I have a confession to make: I am tired of hearing that Indians are no longer buying budget phones. While more people may be purchasing premium smartphones than ever before, it’s odd 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 requiring you to take a loan from the bank or pay monthly EMIs. It is indeed a relief at a time when living expenses are at an all-time high, and saving money is nearly impossible. 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 am one of those people who gravitate towards products that look different from what others have. This inclination has been deeply rooted in me since my childhood when I chose the weirdest watch I could get my hands on or the most bizarre pair of shoes. It’s not about the price or brand; instead, the intention has always been to lay my eyes on something with a unique identity. When I first saw the Nokia G42, I knew I would want to check out the device – liking or disliking is another discussion altogether. First, it doesn’t come from the same mold as other smartphones which I find hideous and boring. Second, the unit 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’s both eye-catching and refreshing. I don’t know if you remember the old days when brands tried to experiment with colours and bring devices in snazzy colour schemes. Anyway, the G42’s back is made of 65 per cent recycled materials, and while it may not sound premium, the good thing is the plastic back has this smooth finish that feels very upmarket in your hands. And yes, you don’t have to worry about breaking the glass back if, by chance, the phone accidentally falls, as is the case with major smartphones these days.
Just for reference: the Nokia G42 is larger than the iPhone 15 Pro, and that’s due to its taller 6.56-inch display (more on that later). However, the Nokia G42 is noticeably heavier than the iPhone 15 Pro but doesn’t feel much heavier to hold.
The G42 follows the same design language as many Nokia smartphones I have reviewed in the past few months. I believe this phone will be appreciated by those who don’t desire an over-the-top design. It’s a simple-looking phone with a clean design, featuring a small rectangular camera module in the top-left corner on the back, and the power button on the right edge doubles as a fingerprint reader. It also supports dual-SIMs, has a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is a rarity on modern smartphones, and a microSD card slot with support for up to 1TB storage. While the chunky bezels around the display and the teardrop bulge housing the selfie camera may give off a vintage vibe, I am fine with the design. This is, anyway, going to 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 isn’t a compact phone (I wish it was one), but as I gradually got used to the device, I realised that having a bigger display does have advantages. I remember when I had the iPhone 13 mini; I struggled watching videos and movies on long-distance trains. With the G42, I can watch movies comfortably on a bigger screen and also take notes and draft emails without reaching out for my laptop or iPad. The latest season of Netflix’s “Heartstopper” appeared bright and colourful on the G42’s 6.56-inch IPS panel, which, by the way, has a 720p resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. I have no more qualms about the display as such, but I wish the screen could have been a little more punchy.
Performance – Great, so far
The Nokia G42 gives users a nearly stock Android experience. Yes, there are very few pre-loaded apps such as 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 clean Android user experience. The brand has also committed to providing two generations of Android, but that’s where I think HMD Global is lacking when its competitors are upping the game and promising years of software upgrades.
Furthermore, despite featuring a not-so-super-powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 Plus 5G processor, the performance is excellent. The G42 is responsive, snappy, and quick in loading apps—exactly how a phone should perform, no matter the processor and RAM it comes with. My review unit came with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage, but the entry-level model has 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. HMD Global is also touting something called virtual RAM that makes the phone a bit faster. One word of warning: budget Android phones have the tendency to slow down over time, but so far, I haven’t faced any glaring performance issues.
Of course, the Nokia G42 works on Airtel and Jio’s 5G network. When you are in an area where 5G is available, you’ll be able to stream and download considerably faster than with your last LTE phone.
The battery life met my expectations. The 5000mAh battery lasted over one-and-a-half days on a fully charged battery. This was when I used the phone for mixed usage, mostly calling people, watching YouTube, and using Google Maps for navigation. My only grouse is the 20W charger in the box, which takes two hours to charge the phone.
I am sure there have been faster and more powerful smartphones out there. I am sure you can Google about cores and GPUs on your own and see which phones have more, but not everyone wants to run graphic-intensive games like my father or aunt, who do want a smartphone to check WhatsApp and watch YouTube.
Surprisingly good camera
The camera of a phone is important to me, no matter whether I am using a high-end iPhone or a budget Android smartphone. The reason is simple: I spend a lot of time outdoors, mostly covering product launch events and taking interviews. To be frank, I had zero expectations from the Nokia G42. Assuming it’s a budget phone, I thought it would have a below-average camera. 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 another 2-megapixel macro camera with a dedicated macro shooting mode.
The camera is ready to take a photo almost instantly after launching the app. More importantly, colours and details are sharp. Just point, tap to focus, and shoot. The camera on the G42 is better, providing faster capture, excellent night mode shots, and a better all-round experience than anything that I have used in the budget phone segment. Sure, it would be foolish to pit the Nokia G42’s camera against the iPhone 15 Pro, but if you set aside any high-end smartphone camera and judge the G42 from a standalone point of view, then HMD Global has done a great job.
If you are coming from an older smartphone, you will immediately notice the image improvements and how well the G42 is capable of taking photographs. What I observed is that the G42 is very good at capturing the fine details and the skin colour exactly as it is when taking close-up shots.
High on reparability
The Nokia G42 joins the G22, which was introduced earlier this year as a repairable phone. Repairability of a smartphone is a huge debate globally, and HMD Global is making it easy to repair smartphones with a small screwdriver. In a few minutes, anyone can replace the phone’s screen, charging port, or battery. Internationally, HMD Global is working with iFixit to sell spare parts and tools to fix the device, but in India, the brand isn’t talking much about repairability — maybe due to the wide network of service centers it operates in the country. I don’t know the exact reason, but I feel repairability makes more sense with a more flagship smartphone to increase its longevity. Anyway, 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 are yet to upgrade to smartphones from feature phones. The Nokia G42 may not be a “premium” smartphone, and it is not, but at least a phone like this can change the perception many people have about budget devices, which is that of 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 have a limited budget but are still looking for a good Android smartphone. I think you will be impressed with the display, camera, and performance.