Nokia 4.2 (2019) review

Cheap Suit

Nokia Nokia 4.2
  • Nokia Nokia 4.2
  • Nokia Nokia 4.2
  • Expert Rating

    2.25 / 5

Pros

  • Appealing design
  • Plenty of features

Cons

  • Poor camera
  • Underwhelming performance

Bottom Line

The Nokia 4.2 is a decent budget smartphone when it comes to the essential but it falls off hard if you expect anything more from it.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 299.00 (AUD)

Should I buy the Nokia 4.2 (2019)?

The Nokia 4.2 is a decent budget smartphone when it comes to the essential but it falls off hard if you expect anything more from it.

When it comes to look and feel, it's a budget phone that does well to distinguish itself. However, beyond that polished appearance and the clean software installed on it, there’s not much to love about the Nokia 4.2. It’s more a phone you’ll have to live with than one you’ll want to stand by. 

Price when reviewed

In Australia, the Nokia 4.2 can be found through JB Hi-Fi at a recommended retail price-point of $299.

Nokia 4.2 (2019) full review

The Nokia 4.2 is a humble and inoffensive evolution on the same sort of device that Nokia have been trying to make for the last few years. 

The centerpiece here is a 5.7-inch IPS display. It comes surrounded by all the usual perks you’d expect. It’s got NFC connectivity. There’s expandable storage plus a fingerprint sensor on the back. Even at $299, the Nokia 4.2 ticks plenty of boxes. It’s even got a headphone jack. 

Of course, the most noticeable way that Nokia 4.2 distinguishes itself from the rest of the crowd is the LED-lit Google Assistant key on the left side of the device. This doubles as a notification light, which is neat. However, it’s way too sensitive. I lost count of the number of times I accidentally triggered it. 

Credit: Nokia

And this is far from the only problem that we encountered with the Nokia 4.2 after a few weeks with it. To look at, Nokia’s latest affordable smartphone exudes quiet confidence. However, to hold and to use, it’s got some real problems.

On one hand, the Nokia 4.2 is a $299 smartphone with a dual-lens camera. On the other, it’s a $299 smartphone with a dual-lens camera that’s rarely capable of producing the results that you’d expect it would. 

Likewise, you won’t find any bloatware when it comes to the software experience offered by the Nokia 4.2 but you also won’t find anything here that you can’t get on another, better, Android phone that probably offers better performance. 

The Nokia 4.2 has a sharp-looking design and plenty of features but, even within expectations afforded to a budget device, it struggles to deliver the goods. 

Price

In Australia, you can buy the Nokia 4.2 for a recommended retail price-point of $299. You can buy it from the following places:

You can’t buy the Nokia 4.2 on any postpaid plans but you can pair it up with a SIM-only plan by using the widget below:

Design - Look, Feel, Features and Camera

The Nokia 4.2 is a mostly-inoffensive evolution on the same sort of device that Nokia have been trying to make for the last few years. Yes, it’s yet another glass sandwich. But, for what it’s worth, it stands out as a suitably professional-looking one. It’s not a tailor-made suit but it’s still a suit. 

The centerpiece here is a 5.7-inch IPS display. It’s only FHD resolution, which isn’t ideal - but for the most part it’s usable enough. The other obvious tell that the Nokia 4.2 is only $300 phone is the Micro USB cable at the bottom of the unit. This will hardly be a deal-breaker for most but as a person trying to live that “single cable” life, it did irritate me a little. 

Credit: Nokia

Another specific detail that separates the Nokia 4.2 from the many other budget smartphones out there is the LED-lit Google Assistant key on the left side of the device. It doubles as a notification light, which is neat. However, it’s way too sensitive. I honestly lost count of the number of times I accidentally triggered it. 

To HMD’s credit - and in spite of the price-tag - there aren’t many obvious caveats here. When it comes to features, the Nokia 4.2 ticks the essential boxes. It’s got NFC. It has also got expandable storage. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the back. It’s even got a headphone jack. 

Unfortunately, the competence reflected in the spec-sheet for this one rarely translates over into reality. In action (and seemingly whenever you need to rely on it), the Nokia 4.2 has issues. 

Credit: Nokia

Firstly, there’s the camera. On one hand, the Nokia 4.2 is a $299 smartphone with a dual-lens camera. On the other, it’s a $299 smartphone with a dual-lens camera that’s rarely capable of producing the results that you’d expect it would. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

The camera app itself is fairly standard stuff. However, it’s very slow to open - which can cost you the shots you want - and somehow even slower to use - which doesn’t help either.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

In the right circumstances - usually a static subject, plenty of natural lighting and a surplus of time to prepare your shot - you can take some “potentially OK” photos with the Nokia 4.2. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Unfortunately, low-light performance from the Nokia 4.2 is basically unusable and if you need the stars to align before you can do anything with it, it’s hard to call it as much of a worthwhile inclusion.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Performance - Specs, Software, Benchmarks and Battery Life

Specs

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 439

  • Operating System: Android 9.1  

  • RAM:  3GB

  • Storage:  32GB

  • MicroSD slot:  Yes

  • Headphone Jack: Yes 

  • SIM:  Yes

  • Battery:  3000mAh

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC

  • Rear Camera: 13-megapixel (f/2.2) + 2-megapixel depth sensor

  • Front-Facing Camera: 8-megapixel (f/2.0)

  • Dimensions: 149 x 71.3 x 8.4 mm

  • Weight: 161g

Software

When it comes to the software experience, there isn’t much here that you won’t find in Google’s own native Pixel smartphones. HMD Global’s modern Nokia handsets pride themselves on how closely they veer to the core Android experience and beyond the camera and customer service apps. There are pros and cons to this approach.

HMD’s Nokia devices receive fast-tracked security and software updates and you won’t find any bloatware here, which is nice. However, there is a lack of specific identity to the Android experience here that maybe hurts it some ways. There’s not much here that’s unique or exclusive to the version of Android that the Nokia 4.2 presents. If you like the idea of starting with a blank slate, that might appeal to you. Unfortunately, if your expectations are a little more modest, you’re going to be out of luck.

Benchmarks

In benchmarks, the compromised performance of the Nokia 4.2’s camera app proved itself the canary in the coalmine. 

Even compared to devices only $100 or $200 more expensive, there’s an enormous gulf in the performance that the Nokia 4.2 is able to offer.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Anecdotally, performance proved to be a major issue for the Nokia 4.2. Even if the skeleton of the Android One experience is a net positive, the device itself struggled to rapidly swap between and run multiple apps at the same time. I’ve used slower devices but not by much. 

Even if you’re happy to compromise on performance to save a buck, the above is still a major blow towards, if not the amount of things you can do with this phone, the amount of things you’ll want to do with the Nokia 4.2. 

Battery Life

When it comes to battery life, the Nokia 4.2 was far from exceptional. 

For all the compromises that this device makes, it always feels like you’re getting less battery life than you ought to. We’d be able to make it through the usual 9-5 work day pretty consistently but did need to make the time for a top up if we planned on doing anything afterwards. 

We’re talking nine or ten hours of use here, though - as always - your mileage may vary (especially if you watch or film a lot of video content).

The Nokia 4.2 does not support fast or wireless charging. 

The Bottom Line

The thing that sticks with me about the Nokia 4.2 is the sense of presentation and pomp. 

It’s rare to find a phone this cheap that looks this good, let alone one that ticks so many boxes. On paper, it’s a $299 phone that feels like it could maybe be a $599 phone. Unfortunately, that taciturn impression only really last until you spend any real time relying on the device. 

The Nokia 4.2 is an OK budget phone that looks like the real deal but mostly ends up saddled by the same old trade-offs.

Credit: Nokia

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