Nokia 4.2 – Fast, good, or cheap: Pick (these) two


Nokia’s on to a good thing with its Android One handsets. Android in its purest form used to be reserved for the likes of Google’s Pixel but those are hard to find this side of the world. You don’t have to worry about all that any more — Nokia has South African users covered. And the Nokia 4.2 (where the name comes from is a mystery – there’s never been a Nokia 4 or 4.1) is a budget way to lay hands on Android as it should be experienced.

Prints of the universe

But the Nokia 4.2 doesn’t look budget. That’s important. It’s got glass panels on front and rear – even if the rear is the finger-printiest we’ve seen in a phone in 2019 (so far). Along with the solid edging around all that lovely glass, users get a premium feel that they’re not actually paying for. The device thickness is a hint that you’re toting a cheaper smartphone, but someone else will have to handle the handset to discover your budget secret. It’s not apparent at a glance.

The notch-hung 5.71in display is just 720p but it’s clear and bright for all that. Nokia’s been a solid performer on the screen front of late so that’s not surprising. There’s the usual collection of ports at holes around the edge. Some archaic technology we’re okay with, like the Nokia 4.2’s 3.5mm jack. The inclusion of a microUSB rather than a switch to a USB-C port makes us sad, though. It looks like it has USB-C, surely it wouldn’t have taken much to complete the illusion?

The little phone that could

Sadly, Nokia’s illusion is also somewhat shattered by the phone’s performance. The included Snapdragon 439 is a budget processor, even if the rest of the specs are edging towards the mid-range, and it works as such. Having 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage doesn’t help the occasional hiccup, but those are the breaks with a budget phone. If it wasn’t noticeably slower than the expensive phones, how would we know those pricey buggers were better?

Still, we cranked the Nokia 4.2 through a couple of benchmark tests. Just for the sake of completeness. There’s no way we’re getting a surprise iPhone-beating score, unless the iPhone was from 2010 and not expecting the challenge. Geekbench 5 gave the handset a score of 173 for single-core performance and 818 for multi-core. That test took a while to conclude, too. In terms of performance, expect this one to match the Galaxy S7 for (multi-core) performance. Kinda. Maybe. Long story short? Expect some slowdown while using hungrier apps. Rapid scrolling may cause a stutter or two as well.

Eye don’t mind much

And this slowdown carries over to the camera. The 13MP+2MP rear combination, comprising the main f/2.2 sensor along with the 2MP depth camera, is a decent snapper but it needs light and time to get to work. That might work for the sun and germination but you’re after speed when using a smartphone camera. Most smartphone cameras tend to do well in good light and that’s the case here. If your conditions are decent, so are your images. When the light quality drops or you venture inside under artificial light, expect enough grain to make vodka with.

So the camera isn’t all that great. Deal-breaker? Nah. The battery life for this one isn’t bad at all, the handset is completely functional and it’s got Android One. Android One means speedy operating system updates and support guaranteed for at least two years – a must in these uncertain times. ‘Specially if you’re used to a phone beginning with ‘H’. Nokia loves to make a lot of noise about Android One and they’re correct too. You’re not losing access to OS updates any time soon — if you’re planning on using this budget smartphone for two years, it’ll be supported throughout.

Nokia 4.2 Verdict

Budget smartphones are all about the bottom line. To get there, though, means some things have to be thrown overboard. The Nokia 4.2 rounds up a competent set of specs to keep users pleased. Storage and RAM make this phone, while the attractive design sweetens the pot. The camera is adequate, but the concession to the R3,200 price is actual performance. The 4.2 could be quicker off the mark but there’s a decent spread of smartphone specs here instead. Nothing’s been too badly mauled by Nokia but that also means that nothing really stands out. But we can’t be mad– something had to be trimmed and Nokia’s been rather democratic with its pruning here.

Tech specs
Screen 5.71in IPS HD+
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 439
Rear 13MP f/2.2 + 2MP
Front 8MP f/2.0
Battery 3000mAh
OS Android P
Storage 32GB
Dimensions 149×71.3×8.4mm

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