingerprint reader. It also supports dual SIM cards, has a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is a rarity on modern smartphones, and a microSD card slot with support for up to 1TB of storage. While the thick bezels around the screen and teardrop-shaped bulge that houses the selfie camera may give off a vintage feel, I’m fine with the design. In any case, this will be my secondary smartphone but an important part of my daily tech routine.
A large display for streaming movies
Those who know me are well aware of how much I like compact smartphones. The Nokia G42 is not a compact phone (I wish it was one), but as I gradually got used to the device, I realized that it has advantages with a larger screen. I remember when I had the iPhone 13 mini; I struggled with watching videos and movies on long distance trains. With the G42, I can comfortably watch movies on a larger screen and also take notes and send draft emails without reaching for my laptop or iPad. The latest season of Netflix’s “Heartstopper” appeared bright and colorful on the G42’s 6.56-inch IPS panel, which incidentally has a 720p resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. I have no further qualms about the screen as such, but I wish the screen could have been a bit more powerful.
Performance – Good, so far
Nokia G42 gives users an almost stock Android experience. Yes, there are very few pre-installed apps like LinkedIn, Netflix and Booking.com on the device, but they can be easily uninstalled. It’s good to know that, unlike other brands, HMD Global (the licensee that makes Nokia-branded phones) is still committed to a pure Android user experience. The brand has also committed to providing two generations of Android, but that’s where I think HMD Global is missing when its competitors are upping the game and promising years of software upgrades.
Also, despite having a not-so-super-powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 Plus 5G processor, performance is excellent. The G42 is responsive, fast and quick to load apps – exactly how a phone should perform, regardless of the processor and RAM it comes with. My review unit came with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, but the entry-level model has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. HMD Global also offers something called virtual RAM that makes the phone a bit faster. A word of caution: budget Android phones have a tendency to slow down over time, but so far I haven’t encountered any glaring performance issues.
Naturally, Nokia G42 works on Airtel and Jio’s 5G networks. When you’re in an area where 5G is available, you’ll be able to stream and download significantly faster than with your latest LTE phone.
The battery life met my expectations. The 5000mAh battery lasted over a day and a half on a full charge. That’s when I used the phone for mixed use, mostly calling people, watching YouTube and using Google Maps for navigation. My only gripe is the 20W charger in the box, which takes two hours to charge the phone.
I’m sure there have been faster and more powerful smartphones out there. I’m sure you can Google about cores and GPUs on your own and see which phones have more, but not everyone wants to run graphics intensive games like my father or aunt, who wants a smartphone to check WhatsApp and watch YouTube.
Surprisingly good camera
The camera on a phone is important to me, whether I’m using a high-end iPhone or a budget Android smartphone. The reason is simple: I spend a lot of time outdoors, mostly with product launch events and doing interviews. To be honest, I had zero expectations for the Nokia G42. Assuming it’s a budget phone, I thought it would have a camera that isn’t below average. But I was wrong. The G42’s camera is impressive. Which is an amazing feat to achieve for a budget smartphone. The phone has a rear 50-megapixel main lens, a 2-megapixel depth sensor and an additional 2-megapixel macro camera with a dedicated macro photography mode.
The camera is ready to take a photo almost immediately after launching the app. More importantly, colors and details are sharp. Just point, tap to focus and shoot. The camera on the G42 is better, offering faster capture, excellent night mode shots and a better all-round experience than anything else I’ve used in the budget phone segment. Sure, it would be silly to pit the Nokia G42’s camera against the iPhone 15 Pro, but if you put aside any high-end smartphone camera and judge the G42 from a standalone point of view, HMD Global has done a good job.
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If you’re coming from an older smartphone, you’ll immediately notice the image improvements and how well the G42 is capable of shooting. What I observed is that the G42 is very good at capturing the fine details and skin color exactly as it is when taking close-ups.
High on repairability
The Nokia G42 joins the G22, which was introduced earlier this year as a repairable phone. Repairing a smartphone is a huge debate globally, and HMD Global makes it easy to repair smartphones with a small screwdriver. In minutes, anyone can replace the phone’s screen, charging port or battery. Internationally, HMD Global works with iFixit to sell spare parts and tools to fix the device, but in India the brand doesn’t talk much about repairability – perhaps because of the wide network of service centers it operates in the country. I don’t know the exact reason, but I think repairability makes more sense with a more flagship smartphone to increase its lifespan. Either way, it’s good to see that HMD Global is at least working to make smartphones fully repairable.
No one talks about budget smartphones anymore, which is a shame, especially in a country like India where millions have yet to upgrade to smartphones from feature phones. The Nokia G42 may not be a “premium” smartphone, and it isn’t, but at least a phone like this can change the perception many people have about budget devices, which is a mediocre offering. The G42 has a better camera, a bigger battery, a clean and simple design and a much bigger appeal. I can recommend this phone to average consumers who are on a budget but still looking for a good Android smartphone. I think you will be impressed with the screen, camera and performance.
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