Nokia 4.2 Review: HMD Global Kicks Off 2019 on a Good Note

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The first smartphone launch in 2019 from HMD Global is finally here. And yes, it's not the much-anticipated Nokia 9 PureView, but it's a budget smartphone- the Nokia 4.2. To recall, the Nokia 4.2 was unveiled alongside the Nokia 3.2, Nokia 9 PureView smartphones at the MWC 2019 tech show back at the end of February. The Nokia 4.2 does not have a predecessor, but the name of the handset itself suggests, it'll be placed between the Nokia 3 and Nokia 5 series. The Nokia 4.2 brings several firsts to the table- it has a teardrop notch display (a first on any HMD Global smartphone), comes with the new Snapdragon 439 SoC (the first phone to launch with the said chipset in India), has a glowing power button and it's also the first phone in the segment to offer a dedicated Google Assistant hardware button.

The specs on paper aren't impressive and the Nokia 4.2 is not going against the likes of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 or the Realme 3. I have been using the Nokia 4.2 as my primary smartphone for over a week now and here's how it fared during my usage.

Nokia 4.2 Review: Design and Display

Since the very beginning, HMD Global impressed everyone with the design of Nokia smartphones and it continues with the Nokia 4.2. Unlike the budget smartphones from HMD Global which were released in 2018, the Nokia 4.2 sports glass on the front and back. When taken into hands, the phone feels premium, and at the same time, it's extremely light in weight at 161 grams. The phone measures 8.39mm in thickness, so there's no camera bump on the rear side. The glass back attracts a lot of fingerprint smudges which is the case with every other smartphone with a glass back.

The volume rockers and the power button are packed on the right side, while the SIM card tray and a dedicated hardware key for triggering Google Assistant are placed on the left. The buttons are tactile, but the power button is different and something unique in this segment; The power button on the Nokia 4.2 also acts an LED indicator which glows when a notification arrives on your smartphone. With handset manufacturers running out of space on the front part of the smartphones, it's good to see HMD Global not removing the good old LED indicator on the Nokia 4.2

With a display of 5.71-inch, the Nokia 4.2 feels compact as well. It has a teardrop notch which is a first on any Nokia smartphone released till date. But the phone has a huge chin with Nokia branding; Honestly, HMD Global would've removed the branding and reduced the chin size to make the design even more attractive. Talking about the display itself, it's an HD+ panel with an aspect ratio of 19:9 and 2.5D curved glass. As for the quality, it offers decent viewing angles, but the sunlight will not inspire confidence. Also, the panel is a reflective one and attracts a lot of smudges which hurts the overall viewing experience in daylight conditions. Except for the Redmi Note 7 and the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2, several smartphones in the similar price range still ship with an HD+ panel, so the Nokia 4.2 stays on-par with competitors.

Nokia 4.2 Review: Hardware, Software and Other Features

HMD Global is not known for offering impressive hardware at aggressive price points like Xiaomi or Realme. Last year, the company tried to match the competition with Nokia 6.1 Plus and Nokia 5.1 Plus smartphones. Although the Nokia 4.2 doesn't fall into that category, it comes with dependable hardware, but again, it's a no match to the competition. The Nokia 4.2 is the first smartphone in India to ship with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 chipset which is a direct successor to the Snapdragon 435 SoC that was released a few years ago.

For the unaware, the Snapdragon 439 chipset is an octa-core processor with eight Cortex A53 cores clocked at 2.0 GHz. The chipset is built on the 12nm FinFET manufacturing process meaning it's power efficient. The phone comes with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage with support for storage expansion up to 400GB via microSD card.

The real-life performance of the Nokia 4.2 is decent- nothing spectacular, but it handles day-to-day tasks with a breeze. Gaming on the Nokia 4.2 is decent as well as the Adreno 505 GPU is capable of handling PUBG Mobile at Medium graphics. We have noticed quite a few stutters while playing the game which is again expected from the chipset.

Software side of things, we get to see the same stock Android out of the box. The Nokia 4.2 runs Android 9 Pie with no customisations whatsoever. Sadly, the phone is still on the February 2019 security patches. During the initial days, HMD struggled to optimise the software on Nokia smartphones, but that has changed since the last six months or so. The Nokia 8.1 offered a lag free experience because of the software optimisation and it's the same case with Nokia 4.2. The phone is not a powerhouse, but the software optimisation from HMD Global is on point.

The handset runs a clear version of Android with zero customisations. Apart from the Camera and My Phone apps, the other ones which come preinstalled are Google apps like YouTube, Google Play Music, Google Play Games and so on. Also, the Nokia 4.2 is the first phone from HMD Global to ship with Face Unlock feature which works well in good lighting conditions.

Besides the Face Unlock, we also get the physical fingerprint scanner that's present below the dual rear cameras. HMD Global was criticised last year for the odd fingerprint scanner placement on Nokia 6.1 and it continues with the Nokia 4.2 as well. Placed below the dual rear cameras, it's tough to reach, but for users with small hands, it would be a delight. Also, there's no camera bump, so you'll find it very difficult in identifying the scanner itself in the first place. The scanner itself is quick in unlocking the Nokia 4.2 which is an expected thing in 2019.

Nokia 4.2 Review: Cameras

The Nokia 4.2 offers dual rear cameras and a single front-facing camera. HMD Global has added a 13MP primary shooter on the rear side which works in tandem with a 2MP depth sensing unit. The primary sensor has support for autofocus, f/2.2 aperture and 1.12-micron pixels, while the 2MP depth unit has an aperture of f/2.2. HMD Global did not mention the sensor used on the Nokia 4.2 though.

The rear camera performance is acceptable in good lighting conditions, but images captured in low-light come out noisy and lack details which is underwhelming considering the competitors. As for the 8MP selfie camera, it captures decent images, but again, you'll observe the lack of details during night times.

The Nokia Camera app has matured so well over the last couple of years as it's now more stable. HMD Global has added live bokeh feature even for the selfie camera as well. And the Pro mode is available for the front-facing camera which is excellent to see in the price range.

Talking about the video recording, users can shoot up to 1080p videos via both the front and rear cameras. Quality-wise, it's again a hit and miss for the Nokia 4.2 as in some situations videos look oversharpened and lacks details.

Nokia 4.2 Review: Network Performance and Battery Life

The Snapdragon 439 SoC on the Nokia 4.2 supports Dual 4G, so the handset supports Dual 4G and VoLTE from major telecom operators out of the box. As for the call quality, I have used the Nokia 4.2 with Jio 4G network and it was exceptional even with two bars of signal on my handset. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS and GLONASS. It's sad to see HMD omitting the 5 Ghz Wi-Fi networks support even though the chipset offers the support. In India, the Nokia 4.2 supports GSM: 850, 900, 1800; WCDMA: 1, 5, 8, and LTE bands of LTE 1, 3, 5, 8, 40, 41 (120 MHz). The phone Cat4 LTE modem and it lacks Carrier Aggregation support. I have observed download speeds of over 30 Mbps on Jio 4G network in Hyderabad city.

Audio side of things, you get a single bottom firing speaker, Smart amp, two microphones and the phone is compatible with aptX.

Moving onto the last section which is the battery life, the Nokia 4.2 has a 3000mAh unit which will last for an entire day with moderate to heavy usage. The phone has a Micro USB port which is a sad thing to see as last year's Nokia 5.1 Plus priced in the similar range offered a USB Type-C port. The phone lacks fast charging support and the bundled charger will take close to two hours to fully charge the handset from 10%. Android 9 Pie's adaptive battery feature tracks your smartphone usage and further optimises the battery life.

Nokia 4.2 Review: Verdict

As you might be aware of, this is the first smartphone release from HMD Global in 2019 and the company has started the year on a good note. Last year, around the same time, it brought four smartphones to the Indian market, but this time around, we're seeing the Nokia 4.2 making its way to the country. The Nokia 4.2 is a decent smartphone- it offers functional design, beautiful display and is a capable performer. But the phone has some downsides too- the cameras are not up to the mark and the company should've used a bigger battery as we saw on the Nokia 3.1 Plus.

Aimed at the offline market, the Nokia 4.2 retails for Rs 10,990 in India and it comes in a single variant of 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. For the asking price, it's a decent phone in the offline market. As for the purchase, the Nokia 4.2 will be exclusively on for a 7-day period starting May 7 and exclusively across select retail outlets and partners like Croma, Reliance, Sangeetha, Poorvika, Big C and MyG starting May 14.

Reported By

Editor in Chief

Chakri is a go-to guy for your next smartphone recommendation. Back in his engineering days, he used to play with smartphones by installing custom ROMs and that passion got him into the tech industry. He still goes nuts about a smartphone knocking his door for review. Currently managing everything at Telecom Talk, Chakri is trying to master PUBG Mobile in his free time.

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