The Nokia G42 is a budget smartphone that between its excellent battery life, distinctive design and long software support, has a lot to offer. But for a better display, more performance or a killer feature, it would be easier to recommend.
- Excellent battery life
- Distinctive design
- Long software support
- Weedy performance
- Low resolution display
- Unpredictable cameras
- User repairable with an iFixit kitThis is a smartphone you can get into the guts of when things go wrong, complete with support from the iFixit team.
- Long software supportNokia promises years of updates, more than most of the competition at a similar price.
- Top notch battery lifeThis is a smartphone that can make it two days with moderate use and well into a third day with light use.
Standing out in the world of smartphones is a tough gig. Beyond a great marketing team it takes something, a unique feature, a certain je ne sais quoi to make a device that the public will truly notice.
Nokia, a storied brand, has tried many tricks recently to achieve this, but with its new release, the G42, it is playing from an old handbook, that of the Lumia line. Harking back to the days of Windows Phone and blazing colours, this is a handset whose great USP, on the surface, is that it is purple (So Purple).
There is of course more to it than that. The Nokia G42 sports a Snapdragon 480+ 5G processor, 4/6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 6.56 inch 720p 90Hz display, a 50MP camera and more for a price of under £200. It also benefits from a partnership with iFixit, this is a device that can theoretically be taken apart and fixed without a visit to the repair shop.
With a lot of competition, it takes more than a spec sheet and gimmicks to make it big, does the G42 do enough to make its mark?
Design and screen
- Flat 6.56-inch 90Hz IPS LCD screen with 720p resolution
- Rear is encased in purple plastic
- Charges via USB-C
It says more about the state of the phone market than the phone itself, but the fact that the Nokia G42 is purple is enough to make it notable.
In a sea of ‘me-too’ grey, white and black devices that elicit nothing but boredom, it is a breath of fresh air. It doesn’t change the experience of using the device in any meaningful way, but it does make it look nice, with a uniform paint job that extends to the plastic frame and even the camera island.
Maybe in future we will see pink, yellow or another Lumia mainstay, red, return, but for the moment the Nokia G42 represents a little whimsy in a world ruled by monochromatics. The G42 also comes in ‘So Grey’, but that seems beside the point.
As for the rest of the device, it is your standard glass rectangle, with a plastic frame and rear. The choice of materials keeps the weight down, and plastic offers two key advantages over other materials: it is less likely to slip off a surface and it takes falls better than metal or glass.
This apparently durability is only augmented by an official partnership with iFixit. In theory, this is a phone that can be taken apart and have its internals replaced with only a repair kit, no need for a technician. It’s a feature that was first revealed on the Nokia G22, with the G42 now joining its ranks.
I wasn’t able to test this personally, but the fact that it is offered is a real rarity on the market. At a time when e-waste is becoming an ever bigger issue, the ability to easily give a broken device a new lease of life is more valuable than ever. The rear of the phone is also constructed from 65% recycled materials.
Beyond questions of reparability, the G42 offers a 3.5mm headphone jack, a single stereo speaker on the bottom and charges via USB-C.
Coming to the display, compared to the competition it has some interesting downgrades. Its refresh rate is fast enough at 90Hz (though some of the competition are offering 120Hz) but its resolution, at 720p, is a little low. Full HD, or 1080p, has been the mainstay on most smartphones since at least 2018, offering a balance between resolution and power requirements.
There are some benefits to a lower resolution, including better battery life and performance, but when most of the competition is 1080p, it leaves the G42 feeling somewhat like a poor relation.
Brightness on the whole was decent, the phone getting bright enough for most conditions if not the most intense moments of the summer sun. Conversely, it got easily dim enough to read at night. Colours were a mixed bag and generally a little washed out, a consequence of the LCD tech used. Where the ‘eye comfort’ mode on many phones tends towards more orange hues, that on the G42 goes for urine yellow.
- Rear main camera has 50MP and a flash, flanked by a 2MP macro cam and a 2MP depth sensor
- Front facing camera is 8MP and fixed focus
Camera performance on sub-£200 phones, although generally improving as time goes by, comes with the heavy caveat that they aren’t a patch on flagship devices. They’ll capture a scene or a moment, but you shouldn’t really use them to record your most precious memories.
The Nokia G42 comes with a now standard arrangement of sensors, sporting three on the back and one on the front. On the rear there’s a 50MP f/1.8 main sensor, a 2MP depth sensor and a 2MP macro sensor, while the selfie camera has 8MP and is fixed focus.
Starting with the app, it is the now standard Nokia app which borrows heavily from the Google Camera interface. It is clean and easy to navigate.
A problem arises when taking photos, however, especially with HDR engaged. Shot-to-shot times are quite slow, with the phone taking around two to three seconds to process each image. This won’t be a problem for static scenes, but when trying to photograph a hyperactive toddler running in circles it becomes an exercise in patience.
Photo quality is a mixed bag. There’s plenty of detail in most shots, with foliage represented well and colours are for the most part accurate with just enough saturation to remain appealing. Unlike some other Nokia phones, there isn’t a tendency to oversharpen, which is nice to see, but on some shots where there is movement and HDR is activated, there can be motion blur. A recurring issue was white balance too, which seemed to veer wildly from shot to shot in some conditions.
Things improve at night. The included night mode does well to improve saturation, detail and brightness – and there’s an included ‘tripod mode’ if you want to capture a 45-second still.
Selfies have enough detail though the fixed focus limits flexibility, and video is fine only in a pinch, looking choppy in general.
None of this puts the G42 at a disadvantage against the competition, which have their own issues, but this is a phone with a passable camera (improvable with software), not a great one.
- Runs a Snapdragon 480+ 5G processor
- Comes with 4/6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage by default
- Runs Android 13
One trend that has typified Nokia phones for the past few years has been the standardisation of chipsets used. Where each phone in the past might have had a different SoC, today it will release a line all bearing the same, in this case, the Snapdragon 480+ 5G. This appears to be a slightly boosted version of a chip first released in 2021.
For the most part, performance was enough for day-to-day tasks. If you are someone who scrolls through social media, responds to messages and sends the odd email, the G42 will meet your needs, with enough oomph for the likes of Candy Crush or other light games.
If however, you are someone who likes to play more complex games on their mobile devices, such as PUBG, things take a turn. Though they can run, they take a long time to open and can only achieve decent frame rates at lower resolutions. If gaming is your ultimate priority, a dedicated gaming phone might be a better bet.
Coming to software, the G42 follows Nokia’s typical approach by changing very little at all. There’s a ‘Help’ app installed, and software updates are promised for three years. As a whole, the software is laid back and very similar to what might be found on a Pixel device.
There’s nothing to crow about, but there’s nothing to criticise. It is the barebones Android experience that some love, some ignore but that few have strong feelings about. One benefit of this laid-back approach, with the standardisation of chipsets, is that it means Nokia can offer longer software updates than much of the competition.
- Has a 5,000mAh battery
- Offers 20W fast charging
- Charges over USB-C
When it comes to battery life, things are promising. With a 720p screen, a low-power processor and a large 5,000mAh battery, the Nokia G42 has all of the ingredients necessary for a strong showing.
Happily, that proved to be the case. The G42, with up to 9 hours of screen on time, was able to make it into a second day. Starting at 7am, it would finish with around 50% by 9pm, then be able to make it well into the afternoon of day two. This is a very strong showing and better than much of the competition – for some a worthwhile tradeoff for its lack of power.
The picture becomes a little muddier when it comes to the issue of fast charging. Thankfully it can fast charge, but at only 20W it is slower than the likes of Realme, Xiaomi and others offer even at a lower price point.
I found that after 30 minutes I was able to regain 40% battery, while a full charge took 1 hour and ten minutes. That isn’t the strongest showing around, but it is an improvement over standard 5W charging at the very least.
Lastly, the G42 is rated to hold 80% of its charge after 800 charging cycles, which would take roughly three years. This is to be commended – most of the budget competition doesn’t even track charge cycles.
Should you buy it?
You want a phone that you can repair yourself: Nokia’s G42 5G is one of vanishingly few smartphones that have been designed with repairability in mind, and the iFixit partnership is a bonus.
You need a powerful smartphone: As capable as the Nokia G42’s Snapdragon 480+ chipset is for the price, it’s still very much a budget chipset focused on basic tasks.
There can be no doubt about it, making a phone that stands out at any price is no easy task.
With the G42, Nokia has gone for an unusual colour (‘So Purple’) and repairability to achieve this. Both are to be commended, but even without these, the G42 is a solid phone. Though its screen isn’t the highest resolution, it doesn’t have the fastest camera, and it isn’t the most powerful around, it has some compelling qualities to it.
With a distinctive design, excellent battery life, long update support, laid-back software and good repairability, the Nokia G42 has a lot going for it, and is a great option for anyone looking for a quality budget handset – provided they aren’t also mobile gamers.
For better performance and cameras, you’ll have to spend a little extra on the likes of the Google Pixel 6a.
How we test
We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry-standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Used as a main phone for two weeks
Thorough camera testing in well-lit and low-light conditions
Tested and benchmarked using respected industry tests
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