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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Nokia 2.4 review: One for “stock” Android fans only

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The sub-Rs 10,000 smartphone segment has gotten a lot interesting this year. Brands such as Realme, Xiaomi, Poco, Motorola, and Samsung have come up with highly competitive offerings that offer the ultimate bang-for-buck. For stock Android fans, it was Motorola delivering with the Moto G9 and Moto E7 Plus in this segment. Nokia now wants to be a part of this pie and it just launched the Nokia 2.4. Also Read – Nokia 2.4 launched in India, price starts at Rs 10,399

Priced at Rs 10,399, the Nokia 2.4 straight-up comes across as a pricey option, given its specifications sheet. After all, a sub-Rs 10,000 smartphone with a MediaTek Helio P22 is something to scoff at, right? Most critics on YouTube have already given it a thumbs-down. While it looks bad on paper, the Nokia 2.4 has good intentions for consumers in this price range. After spending over a week with it, it isn’t as bad as the picture being painted. Also Read – Want a good camera phone this festive season? Here are top 5 options under Rs 20,000

Design, build

With prices of smartphone components increasing every day, OEMs are dialing down highly in the build department. This year, plastic the material of choice for making smartphones. Nokia, like all its competitors, chose to go for a plastic unibody build. To make it appealing, it adopted the textured matte finish that we have seen on some Redmi and Realme devices lately. Also Read – HMD Global teases Nokia 2.4 and Nokia 3.4 India launch details

The phone is tall and narrow due to its 20:9 aspect ratio display. However, Nokia has gone for a slight gradient finish on the rear panel, which looks tasteful to my eyes. The Charcoal version I had looks unique and in a sea of bright colored phones, my eyes were pleased to see it resting on the desk all day. The cameras sit on a slight hump but are arranged in a pill-shaped layout – no rectangle, or square, or circle. Accompanied by the capacitive fingerprint sensor, it looks neat.

Look around and you will find a bunch of fairly tactile keys for volume, power, and Google Assistant. Nokia is the only brand left in this segment that does a dedicated key for Google Assistant. I am not sure who relies on Google Assistant that much in India but it is surely something I can get used to over a long period of usage. There’s a headphone jack (yay) but Nokia has stuck to a micro USB port for charging. Not that it matters much but USB-C is the future and allows for easy compatibility with chargers these days.

Nokia 2.4

Flip it around and you are greeted by a large 6.5-inch display with a chunky chin and a waterdrop-style notch on the top. To mask the chin cleverly, Nokia has put its logo on it. Paired with the narrow 20:9 form, the Nokia 2.4 comes across as a fairly handsome smartphone in its price range.

Display

The Nokia 2.4 uses a 6.5-inch HD+ LCD display and for many, this already sounds like trouble. That said, do note that apart from the Redmi 9 Prime, all other smartphones at this price offer a HD+ resolution display. Hence, the viewing experience is on par with what I have witnessed on phones at this price. The display is good enough for most “phone stuff”, such as browsing through webpages, contacts list, reading texts, watching YouTube, and doing video calls. The brightness levels aren’t good and the viewing angles are narrow. Compared to the Moto G9 and Realme Narzo 20A, the display falls behind a bit in color vibrancy and brightness.

Performance

This is where the Nokia 2.4 takes the most hits from critics and geeks. The unnerving bit in the spec sheet of the Nokia 2.4 is the MediaTek Helio P22 chip, which is over two years old at the moment. To add to it, Nokia only offers 3GB RAM along with 64GB storage, of which the latter can be expanded to 512GB via a micro SD card. Nokia’s utmost attempt to highlight its absolutely stock Android experience goes unnoticed by the numbers in the spec sheet.

Nokia 2.4

Honestly, I myself was a bit skeptical about the Nokia 2.4 before booting it up. However, as I settled in with the phone, all the bits inside started to deliver the experience that I usually expect from a phone in the price range. The biggest redeeming factor of the Nokia 2.4 is the absolutely stock Android 10 experience. Nokia has optimized it efficiently to make it run fairly fine on vintage hardware.

Dealing with Google apps was surprisingly okay on a daily basis. App loading times were fast and multitasking with up to three apps at once did not throw the Nokia 2.4 in a spot. I texted on WhatsApp, read stories in Chrome, watched some YouTube videos, and browsed my social media on the phone, and it worked as fine as any of its rivals I used this year. Of course, the Helio P22 is a bottleneck to the potential this phone has – I did encounter lags and stutters at times. But the experience was on par with what I experience on the Poco C3, or a Realme Narzo 20A, or a Realme C12.

I liked the software experience more than any other smartphone at this price. Nobody does stock Android as good as Nokia does. The layout is pleasing to the eyes with the blue accents while every little element around the OS has been tuned carefully to make the experience good.

Nokia 2.4

It is obvious that Nokia has tuned the operating system well and that paired with the bloat-free Android experience makes it a “good enough” phone for daily use. Nokia is promising two years of Android upgrades, which is a relief for those worried about longevity. I wish Nokia launched it with Android 11 now. That said, this is a company that still uses an entry-level chip from 2018, and expecting it to launch a budget phone with the latest Android version is like curing COVID-19, i.e. not possible.

The single loudspeaker at the bottom is “good enough” for most basic tasks and even some YouTube binge sessions. The call quality was good over the earpiece. I used the phone on Reliance Jio’s network and I didn’t experience call drops or network reception issues, at least in Noida. The fingerprint sensor works fast to unlock the device while the face unlock is, at best, pathetic in identifying faces even in brightly-lit conditions.

Camera

Nokia is offering a combination of a 16-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel depth camera at the back. Again, these numbers don’t sound good next to some Realme devices. However, Nokia matches the end-user experience with clever software tuning. In daylight, the Nokia 2.4 takes bright and colorful photos. I found minor color enhancements to bright subjects while the dull elements are left as it is. The sharpness isn’t as good once you pixel-peep but you have to consider this phone’s budget intentions. Cloudy conditions do take a hit on the photo quality but I was able to get decent looking photos that I can use on social media.

Nokia 2.4

At night, I could take photos but it was difficult to share them on social media. Even with the Night Mode, photos wear an oil-painting effect due to the softened details (blurry more often). You need some decent ambient lighting to get useable photos out of this camera system at night.

Nokia is giving you a 5-megapixel camera at the front for selfies and in good lighting, it took fairly good selfies. The selfies keep the subject is detail while the colors are slightly enhanced to make them look good. I was impressed with the background exposure management as well. In portrait mode, the subject separation is hit & miss, i.e. it often blurs out the ends of the hair or ears.

Overall, I think the camera results are on par with most phones in this price range. However, Nokia needs to make its camera app easier to use with clearly marked sections and modes.

Battery

Nokia 2.4

The 4500mAh battery on the Nokia 2.4 is lesser than most 5000mAh batteries you see in budget phones now. However, the OS is optimized well and paired with the weaker Helio P22 as well as the 720p display, I was able to get up to 1.5 days of usage on a single charge. This usage includes me texting on WhatsApp, browsing Twitter and Instagram, checking emails, making phone calls, and reading stories on Chrome. This, again, is on par with smartphones that have a 6000mAh battery. See? Good software tuning helps with power efficiency to a large extent.

Sadly, Nokia ships the phone with only a 5W charger in the box. 5W charging is tortoise-esque in 2020, especially on a 4500mAh battery. Hence, I enjoyed the days of overnight charging with the Nokia 2.4.

Nokia 2.4: Worth buying?

The Nokia 2.4 is a good effort from HMD Global to offer a good smartphone experience in the affordable sub-Rs 10,000 smartphone segment. There’s a lot to like about this phone: a great Android experience, nice battery life, and a robust yet handsome design. Had the likes of the Redmi 9 Prime, Moto G9, and Realme Narzo 20A not existed, I would have blindly recommended this phone to most of you.

Nokia 2.4

But, the Redmi 9 Prime, Moto G9, and Narzo 20A exist, and in this universe, the Nokia 2.4 is a hard sell to the demanding Indian consumer. Even for someone restricted to the world of stock Android, the Moto G9 comes across as a future-proof device that not only performs better but has the best camera in this segment. The Nokia 2.4 only has its 2-year-upgrade promise to catch attention. And probably the design!

Ideally, as a demanding Indian consumer, I would have liked to see Nokia put at least a Helio G35 chip (for future-proofing basic performance) in this phone to make it worth its asking price of Rs 10,399. Or, Nokia could have gone for a lower price of Rs 7,000 to make it appeal to the Indian smartphone consumer, one that considers “the-more-the-merrier”.

To sum it up, the Nokia 2.4 offers a good stock Android experience in the budget segment, that too with promised two years of Android upgrades. If you value an unadulterated Android experience at Rs 10,000, only then should you consider the Nokia 2.4.





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