Nokia C21 Plus review: a budget phone with impressive battery life

We review the Nokia C21 Plus to find out how the phone holds up against the competition in the sub-Rs 12,000 segment

Review Summary

Expert Rating3/5

Design
★★★★★
★★★★★
Display
★★★★★
★★★★★
Software
★★★★★
★★★★★
Camera
★★★★★
★★★★★
Performance
★★★★★
★★★★★
Battery
★★★★★
★★★★★

Pros

  • Sturdy design
  • Good screen
  • Excellent battery life
  • Dedicated slot for microSD card

Cons

  • Bloatware
  • Iffy fingerprint scanner
  • Sub-par performance

Nokia smartphone business in the Indian market is a story for another day to tell. But, for now, it seems the company has given up on flagships and focusing on budget and affordable segments in the country. After launching a new smartphone in its affordable G-series lineup, the HMD Global-owned brand unveiled the Nokia C21 Plus in India. The latter is a budget offering, with Android Go taking care of the software side of things. The handset promises robust build quality and long-lasting battery capabilities. Does the Nokia C21 Plus perform as advertised? To answer this question, I decided to put the smartphone through its paces. Let’s see how well it performed:

Verdict

The Nokia C21 Plus is a decent budget offering that has a few things going for it, including its design and battery life. Having said that, the phone’s performance and cameras could have been better.

The lowdown

  • The Nokia C21 Plus offers a staid design, which may not look stylish but feels sturdy and offers a firm grip. The handset comes in a plastic shell, with a fingerprint pattern on the back and slightly rounded edges. The power button and volume rocker are on the phone’s right spine, while the micro-USB charging port is at the bottom edge along with a microphone. The 3.5mm headphone jack is positioned up top. The speaker can be found on the back panel which also sports a centred-fingerprint scanner and a rectangular camera module on the top left. The phone is IP52 certified against minor dust and splashes of water, which means it can handle a drizzle if you ever got caught up in a bit of rain. Additionally, unlike its counterparts with glass backs, the Nokia smartphone doesn’t attract any fingerprints or smudges, and maintains a clean look.
  • Moving on, the Nokia C21 Plus sports a 6.5-inch HD+ IPS display with 1,600 x 720p resolution, 60Hz refresh rate, a waterdrop notch atop, and noticeable bezels. It is a standard run-of-the-mill display, which produces decent colours and offers respectable viewing angles. That said, I found the screen’s brightness a bit on the lower side and content less legible under direct sunlight. The phone is Widevine L3 certified, which means it can stream only SD content from streaming platforms.
  • Coming to the performance, the handset is powered by a Unisoc SC9863A chipset. It is a basic chipset that will only get you through regular stuff like calling, messaging, and social media scrolling, and that too with some effort. Despite running a trimmed-down version of Android, the handset took a second or two to fire up apps. Therefore, if you are someone who likes multi-tasking and gaming on the phone, we would advise you to look elsewhere. With that being said, the handset is available in two RAM and storage options: 3GB + 32GB and 4GB + 64GB. The storage is further expandable up to 256GB using a microSD card.
  • The Nokia C21 Plus sports dual rear cameras with HDR, a 13MP primary sensor, and a 2MP secondary sensor. The latter is a depth sensor for portrait images with blurred backgrounds. Up front, there is a 5MP snapper for selfies and video calling. The cameras offer decent results outdoors when the sun is out. The colours looked good in the images, but the details were a bit shabby. I also noticed little to no dynamic range in landscapes, while the portraits lacked proper edge detection. The indoor performance of the cameras is nothing to write home about. The cameras were slow to focus and took time to process images, which often looked slightly washed out and overexposed with inaccurate colours. It also didn’t help that the phone lacked night mode, but then again it is a budget device.
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  • The Nokia C21 Plus is rated to last for days, and I do not doubt that. Since the phone cannot handle heavy gaming, it would comfortably last you a day or two, if not the claimed three days, between charges. In fact, I got close to 9.5 hours of screen-on-time with this handset, and that’s very impressive. However, what’s not so impressive though, is the handset’s 10W charger. It took close to 2.5 hours to juice up the device from nothing to 100 percent.
  • The handset runs a slightly dated Android 11 (Go edition) out of the box. It is an OS for budget smartphones, with basic specifications. The UI is mostly clean, minimalistic, and easy to manoeuvre; however, there is some bloatware, which is surprising to see in a Nokia smartphone. Additionally, the notification shade would only show three quick settings options, which means you will have to swipe around a bunch of times to get other tiles. That being said, the bloatware can be uninstalled and the company will be providing up to two years of security updates.
  • Authentication on this phone via fingerprint scanner is slow and unreliable, to an extent that I stopped using it after a while and unlocked the phone using a PIN. For the uninitiated, the Nokia C21 Plus also comes with a pattern, password, and face unlock options. As for the handset’s mono speaker, it isn’t that loud and gets muffled due to its placement.

Final verdict

The Nokia C21 Plus is priced in India at Rs 10,299 for the 3GB RAM variant, while the 4GB variant costs Rs 11,299. This seems quite a bit for a smartphone that runs a dated version of Android Go and offers choppy performance. Not to mention, the Nokia smartphone competes against a ton of smartphones in the segment, including Infinix Hot 12 Pro, Tecno Pova 3, and Moto G22, which not only offer better performance but have superior camera prowess too. However, the Nokia C21 Plus deserves a second look for its excellent battery life along with its IP-rated design and substantially clean software.

Expert’s rating: 3 / 5

Pros

  • Sturdy design
  • Good screen
  • Excellent battery life
  • Dedicated slot for microSD card

Cons

  • Bloatware
  • Iffy fingerprint scanner
  • Sub-par performance

Key Specs

Nokia C21 Plus
RAM3 GB
ProcessorUnisoc SC9863A
Rear Camera13 MP + 2 MP
Front Camera5 MP
Battery5050 mAh
Display6.5 inches
See Full Specs
Nokia C21 Plus Price
View All
Rs. 9,799.00
Go To Store
Rs. 10,049.00
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