The Nokia G21 Has Everything But No One Is Talking About It [Review]

It’s the most complete package out of the box that we have seen in a long time.

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Have you noticed the disturbing trend in smartphones today? It seems that we are getting less and less substance with every new model but more and more buzzwords.

We get fewer and fewer stuff in the box and more and more unsubstantiated marketing claims. And wading through all that muck gets tired quickly. 

So when the Nokia G21 came in for review, it brought a breath of fresh air. 

It did not claim to be the heir of some price range or lord of some style of photography. Nor is it plastered with pretend words to embellish the most common of contemporary features.

It’s an honest straight talking Android smartphone that sure knows how to make a first impression.

All You Need

While most smartphones nowadays exclude a charger and headphones in the box under the pretence of being environmentally friendly while charging us the same amount of money, the Nokia G21 comes packed with those accessories.

That’s already excellent in my book, especially for a sub RM1,000 device. But, Nokia went above and beyond by including a pre-installed screen protector and a phone case, and designed the G21 with a 3.5mm audio jack.

Can you imagine a smartphone that comes with everything you need, right in the box, without extra purchases needed or some promotion where customers have to jump through hoops just to get something that should have been included in the first place?

Human sacrifice. Cats and dogs living together. Mass hysteria!

Dr. Peter Vankman, Ghostbusters (1984).

A Squeaky Clean Android (Almost)

The main reason why I’d recommend a Nokia to most people is how unencumbered the software is. 

While even the most high-end Android device with a price tag the size of a down payment for a car is packed with unwanted and duplicate apps, the Nokia G21 only comes with four: ExpessVPN, LinkedIn, Netflix, and Spotify. 

That is not bad for a sub RM1,000 smartphone. Especially considering that it is running the closest thing to a plain Android outside of Google’s own Pixel devices. 

In other words, the phone’s interface is simple and is not tinted by a maker specific user interface. This makes it easier to use, easier to understand, and how the G21 kept itself free from nonsensical buzzwords. 

Nokia also promises that the G21 will be up to date with two years of OS upgrades and three years of monthly security updates. It is relatively short, but for its price and capabilities, three years is fair.

What Can It Do

Built on a Unisoc T606 platform, with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage, the G21 can handle the everyday demand of an average smartphone user just fine. 

Its 5050mAh battery is rated to last three days, and in my testing, it can certainly achieve that, especially if I don’t install some pesky power-draining social media apps. 

The 6.5in display has a resolution that is a pinch too low for its size but is large enough for most people to enjoy videos, pictures, and feeds.

Speaking of pictures, the G21 has a 50MP main camera, a 2MP macro camera, and a 2MP depth sensor at the back. In front, there’s an 8MP selfie camera.

Despite the AI camera tech, to my eyes, the normal photos taken using the G21 have that retro unprocessed look. But, the digital bokeh is so bad it’s good. 

I also noticed that the camera favours subjects that are at a medium distance. Get too far or too close and the result is odd.

Here are some sample photos:

Last but not least, the G21 has a feature that even the most high-end Android smartphones don’t have, a built-in radio. I wish more smartphones would have this feature. It can be so useful in a lot of situations. But that would also mean the return of wired earphones, and that’s not so bad, is it?

Also notable is that the G21 has a fingerprint reader on the side and facial recognition for security. 

What It Can’t Do

Right off the bat, I can hear that Nokia skimped out on the built-in speaker. There’s only one and it is at the bottom of the phone. It can be easily muffled. 

Despite the promised updates, the G21 still runs on Android 11 — the most current version is Android 12. 

Also, don’t expect to be able to do hardcore gaming or emulation on the G21 either.

To Buy Or Not To Buy

For the average consumer, the Nokia G21 should be one of the first smartphones to check out. If it does all you need it to do, you’ll save money by not paying for features you are not going to use. 

For older consumers, the G21 is a good choice as well. Without the bells and whistles, the device is straightforward to use. 

For those on a budget who really need a capable smartphone but don’t have a lot to spend, having a set that comes with everything they need in the box is perfect. And wait until you see how much the Nokia G21 costs.

The Nokia G21 is available now in Nordic Blue or Dusk for RM799.

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