The task of bringing the Nokia brand back to its heyday has been taken on by HMD Global. The company was performing well up until last year, but in 2022 they slowed down. The brand’s primary selling point was its capacity to deliver a wholly Android experience, but competing brands are gradually eroding this advantage.
Nokia’s newest entrant this year in the market is the C21 Plus, an under INR 12,000 product aimed at budget buyers who are still loyal to the brand. The C21 Plus features two memory options and a starting price of INR 10,299, putting it in a category dominated by Redmi and realme. We’ve had the phone for a little over a week now. So, how does the Nokia C21 Plus stack up against the competition? Let’s find out in our comprehensive review.
Nokia C21 Plus Specifications
Before starting with the Nokia C21 Plus review, let’s glance at the phone’s specifications, pricing, and things we get with the device.
- Display: 6.57-inch HD+ IPS LCD
- CPU: Octa-core Unisoc Unisoc SC9863A processor
- RAM: 3/4GB
- Storage: 32/64GB
- Software: Android 11 (Go Edition)
- Main Camera: 13MP primary sensor + 2MP macro lens
- Selfie Camera: 5MP
- Connectivity: USB Type-C, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth v5.0, GPS/ A-GPS, 3.5mm headphone jack, FM Radio
- Cellular: Dual SIM
- Fingerprint Scanner: Yes, rear-mounted
- Battery: 5,050 mAh, non-removable
- Charging: 18W fast charging
- Nokia C21 Plus smartphone
- 10W Charger
- USB Type-C charging cable
- Sim Ejector Tool
The Nokia C21 Plus belongs to the sub-INR 12,000 segments, dominated by smartphones with polycarbonate bodies. The phone has Gorilla Glass protection on the front, while the polycarbonate rear has a matte finish. Starting at the back, you’ll find a dual-camera module with the sensors and flash arranged vertically. The Nokia branding can be found at the bottom along with a speaker cutout.
On Flipping the phone, you’ll see the 6.57-inch HD+ IPS display with a dewdrop notch and pretty thick bezels. Unsurprisingly the Nokia branding is back and is placed on the chin. Moving on to the button layout, the power button, and the volume controls are placed on the right, a 3.5mm audio jack is on the top, while the bottom houses the Type-C port for charging.
The Nokia C21 Plus has a 6.5-inch HD+ IPS LCD panel with a standard 60Hz refresh rate. At a time when competing brands are offering Full HD+ 90Hz AMOLED panels for less than INR 14,000, the existence of an HD+ LCD panel with chunky bezels and a dew-drop notch is disappointing. Aside from that, the display is Okayish at best with cooler color tones and plenty of brightness.
The display will serve well for light content viewing. Having said that, we did detect some light bleed and shadows at times, particularly around the notch. You might see some inconsistency with the colors and changing the color profile from the display settings will resolve that issue.
Software and Performance
Like the past Nokia devices, the C21 Plus also receives the stock Android treatment. But instead of going for a full Android build, Nokia has supplied this handset with Android 11 Go Edition out of the box. This is a led down when compared to the competition. On the plus side, Nokia will provide two Android version updates and two years of security patches, implying that the C21 Plus would receive up to Android 13 before its end of life.
The user interface is identical to that of a full Android build but instead of full apps, you get Go edition apps on the phone. Nokia has attempted to make the phone as stock as possible by including apps like Nokia care, Nokia photography, and Digital Wellbeing, among others, and bloatware has been completely taken out of this handset. There are nifty touches and features in the UI like the gestures, and fingerprint motions that allow you to swipe up or down on the fingerprint sensor to access the Notification Center, and much more.
When it comes to performance, the Nokia C21 Plus is powered by the relatively new Unisoc SC9863A SoC. Looking at its benchmark numbers, this is an entry-level chip that we haven’t seen on a product recently. We don’t really get the reasoning behind going with this chip when several better alternatives like the MediaTek Helio G37, G80, and even Unisoc T606 are present in the market.
Having said that, for an entry-level chip, the T606 performs well. During our day-to-day testing, the performance was okayish. There were no major hiccups found in the UI, except for the long app opening times. Nokia offers the C21 Plus in two models, one with 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage and the other with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage. You can’t go wrong with either of the models but getting the 4GB RAM model will definitely get you more room for a fluid experience.
Camera and Battery
The Nokia C21 Plus has a dual camera arrangement on the back with the main 13MP sensor along with a 2MP auxiliary lens. For selfies, the handset packs a 5MP sensor on the front inside the dew-drop notch. The camera performance is nothing to gloat about. The photos captured by the main 13-megapixel sensor in full daylight were decent at best and fell apart in challenging lighting. Portrait images taken with the phone had okayish edge detection with the app giving us further tuning options.
The front-facing 5-megapixel selfie camera allows you to take pictures and takes reasonably good photos in daylight. In low-light situations, performance suffers, which is to be anticipated given this smartphone’s overall camera prowess.
The C21 boasts a 5,050mAh battery, which is more than plenty for a phone with this size and functionality. In our tests, the phone had about 30% of its battery left after a full workday. Our tests included some gaming, watching videos, sending texts, and making calls. The included 18W charger took over two hours to completely charge the phone.