Ever since HMD Global took over the rights to Nokia smartphones from Microsoft, the iconic brand has been in limbo. The smartphones are neither exciting nor best-in-class. For the most part, they’ve been dependable smartphones that would be perfect as a second device (if your use case warranted one).
With the G21 - the first Nokia phone for 2022 from the house of HMD Global - you get a clean software experience with long-lasting battery life. That in itself is a good enough combination for quite a few potential buyers.
The Nokia G21 is available at a price of Rs 12,999 and comes in two colors - Nordic Blue and Dusk. There are two variants, 4GB/64GB or 6GB/128GB.
For over two weeks I’ve tested the smartphone, and I’ve had some mixed results. I’ve been conscious to keep the price at the back of my mind at all times. With a phone like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, a few thousand here or there versus the competition won’t matter much to the consumers. In the budget segment, every couple of hundred rupees matters.
I’m not going to do a deep dive into the Nokia G21, because frankly, there isn’t much to talk about it beneath the surface.
How is HMD Global propositioning Nokia smartphones in 2022
It’s 2022 and Nokia is all about value offerings. A smartphone that performs smoothly, lasts long and is affordable for most of the population. The G21 has a familiar design (a plastic back), the promise of two years of Android OS upgrades, and a relatively low price tag.
The Nokia G21 arrives at a time when the smartphone manufacturers in the budget section are churning out one smartphone after another without any breaks in the middle.
It may be hard to justify Nokia smartphones in 2022 but you can’t rule them out because they’re ever so dependable in many ways.
A familiar design lacking the accompanying performance prowess
The Nokia G21 comes with Android 11 out-of-the-box. With HMD Global providing a clean Google Android OS interface for all its Nokia smartphones, it’s disappointing that the Nokia G21 isn’t rocking Android 12, the latest mobile OS from Google.
Nokia smartphones aren’t going to be eye-catching but they are built to last. Drop them, or even throw them around as you did in the early 2000s, and the smartphone will come out unscathed. The Nokia G21 is a little bit thicker than the competition but it is also grippier than the lot. This is because of the textured pattern on the rear. Yes, the Nokia G21 doesn’t require a case, unlike most other smartphones.
The Nokia G21 may have broken the shackles of the old by providing a 90Hz display, but that’s where the positivity ends. The brightness is poor, and the 720p resolution is far behind the competition. The 6.5-inch HD+ display is of a very low quality. Take the display outside, and in the soaring heat of India’s capital, the Nokia G21 is quite unusable.
The Nokia G21 is powered by the Unisoc T606 chipset that only gets the basics right and nothing beyond it. The day-to-day performance is strictly average. It may not match the Snapdragon’s of the world, but if you’re only browsing through your Instagram feed, sending emails and looking up the meaning of today’s Wordle word, then the smartphone will not disappoint.
It’s when you play some casual video games or have multiple Google Chrome tabs open or try and take dozens of photos when it starts to slow down and stutter though it doesn’t heat up. For the most part, the smartphone is smooth to use and this is in part thanks to the clean Android OS that it offers (there’s little to no bloatware on it, which is a welcome relief).
Where the Nokia G21 excels
The smartphone excels in two use cases. First, thanks to its 5,050mAh battery, the Nokia G21 lasted well into the third day with a light-to-medium usage pattern. The Nokia G22 is perfect as a second smartphone or for those who frequently travel.
Second, and equally important, is that the Nokia G21 excels at call quality. Having an hour-long conversation with a friend one evening and it was crystal clear on both ends. Granted, I was sitting in a room with good reception, but there were no issues whatsoever.
Verdict: Is the Nokia G21 for you?
The answer lies in the pricing and the overall smartphone market in 2022. The Nokia G21 is priced a little steep for its offerings. The price for the 4GB/64GB variant is Rs 12,999. There’s also a 6GB/128GB model that is priced at Rs 14,999.
India is one of the most competitive markets in the world when it comes to budget and mid-range smartphones. Every week some brand or the other is launching a brand new smartphone. From Xiaomi to Realme and Samsung, they’re over a dozen smartphones under Rs 15,000 launched in the first five months of 2022. The Redmi Note 11 with its Snapdragon 680 is just one such smartphone. I didn’t even mention the lack of 5G, but to this segment, and at this point in India, 5G doesn’t even matter.
The Nokia G21 has a below-average camera, decent performance and an unsatisfying display for a higher-than-it-should-be price. It’s also got a single speaker that isn’t at all loud enough. It’s got a great build to it with promises of long software updates along with three days of battery life. Even with that, there are few qualities to the Nokia G21.
The Nokia G21 is a no-nonsense smartphone that can work best as a second smartphone used primarily during travel and its good call quality.
The Nokia G21 may be a great improvement over the Nokia G20 but it does very little to make a dent in the market share of its direct competitors.