A good value 5G phone with the extra sparkle of repairability to attract buyers. It’s a very decent performer, looks good in purple, and offers a reasonable camera system as long as you use it in good light. At a budget price, the lower-mid-range performance on offer here makes it a tempting prospect, but questions remain over its longevity.
What might otherwise have been an unremarkable budget-friendly smartphone from Nokia is rendered more interesting by its repairability. You can crack the case of the phone and switch out the screen, battery and charging port using tools and parts provided by iFixit.
It’s not Nokia’s first response to the raft of right-to-repair laws that have arrived across Europe and the US, with the cheaper, lower performance Nokia G22 already available, but it’s certainly the most interesting, as it mixes performance, battery life, and the ability to rip out that battery should it fail.
Design & Build
Vibrant colour on the back
Tightly put together
It’s a 2023 smartphone, you know what it looks like. The major defining external feature of the G42 is its purple back, which is extremely distinctive and almost a shame to hide under a case. Grey and pink variants are also available, but neither lives up to the purple phone’s rich hue.
From the front, of course, it looks the same as every other Android phone, with no home button and just a small front camera to pierce the seamless black of the Gorilla Glass screen.
A seam of a more important kind is found at the side of the phone. With the right tool – the review unit I received came with an iFixIt-branded toolkit that included screwdrivers, tweezers, suction cup, spudger and multiple guitar pick-like implements – you can open the plastic casing up via the SIM tray and replace certain parts.
The battery, charging port and screen are all up for switching over, should they stop functioning, making this an ideal phone for the butterfingers who’s not afraid of a little electronic tinkering.
Ian Evenden / Foundry
Getting it open and ready for parts replacement involves undoing a lot of screws and clips, so it’s not something to be undertaken lightly if this is your only phone. Working the opening pick around the corners is tricky, while prying out the battery brings with it a risk of fire if you pierce the wrong bit, and the 3.8mm screws are tiny enough to lose easily – and you’ll need to undo ten of them just to remove the cover over the phone’s motherboard for access to the battery cable.
The back of the phone lifts away easily once the clips are undone, but the fingerprint reader housed in the power button is attached to the case with a ribbon cable that is itself held down with a small screw. Tearing this cable will certainly ruin your day.
If you’ve built a PC from parts then it’s not going to be completely outside your capabilities, and getting a replacement screen after dropping your phone on the pavement is a lot cheaper than a whole new phone. Guides are available on the iFixit site, and if you’ve ever used tyre levers to replace the inner tube on a bike you’ll have the right idea about how removing the casing is achieved.
It’s a fairly weighty phone at 193g and doesn’t come, as you would expect given it comes apart, with no IP dust or waterproof rating.
Screen & Speakers
90Hz refresh rate
At 6.5in across the diagonal, the G42 is a nice size that’s good for one-handed operation for all but the smallest users.
A resolution of 720p is really the lowest you’ll want in a phone these days, and given the size of the screen and the distance you’ll view it from it’s really not too much of an issue. Full HD (1080p) would be preferable, of course, but leads to shorter battery life.
The 90Hz maximum refresh rate helps to keep things smooth when you’re scrolling, and the biggest problem with the screen is its lack of brightness. I don’t expect an IPS panel to keep up with the latest AMOLED screens, but bright sunlight is not a friend to the G42.
At the bottom of the case lives a single speaker which can output enough sound for a video call but really should be replaced by a pair of good headphones (the increasingly rare headphone socket can be found at the other end of the phone) if you’re using it for video streaming or listening to music – there’s an FM radio on board if streaming music over 5G or Wi-Fi 6 doesn’t appeal.
Specs & Performance
Good lower-mid-range performance
Not for gaming
The Nokia G42 sits at the bottom of the mid-range in terms of performance. Its Snapdragon 480+ chipset isn’t a match for Snapdragon 7 phones like the Honor 90 and it trails behind the Google Pixel 7a by 600 points in the Geekbench rankings.
Ian Evenden / Foundry
But then it’s also less than half the price of Google’s latest phone, and it roughly matches the rather similarly named Moto G62 from last year in our testing. This should come as little surprise, as the Moto uses the same chipset as the Nokia, but the G42 wins out in terms of repairability – with a fingerprint sensor in the screen rather than the power button, Motorola’s phone doesn’t have the same options if you smash it.
Otherwise, there is very little to moan about in the G42’s performance in day-to-day use. This isn’t a phone that’s going to respond well to being asked to play the latest 3D Android games, but there’s nothing stopping you from playing something less intensive on it.
Apps switch smoothly, though they may take some time to load when you use them for the first time, and there was little lag when using the Google Photos app to markup and make edits to images.
One of the highlights of the spec sheet is support for 5G, which isn’t a given even at the top-end of the budget market. There’s also a decent 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, plus a microSD card slot.
Nokia G42 5G benchmarks
50Mp main camera
Poor 2x performance
There’s a 50Mp f/1.8 camera on the back of the G42, alongside a 2Mp macro lens, depth sensor, and LED flash. It’s generally good enough if you feed it enough light, but image quality falls apart as it darkens, especially in areas away from the point of focus – no surprise there at this price.
There’s a 2x digital zoom that makes use of the fact the 50Mp sensor bins its files down to 12.5Mp to crop in on the image and provide the tighter framing.
Ian Evenden / Foundry
The results of this are not great, especially in video. Smearing sets in early if you try to use the zoom in video mode, where 1080p/60fps is your highest option. Broad daylight is your best option for imaging with this phone, but I found the auto-HDR mode was quite capable of preventing the silhouetting of dark trees against a white sky – something I didn’t expect to see.
You can also take a full resolution 50Mp image, but really need to be in good light to try this, as it doesn’t benefit from the image quality gains of the binning process.
The macro camera is a 2Mp model best used for magnifying interesting things you find while walking around rather than for taking images you might want to keep. Likewise, the front-facing 8Mp camera is good enough for a video call or selfie in decent light, but suffers from the same drop in detail and colour reproduction as the rear lens once the sun begins to set.
Battery Life & Charging
Battery life very good
20W fast charging
Hard to report battery life precisely
Battery life is hard to judge precisely for the Nokia G42, as the standard test we use to compare models’ endurance – which simulates constant usage with the screen on – wouldn’t run on it. The lowest it got was to 47% before throwing an error that ended the testing, and this took several hours to get to. We found the same thing with the Motorola G62, which shares the same chipset, so there appears to be a clash between Qualcomm and Geekbench there.
From this, and having used the phone, it’s possible to extrapolate that the battery life on this phone is actually very good. Whether it will ever reach Nokia’s claim of three days between fuel-ups is hugely dependent on individual usage and whether the battery saver mode is judiciously applied, but I think it’s capable of getting close, especially if it spends a lot of time with the screen off.
Having watched the gradual drop of the battery percentage I’d say that two days’ use is easily within the G42’s grasp.
Ian Evenden / Foundry
The 20W fast charging works exactly the way you’d expect, the USB-C port gorging itself on electricity to fill up the 5000mAh battery at a very decent rate (for a budget phone anyway). I got 26% in 30 minutes with a suitably fast charger because it’s worth noting, there isn’t a charger included in the box.
Software & Apps
Not too many bundled apps
Only two years of OS updates
You might think that getting a repairable phone will mean it lasts longer than others, but the hardware is only half of the modern smartphone equation. The software updates a handset receives are as essential to its continued usefulness as its battery and screen, and the G42 has a slightly disappointing future ahead of it.
Nokia is offering two years of OS updates and three of security patches. It comes with Android 13 out of the box, which is a nice OS to work with, but the fact it will never see Android 16 means you’ll likely be considering a replacement long before the battery or charging port wears out.
Still, once you start the phone up it’s nice to see there aren’t too many unwanted apps pre-installed on the phone. I spotted the ubiquitous Booking.com app, but little else in the way of bloatware.
Ian Evenden / Foundry
Price & Availability
For £199 this is a good value phone. I’d rather have this than something cheaper, like the ostensibly similar Nokia C32, which sacrifices too much on the altar of being extremely cheap. Sadly, it’s not available in the USA – the $269.99 G400 5G shares some specs but isn’t repairable in the same way.
This is a good price to pay for a phone with 5G, 128GB of storage, and the kind of performance and battery life on offer here and it’s already discounted to £179 on the official store at the time of writing.
Check out our chart of the best budget phones to see more options.
The Nokia G42 is a good value phone that combines many surprising specs and QuickFix repairability into one particularly purple handset (grey also available).
There are a couple of disappointments, however. The camera quality drops off quickly as the light fades. And with only two years of OS updates on offer, I question its longevity despite the ability for the owner to replace a smashed screen.
However, it feels good in the hand, it’s responsive when you open and switch apps, and having an FM radio and physical headphone socket is something I miss from an older generation of smartphones that seems to have been lost in this current era of wireless streaming.
At the price Nokia is offering this phone for, it feels like a bit of a steal. A proper mid-ranger for a budget price, with a purple casing that’s going to draw attention whenever you flash it about.