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Nokia G20 review: An amazing battery can't cancel out its shortcomings

A mediocre processor and bottlenecked browsing speeds undermine what started as a promising, feature-rich phone.

When it comes to the best cheap Android phones, most fall somewhere in the $250–$350 range and offer similar specs and speeds. Outside of special deals, not too many "good" smartphones with decent components can cost less than that. But Nokia wants to undercut that class of smartphones with the $200 Nokia G20 and $150 Nokia G10.

Nokia sells its fair share of cheap and mid-range phones, known for their stock Android software, guaranteed updates, and striking designs. Where the Nokia G20 stands out is its giant 5,050mAh battery, which is rated to last two or three days of standard use. That kind of longevity in such a cheap phone — cheaper than the Moto G Power, one of our favorite long-lasting phones — is a pretty great perk. Unfortunately, the G20 has some cheap hardware and obsolete wireless standards that hold it back from greatness.

Comparing the Nokia G20 vs. Nokia G10, the G20 wins handily, making it worth the $50 extra to boost performance and specs. But after testing the G20 for a week, hoping it would surprise me, I can't fully recommend it unless you're on a strict budget and really want a massive battery and display. Some consistent issues cancel out its surprising upsides.

Nokia G20

Bottom line: The Nokia G20 has a genuinely impressive battery that barely drains when idle and should remain functional for days. Its satisfyingly simple stock Android software, striking design, and decent main camera all add up to a more-than-respectable package for a $200 phone. But its slow chipset, last-gen Wi-Fi support, and low-resolution display undermine the experience. Anyone willing to spend just a bit more can likely find something better.

The Good

  • Attractive design with side fingerprint sensor
  • 2 or 3 days of stable battery life
  • Dual SIM and microSD card slots
  • Very affordable price
  • Stock Android 11, with updates up to Android 13
  • Solid main camera sensor

The Bad

  • Doesn't work with Sprint/ Verizon
  • Doesn't support 5GHz or 5G
  • Mediatek CPU is fairly slow
  • Only a 720p display with low refresh rate
  • 10W charging (no wireless)

$200 at Amazon $200 at B&H Photo

Nokia G20: Price and availability

Following the Nokia G10 in late April, the Nokia G20 shipped out on July 1, 2021, in the United States. Also available in India and Europe, the G20 can be found on most major retailer sites, plus Nokia's site. It currently sells for $199 / £135 / ₹12,990. The phone is unlocked by default; while it's compatible with some US carriers — including AT&T, T-Mobile, and Cricket — it won't work with Verizon or Sprint.

Nokia G20: Design

The Nokia G20 will look familiar to anyone who owns another recent Nokia phone. If you took a Nokia 5.4, made it 0.1 inches larger, and relocated the LED, hey presto: you'd have a G20. The most significant update is the new teardrop notch for the selfie cam, which takes up very little display space.

The G20 has a striking design with almost every button and feature you could want.

Available in Polar Night (dark blue) and Glacier (light green), the G20 has a polycarbonate back with a vertical ridged texture designed to make the phone easier to grip. While I can't speak to that, the ridges feel satisfying as my fingers slide along them, while the ridgeless G10 feels smoother. Both plastic phones are fingerprint magnets, though it's only noticeable under direct lighting. I'd personally recommend picking Polar Night, as Glacier might accentuate the smudges more.

Measuring 6.49 x 2.49 x 0.36 inches and weighing 6.9 ounces, the Nokia G20 has enough size and girth that it won't be a comfortable one-handed phone for smaller-handed folks. However, the weight corresponds to the phone's large battery and 6.5-inch display size, making its fairly heavy build justifiable.

Moving clockwise, the Nokia G20 has a mic and 3.5mm headphone jack on top; volume buttons and a power button with a built-in fingerprint sensor on the right; audio ports, USB-C charging port and mic on the bottom; and a dedicated Google Assistant button and dual-SIM slots on the left.

The power and Google Assistant buttons sit in convenient positions, making them easy to press without shifting your hand position. I personally don't need two SIM cards, but I know many AC readers prefer or need Dual-Sim Android phones. My bias is towards Android phones with headphone jacks; unfortunately, I'm not a fan of jacks placed on top of a phone, as the cable will drape over the screen or block the cameras — but beggars can't be choosers, I suppose.

As an iPhone user, I adore the teardrop notch and wish more phones would adopt it.

Nokia's distinctive circular camera module returns to the G20. It houses the main, ultrawide, macro, and depth sensors in a square formation (with the LED light underneath it). The module itself is mirrored, giving the back an eye-catching appearance that I really like, especially combined with the phone's striking color. But it sits dead-center on the top third of the phone, where some people would typically place their left-hand fingers when holding it in landscape mode. It wasn't a problem for me to adjust my grip, but it does seem more susceptible to accidental sensor smudges than most upper-left camera modules.

I'm a massive fan of the selfie cam's teardrop notch. It's so subtle compared to what I'm used to with my iPhones' trademark notches, barely taking up any display space at all. Many prefer designs where the cam cut-out is shoved into a corner, but so many cheap Android phones have display lighting issues around cut-outs that I think this notch is safer. The bottom bezel with the Nokia logo is annoying on an already large phone, but I can live with it.

Nokia G20: Display

Get ready for the first of several compromises Nokia made to keep its phone in the $200 price range. The Nokia G20 has a 6.52-inch LCD with 2.5D glass, a 20:9 aspect ratio, and a 1600X720 resolution. Other budget Nokia phones like the 5.4, Nokia 3.1 Plus, and Nokia 4.2 also have HD+ displays, so this won't be a surprise for Nokia fans.

Other budget phones offer better resolution and faster refresh rates, but at least the G20 display is fairly bright and colorful.

720p resolution will be a deal-breaker for some buyers, which is fair. However, by spending about $50 more, you'll find plenty of cheap Android phones with full HD displays. Personally, I liked (but didn't love) the display. I could see the difference between it and a 1080p display — particularly when using apps that had small text — but the vivid, accurate colors matched up against "better" displays. Indoors, it has enough nits to adapt to any light situation, making it bright and readable; outdoors, the screen can't compete with direct sunlight.

Nokia bundled a cheap TPU case in the box with the G20 and also preinstalled a screen protector onto the display. Even thousand-dollar phones often don't come with accessories, while this $200 handset ensures you don't need to sift through dozens of cases on Amazon for the right one or worry about misaligning the protector. That being said, we do have round-ups of the best Nokia G20 cases and best Nokia G20 screen protectors if you want to upgrade.

I didn't use the complementary case, but the Nokia G20's 2.5D glass seems prone to accidental side touches (despite not having an actual edge display). I'll tap something, and nothing will happen because the phone is already registering my touch at the edge of the screen. Or the reverse happens, and a series of false-positive taps happen while I'm simply holding the phone; at one point, I accidentally downloaded a random Play Store game called Egg, Inc. because of it. Thankfully, it wasn't paid!

With its large, vivid display, the Nokia G20 is well suited to streaming movies and gaming — if you're okay with 720p. But its Mediatek processor isn't fast enough to handle those tasks as well as it should.

Nokia G20: Performance and battery

This section will showcase the highest highs and lowest lows of the Nokia G20. Its 5,050mAh battery makes the phone last longer than most handsets by a mile. On the flip side, it runs off a budget Mediatek Helio G35 chipset that's underpowered even for a cheap Android phone. For context, it handily loses this Nanoreview benchmark battle against the Snapdragon 665 found in budget 2020 phones like the Moto G Power.

Category Nokia G20
Operating System Android 11
Display 6.52-inch HD+ IPS LCD, 1600x720 (20:9) with 2.5D glass
Processor MediaTek Helio 635 8x A53 2.3GHz
Graphics PowerVR GE8320 680MHz
Memory 4GB
Storage 128GB
Expandable Storage up to 512GB via microSD
Rear Camera 1 48MP primary
Rear Camera 2 5MP ultra-wide
Rear Camera 3 2MP depth
Rear Camera 4 2MP macro
Front Camera 8MP
Security side fingerprint sensor, face unlock, pattern/PIN unlock
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, LTE Cat 4, Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C, microSD, dualSIM, 3.5mm audio combo jack
NFC Yes
Battery 5,050mAh
Water Resistance NA
Dimensions 6.49 x 2.49 x 0.36 inches
Weight 6.9 oz
Colors Polar Night (dark blue), Glacier (light green)

We'll start with performance. MediaTek claimed the G35 is designed for "mainstream gaming smartphones." But with just 4GB of RAM, it's clearly not a gaming phone per se. So I started my review focusing on the core apps that more mainstream users would rely upon.

First, the positives: the dedicated Google Assistant button answered my questions promptly, sending me info or opening apps as fast as any other phone. Apps load relatively quickly. Aside from the occasional stutter when first opening an app, scrolling through content feels smooth. Swiping to switch between apps or just browsing apps, I had very few problems.

Compared to faster phones, the Nokia G20 does lag somewhat. Open an app, and you're more likely to stare at a logo or white screen for half a second before everything appears. Or tap in a text window, and you wait just long enough for the keyboard to appear that the delay will draw your attention. Once opened, though, apps worked well enough that I wouldn't call this a deal-breaker for the phone.

There's a much more significant, noticeable issue with the Nokia G20: it doesn't support 5GHz wi-fi. No, I didn't misspell 5G, which some cheap phones like the OnePlus Nord N200 5G do offer. I mean the faster Wi-Fi bandwidth that most people unthinkingly rely on every day. And let me tell you, its absence is noticeable, as someone who pays way too much for fast W.

Scrolling down Google Discover, the G20 takes a second to load the next story. Click on a YouTube video, and you'll see the blue loading bar sliding across the display top. Open Android Central (or another less interesting site), and you'll stare at empty image boxes for a couple of seconds. I didn't realize how my internet had trained me for instant gratification until Nokia's old Wi-Fi standards took it away.

While I didn't expect much from the G20 gaming-wise, I still downloaded and played a few games of varying graphical intensity: Dr. Mario World, Slay the Spire, MTG: Arena, and Call of Duty: Mobile.

The less demanding games (Mario and Spire) did perfectly fine, aside from some consistent stutters in some loading menus. But even on potato graphics and FPS settings, Call of Duty had noticeably lost frames. Not enough to stop me winning MVP of the round against fellow level 1 scrubs learning the controls, but anyone used to higher graphics or concerned about competitive performance obviously should look elsewhere. As for MTG: Arena, it struggled from the outset, with cards freezing and jerking forward as I played them. I quickly abandoned it.

Nokia doesn't list a refresh rate, but (A) it's certainly not higher than 60Hz, and (B) refresh rate only matters if your device has the power to display every frame. If you buy the G20, you're not concerned about specs and likely will be satisfied by more casual Android games like Crossy Road.

The Nokia G20's mixed-bag performance aside, the big selling point for this phone is the 5,050mAh battery. And so far, it lives up to Nokia's marketing.

For battery life that won't quit no matter what, the Nokia G20 more than fits the bill.

In my first battery test, I left the phone playing a YouTube music mix on adaptive brightness for four hours, which took the battery down to 86%. Left idling for about ten hours, the battery only drained down to 82%. I then spent hours on multiple Slay the Spire runs and Call of Duty games, browsed the internet sporadically, then went out listening to Spotify while taking pictures to test the camera. After about 11 hours of heavy usage, the battery had gone down to 13%, with usage showing that about half of the battery drain came from gaming.

The Nokia G20 will drain if you use it consistently, particularly for demanding apps. But from casual use, you'll get through a full day and only use about a quarter to a third of its battery, which my subsequent battery tests confirmed even after I adjusted the settings to only let it sleep after five minutes of idleness. This will work well for someone who doesn't always have time to charge their phone during a long workday.

Its only battery-related downside is its sad 10W maximum charging speed, which translates to about three hours of recharge time to return it to full power. No fast charging or wireless charging to speak of.

Nokia G20: Software

One of the major historical appeals of Nokia phones is the Android One program, which promises a clean, stock Android interface and guaranteed updates. The Nokia G20 is no exception: it arrived with a stock version of Android 11, and HMD Global promises it will get updates to Android 12 and Android 13, plus three years of security updates through 2024.

The issue is that Nokia has struggled to deliver timely Android 11 updates. It's updated a few of its phones like the Nokia 8.3 5G and Nokia 8.1, but many of its cheaper phones have remained on Android 10 well past the original schedule.

We're not sure we can trust Nokia to release speedy updates anymore, but the G20's Android 11 software works great in the meantime.

If Nokia's Android 12 updates follow this trend, Nokia G20 owners likely wouldn't see the new OS until next summer, almost a year after Pixel owners. Thankfully, the wait shouldn't be too terrible, as I'm a big fan of the Android 11 skin on the Nokia G20. It truly looks like the Pixel Launcher on my Pixel 3a, with most of the same default apps and settings.

Unless you import a bunch of apps from your old phone, the Nokia G20 will be blissfully bloatware-free after setup. Aside from the usual Google apps suite, it comes with a Nokia My Phone app you can ignore, an FM Radio app, Amazon Shopping, and Netflix installed. That's it! I think most people buying a Nokia G20 will want to keep things simple and will appreciate this.

Nokia G20: Cameras

Most people buying a $200 phone won't expect anything amazing from its cameras. However, if you temper your expectations and choose the right camera sensor, then the Nokia G20 might manage to surprise you.

Like the Nokia 5.4, the G20 has a 48MP main, 5MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro, and 2MP depth sensors; the main difference is that the G20 only sports an 8MP selfie cam, while the slightly pricier Nokia 5.4 has a 16MP selfie cam. Given that these two phones came out just a few months apart, it's unsurprising that their camera specs and performance are pretty similar.

The main sensor can capture a decent level of detail during daylight hours. Some shots turned out better than others, but in general, these photos undoubtedly were the best of the bunch.

For comparison, the 5MP ultra-wide sensor gives more perspective to shots from the same angle but otherwise loses a lot of detail you get from the main sensor. Details are clearly much blurrier on objects that are further away.

I won't even bother to include the Macro shots I took, all of which were inevitably dull and blurry. Even when I found the 4cm sweet spot Nokia recommends, it only worked decently for flat subjects like leaves. Anything with depth, like a flower, would be somewhat clear in one spot and blurry elsewhere. The selfie camera took some surprisingly decent photos with enough detail that you can stick them in a photo album.

In terms of video, the Nokia G20 can only shoot in 1080p at 30fps, which isn't exactly ideal for home videos. And when I made a Google Meet call with my partner, I was incredibly blurry on her screen, I suspect due to the limited 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. So if you're planning on using your phone for regular Zoom calls with family or friends, this likely isn't the best option.

Overall, the Nokia G20 cameras are solid for the price. But I experienced moments where I had to tap the capture button more than once for it to work, likely because the slow processor couldn't quite keep up. Missing some cool shots of fast-moving objects or animals because the CPU isn't ready would be frustrating for anyone.

Nokia G20: The competition

Compared to the other best Nokia phones, the Nokia G20 handily beats other sub-$200 handsets like the Nokia 1.3 and 2.3. The Nokia 5.3 technically has a faster processor and similarly massive display, but it still runs on Android 10, has a smaller battery, and will get one fewer year of support if you buy it now. You could consider the Nokia 5.4, which has an FHD+ display and a better Snapdragon for slightly more money, but it too will get about a day less of battery life and hasn't updated to Android 11 yet.

Thus, you may want to look outside of Nokia's phones if you want a stock Android phone with a similar price. The Moto G Power 2020 hits the same notes as the G20 with its 5,000mAh battery and reliable cameras, with the bonus of Verizon and Sprint compatibility. Its main downside: It still runs Android 10 and will stop at Android 11, giving it much less longevity.

For reliable stock Android performance, you certainly can't go wrong with a Pixel 4a, which tops our list of the best cheap Android phones. It'll immediately get Android 12 in September and receive an Android 13 the following year, has more RAM and a faster processor, and it hits FHD+. The downside is that you get a much smaller screen and battery for almost double the price. You also might want to wait until the Pixel 5a comes out for even faster speeds.

Nokia G20: Should you buy it?

You should buy this if ...

You need long battery life

A 5,050mAh battery and an energy-efficient display and chipset help this phone last longer than almost any rival phone today.

You're on a strict budget

Other more expensive phones may be better, but you really can't expect better specs or performance at this low price point.

You want your phone to last for years

With security updates through 2024 and a battery that'll last even when it loses some capacity, the Nokia G20 will spare you from buying another phone for a good while.

You shouldn't buy this if...

Your carrier is Verizon or Sprint

Unlike more mainstream brands that support as many carriers as possible, Nokia focuses on GSM-based carriers only, at the expense of some of the most popular carriers.

You care about gaming specs or display resolution

You can find smartphones for slightly more money with FHD+ displays, 90Hz refresh rates, and faster processors. The G20 is better suited for casual use.

You want more protective features

There's no water or dust resistance, nor Gorilla Glass on the Nokia G20. It does come with a cheap case and pre-installed screen protector, but other phones offer better protection.

The Nokia G20 is a bundle of promising features that never quite coalesces into a perfect budget product, mainly thanks to its wimpy processor. It's a shame because it has so many perks in a single cheap package: a 3.5mm headphone jack, dual SIM, NFC support, side fingerprint sensor, dedicated Google Assistant button, a powerful 48MP camera, and (of course) a workhorse of a battery. That's a pretty impressive list for such a cheap phone.

3.5 out of 5

It was a struggle to choose a definitive rating for this phone. I found myself annoyed by the slight delays when opening apps or looking up information. Still, I had to recognize that I've grown accustomed to faster phones that cost much more and that this phone will work perfectly well for thrifty people who aren't quite so impatient as I am. For its price range, it's about as good as you could expect; but if you can afford it, I'd expand my price range beyond the Nokia G20.

Nokia G20

Bottom line: The Nokia G20 offers a massive battery and display size on a phone with stock Android 11 and no bloatware to speak of. So if you're looking for a simple Android smartphone that competently completes any task you need, the G20 could work for you. But keep in mind you get what you pay for, and other faster smartphones are available if you don't mind the extra cost.

$200 at Amazon $200 at B&H Photo



Source: androidcentral

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