Hands On: Nokia 4.2

A slickly designed and competitively priced smartphone

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5 September 2019 | 0

The Nokia 4.2 is HMD Global’s latest offering vying for a spot in the hotly competitive budget phone market. Retailing for €149, this phone boasts some savvy features for a truly accessible price. Nokia has a reputation for delivering durable, dependable, budget-friendly phones. In many ways this phone is true to form in that respect.

At first glance, it would not be remiss to presume that the phone retailed well above its modest price tag. It is elegantly designed with a glass front and back and slim to hold, at just 8.4 mm, and available in black, pink and sand. A word of warning: this phone is a real fingerprint magnet. The black model reviewed looked slick, until I started using it that is. The glass screen was quickly marred with prints.  

With its lightweight metal internal structure and satin-finish polycarbonate frame, it feels sturdier than its 161g. Its bezel is thin on the sides and thick on the top and chin of the phone. It can accommodate a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is a welcome addition these days.

The device runs on Android Pie and, as part of HDM’s commitment to keep its handsets up to date, it comes with a handy three years of monthly security updates and two years of software updates.

Its Snapdragon 439 processor ran well for normal, low intensity usage. But be wary, if you are looking to do heavy-duty gaming or the likes on this device, it could be sluggish. There are several budget handsets that can manage gaming and multitasking, so this could be a blow for the 4.2.

For the price, the storage is surprising, with 32Gb of internal storage and 3Gb of RAM. It comes with Google Photos, which offers free, unlimited photo storage. It can accommodate a microSD card up to 400Gb. Also, it has dual SIM slots and space to run all three cards at once. All that, plus it has no bloatware.

For years Nokia was synonymous with long-battery life, which is something that this phone could not be accused of having. Its 3,000mAh barely makes it through a day of normal usage. Charging speeds are another issue; its micro-USB charging is a slow experience to say the least. A Type-C USB would have been appreciated. Nokia was the first brand to deliver Type-C ports on affordable phones, it did so on the 5.1 plus and 6.1 plus, so it would not have been out of its wheelhouse.

The 5.7” HD+ 720p LCD panel stretches edge-to-edge, leaving just enough room for the 8MP front-facing camera. The 13MP rear camera is supported by a 2MP depth sensor, which results in rich, vibrant photos. The brightness of the phone, however, was an issue. It was relatively low-quality, and the dull display hindered the overall viewing experience, disappointingly, including the camera.

This phone has a few unexpected tricks up its sleeve though. It has biometric face unlock and near field communication (NFC) for contactless payment, which is rarely seen in phones of this price point. Its power button is dual functional, doubling as a notification light. While this is a certainly a nice feature, the delivery could have been better. If the phone is on, then so is the notification light. It does not turn off, even in Do Not Disturb mode.

A standout feature is the dedicated Google Assistant button. This is a welcome addition, especially for a budget phone. You can interact with it in two ways; it either provides a pop-up of relevant information, or it can listen to your commands and respond in walkie-talkie mode. The designated button should make utilising the virtual assistant seamless, but the placement of the button is a little clumsy. It is all too easy to hit accidentally and can even be triggered when the phone is locked. With the kinks ironed out this would be a sweet addition.

With its slick design and competitive price, the 4.2 ticks boxes right off the bat. Design was clearly prioritised, it would neither look or feel out of place among high-end phones. It has some nice features too, like the Google Assistant and NFC. But when it comes down to it, performance issues let it down and the price is not low enough to justify the concessions. It is not the cheapest phone around; in fact it middles in the budget phone market. This will not help it to stand out against its fierce competition. Irrespective of price, the 4.2 struggles to make a strong impact.

Julia O’Reilly

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