The Nokia G20 has a subtle yet practical design, claims to offer a 3-day battery life, and runs on Android 11 software that's as close to stock as possible. On paper, it seems like a decent budget smartphone, with a focus on build quality and hassle-free everyday performance. However, after using it for a week, I discovered that it did not meet some of my expectations, making it quite hard to recommend.
The Nokia G20 is available in a single 4GB RAM and 64GB storage configuration, which is priced at Rs. 12,999 in India. It has a triple-slot tray and accepts two Nano-SIMs along with a microSD card (up to 512GB). While the price is not unreasonable for a basic smartphone these days, take a quick glance at what the competition offers in terms of specifications and value-added features, and it's easy to conclude that the Nokia G20 is overpriced.
The design of this phone is a mix of what we've seen with the Nokia 2.4 (Review) and Nokia 5.4 (Review). It weighs 197g and is 9.2mm thick. The Nokia G20's frame and back panel are made of plastic, but it doesn't look or feel cheap. The back panel has a fine grooved texture, which makes it easy to grip this phone, and also gives it a premium feel. My review unit came in the Night finish, which is basically a dark blue colour with a lustrous purple shine that's visible at an angle.
You'll see a circular camera module at the back, like on the Nokia 5.4, but the G20 has a fingerprint reader located on the right side instead of below the cameras. Above the fingerprint reader is the volume rocker, which was a bit hard to reach given how tall this phone is. There's a Google Assistant key on the left side, and above that is the SIM tray. While voice commands work well when the phone is unlocked, they cannot be triggered when the phone is locked. This is where the dedicated button comes in handy.
A single speaker, Type-C USB port, and mic are on the bottom, while the headphone jack and secondary mic are on the top.
The 6.5-inch display features a notch at the top, which seems a bit outdated now that most of the competition at this price level has moved on to smaller hole-punch cameras. There's also a noticeable chin at the bottom, with a Nokia logo drawing attention. The glass front panel does not attract dust or pick up fingerprints easily.
The Nokia G20 uses a MediaTek G35 processor with eight Cortex-A53 cores running at a maximum frequency of 2.3Ghz, and an integrated IMG PowerVR GE8320 GPU. There's no dual-band Wi-Fi (only 2.4GHz is supported), but you do get Bluetooth 5 and support for GPS/AGPS, GLONASS and Beidou navigation. There's also an FM radio which requires you to plug in a pair of wired earphones to operate.
Powering this phone is a 5,050mAh battery, and Nokia includes a 10W wired charger in the box. The 6.5-inch LCD panel features an HD+ resolution and standard 60Hz refresh rate.
HMD Global is sticking with the Android One programme, and claims to offer two years of software updates with the G20. The software is near-stock, but with some minor customisations like the ability to adjust the colour balance of the display, and numerous tweaks to the camera app. This is one of the better budget smartphones when it comes to bloatware – it came with only two preloaded apps: My Nokia and Netflix.
With such minor software customisation, I expected the Nokia G20 to function smoothly when handling daily tasks, but this was not the case. I experienced noticeable stutters from time to time, especially when using social apps that had videos appearing in their feeds. Multitasking between recent apps was not a problem, but they did not remain in memory for long. Overall, the hardware struggles to keep up with current-day apps and use case scenarios, so you will notice that sometimes the phone takes an extra second to open a fresh app (that's not in memory). These are common complaints that you usually hear about when using entry-level smartphones.
In particular, using the camera app was a little frustrating. There's minor lag when switching between camera modes, and I also had to wait a few seconds after tapping the shutter button before I could take another shot. When I tapped on the thumbnail to preview a photo I had just taken, I had to wait for a second or two for the phone to process and display it.
The 6.5-inch HD+ display was bright enough indoors, but struggled in bright sunlight. There was also a noticeable blue tint on my unit. Viewing angles were decent. At 226ppi, it was easy to spot jagged edges around icons and text. Most video streaming apps including Netflix only appeared to support SD quality playback so video did not look sharp.
The usage experience was a bit below expectations, and benchmark tests also painted a similar picture with scores that were well below average for this price level. The Nokia G20 scored 1,13,751 points in AnTuTu compared to the Realme Narzo 30's 3,56,846. The same also reflected in Geekbench scores: the Nokia G20 managed 162 and 914 in the single and multi-core tests respectively, while the Narzo 30 managed 532 and 1,700 in the same tests.
Gaming was not all that enjoyable on the Nokia G20. The phone gets warm despite running most 3D games at the lowest settings possible. I noticed terrible touch input lag when playing Call of Duty: Mobile at the default Low graphics and Medium frame rate (with all other effects turned off). There was also plenty of lag during gameplay. Asphalt 9: Legends was playable at the Default graphics preset, but it didn't look good, which made for a very lacklustre experience. This phone is suitable only for casual games.
In our HD loop video battery test the Nokia G20 managed 16 hours and 44 minutes, which is average for a smartphone in this segment. However, it managed a good two days of use on a single charge. I was mostly limited to casual usage as this phone could not play games too well. The bundled 10W charger managed to charge the 5,050mAh battery up to 18 percent in 30 minutes and 37 percent in an hour. It took 3 hours and 5 minutes to charge fully.
The Nokia G20 has four cameras at the back: a 48-megapixel primary camera, a 5-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera, a 2-megapixel macro camera, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. Selfie duties are handled by an 8-megapixel camera. The interface is the typical Nokia camera app we have seen over the years. It allows quick access to important controls in the Photo mode. In the video mode I missed the ability to change the video resolution quickly – this setting is buried about five taps away, deep in the camera's settings.
Photos taken with the primary camera in daylight came out a bit dull, though with decent detail and good dynamic range. I noticed a ghosting effect in brighter areas, where objects were framed against a bright background. The ultra-wide-angle camera captured blurry images in daylight with plenty of purple fringing in the brighter areas. The macro camera reproduced below-average details and is basically only there to fill up the spec sheet.
Selfies taken in the portrait mode came out sharp but overexposed, and with below-average edge detection. Portraits taken using the rear camera showed a lot more detail with better saturation, but looked a bit oversharpened. Edge detection was much better with the rear camera.
Post sunset, image quality took a hit. Textures appeared flat, but noise seemed under control provided there was some ambient light in the vicinity. In dimmer conditions, quality dropped drastically, with photos coming out with lots of noise and murky details. The Night mode did not help at all, and only made textures appear worse. Photos taken using the ultra-wide-angle camera at night were unusable and Night mode is not available. Selfies and Portraits using the front camera at night also came out colourless and dull, with bad edge detection.
Video recording tops out at 1080p 30fps. Videos captured in daylight showed decent dynamic range, but came out very shaky. Selfie videos were below average, with overexposed subjects and backgrounds, and a lot of oversharpening. In low light, 1080p 30fps video came out with average detail, but was very shaky and unstable even if recorded when standing still. Footage recorded using the ultra-wide-angle camera looked a bit too dark and was mostly unusable even with ambient lighting in the vicinity. While video quality was below average at best, the Ozo spatial audio recording capability did a good job, delivering immersive audio.
After using the Nokia G20 for a week it became clear that this is a budget smartphone with entry-level performance. Nokia promises software updates, but the lacklustre hardware means that the UI struggles to keep up with daily tasks, even though it's running a near-stock version of Android 11. The two-day battery life is quite good, but charging that 5,050mAh battery takes more than three hours. Camera performance is just about okay in the daytime and the same goes for video quality. The quality of the HD+ display is also nowhere close to what the competition offers.
Take a peek at the competition and the Nokia G20 fades into the background. There's Xiaomi's Redmi Note 10 (Review), which offers a very capable processor, a full HD+ Super AMOLED panel, stereo speakers, and 33W charging at the same Rs. 12,999 price. For Rs. 12,499, Realme's Narzo 30 (Review) offers a 90Hz full HD+ LCD screen, a MediaTek Helio G95 processor, 16-megapixel selfie camera, and 30W charging. Even Samsung's Galaxy F22 (Review), priced at Rs. 12,499, offers much better hardware with a 90Hz HD+ Super AMOLED display, a capable Helio G80 processor, and a 6,000mAh battery.