If you have heard the joke about Nokia phones at least once in your life, you know where that joke came from. Nokia is a brand that is easily associated with ruggedness, sturdiness, and strength, thanks to its feature phones from the noughties. HMD Global has brought back that virtue of Nokia feature phones to its latest smartphone, XR20.
The brand-new Nokia XR20 is a rugged smartphone, meaning it can survive drops underwater, in extreme cold or hot temperatures, without a hiccup. You may think those features make for a good pitch for someone who works at a construction site or loves to globetrot, but if it did not occur to you, it is equally important for people with small kids at home.
Let us face it. Kids are fascinated by the technology we have around us, and their keen minds will always be so inclined to use it. Smartphones are inseparable from our lives, so when your kid asks you for your phone or if they secretly access it, you are most worried. To keep the thought of a broken phone at bay, HMD came up with the Nokia XR20. In HMD’s words, the Nokia XR20 is “scratch-resistant, drop-resistant, temperature-resistant, water-resistant and kid-and-pet-resistant.”
The Nokia XR20 has a solid body, but all that extra strength costs a premium price. The Nokia XR20 sells for Rs 46,999 in India. It is a price that can get you the top model of flagship-like phones such as Realme GT or iQOO 7 Legend. So does that extra strength make the Nokia XR20 a good phone, and if that price justifies that? I am going to tell you the answer in this review.
Nokia XR20 review: Solid body
If you have used old Nokia phones, which were feature phones, you would know that practically nothing can destroy them. That may be hyperbolic but apt enough to suggest that Nokia means strength. HMD is reusing that concept, and its Nokia XR20 is a testament to that. The Nokia XR20 has one of the brawniest exteriors you will find on a smartphone. You cannot tell that by just looking at the photos. You will have to touch to know. I did, and I can tell you that the phone feels super solid. And heavy. All those extra frills add up to the phone’s weight, which is 240 grams.
The Nokia XR20 is not the first rugged phone, but it may perhaps be the prettiest. HMD has crafted this phone with attention to detail, and that shows. For instance, the hard plastic casing around the phone makes it look tough, but the carvings on the side edges reveal aluminium rims and give a premium appearance. Add to that a glass back with patterns, which uses polymer composite for extra durability. For the final touch to ensure total protection, the Nokia XR20 comes with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, which is by far the toughest glass shield used on phones.
You can drop the phone on the floor to test its durability. I am not saying that. HMD does. While I am not too sure if you should deliberately drop the phone on any surface, it is a good assurance that accidental drops will barely leave a scratch on the phone. So give this phone to your kids all you want without needing to fret.
The Nokia XR20 has a USB-C port, a stereo speaker set, two microphones on either side and a 3.5mm headphone jack. I am glad that the phone has the standard features of a premium phone, including dual speakers. The buttons on the phone are more than what you usually see on phones. Apart from the volume rocker and power button on the right side, the phone has a Google Assistant button on the left side. I found myself hitting the Google Assistant button often, and that was because it is not very tactile. A little pressure triggers the voice assistant, and that isn’t very pleasant. But you can deactivate the Google Assistant programme for this button if you do not want that.
There is a fifth button on top of the Nokia XR20, and it is sort of an emergency cum feature-centric button. What I mean is that this button is red in colour, and that denotes emergency, which is also the default feature assigned to this button. But it is reprogrammable. You can assign this button to take screenshots, record the screen, and do many things. But you can still use it for contacting emergency contacts by long-pressing the button. That is nifty.
The Nokia XR20 is an unwieldy phone, and that is acceptable by the standards of rugged phones. It is 10.64mm thick and 81.5mm wide, while the length is 171.64mm. I mean, I had a problem maintaining my grip on the phone, and I have big hands. Imagine someone with smaller hands. This phone needs two hands to operate, and that can be inconvenient for many users. So consider this aspect before making the decision to buy this phone.
Ruggedness on this phone also includes water and dust resistance. With an IP68 certification, the Nokia XR20 is good for taking a shower or swimming with you. You can even take calls and use the phone. But keep in mind that the sound may not be clear all the time, and the display’s touch sensitivity will need to be enhanced via phone settings for use in such cases. One of these cases is when you have hand gloves on. The Nokia XR20 can easily recognise touches of your gloves – something the iPhone cannot do.
Nokia XR20 review: Good display
Even though the phone’s biggest quality is its ruggedness, the Nokia XR20 pays attention to the basic things. For instance, the display is a large 6.67-inch unit crammed into this long phone. The display has a punch-hole in the middle, and it does not look odd at all. But since the design has to fall in line with ruggedness, the display has thick bezels that give it protection. The outer casing juts out from the display and works as a protection for the display in the event of accidental drops. Not that the display is fragile. It uses the Gorilla Glass Victus.
The Full-HD+ resolution on display makes it look crisp and clear. I enjoyed watching Minnal Murali on Netflix in true HD quality, and the stereo speakers were icing on the cake. I could also easily read ebooks on the Kindle app because the brightness of the display is also good. But while you will love the display for everyday tasks and watching shows and movies, you may not like gaming on it. Blame the lack of a high refresh rate. For a phone that costs more than some of the fastest phones, not having at least 90Hz may be a disappointment. But this phone is, anyway, not meant for heavy gaming, so you will not miss the high refresh rate.
Nokia XR20 review: Moderate performance and good battery life
All that ruggedness is one thing, but buying a smartphone that costs around Rs 47,000 has to be based on other crucial factors, such as the chipset and the battery. HMD used a Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 processor inside the phone. This is the entry-level chipset that powers Nokia’s other phones that cost much less, as well as entry-level 5G phones from other brands. So get this straight: the Nokia XR20 may look like a premium phone, but it will work like a budget phone.
The Snapdragon 480 SoC is not the fastest but fast enough to handle everyday multitasking. I could easily browse cat videos on Instagram, chat on WhatsApp, check my office emails, and take photos without seeing any lags. But I had to be conservative doing that. I mean, I never had more than five-six apps opened in the background at a time. Smooth animations and the interface make everything look nice and flowy. But if you are thinking of making the Nokia XR20 your gaming device, think elsewhere.
The gaming performance on the Nokia XR20 is below par. That means it is not suitable for playing games in high graphics. You can still play Battlegrounds Mobile India and Call of Duty Mobile on it, but you will have to keep the graphics on the lower side. Personally, I was a bit weirded out. That is because when I played PUBG: New State on the Nokia XR20 in default graphics settings, the screen would show stutters in the software. I began to think that the software was going to crash, so I uninstalled the game immediately. It may be a one-off incident.
I found the Nokia XR20 lasting for more than a day after some hours of playing games, browsing Instagram, chatting on WhatsApp, and watching a Netflix movie. The 4630mAh battery is good for the kind of workload this phone can handle. Charging the battery from zero to full requires around 2 hours 40 minutes with the bundled charger, but you can use a high voltage charger to minimise this time. The phone also supports wireless charging capped at 15W, which can be convenient sometimes.
Nokia XR20 review: Average cameras
It is very rare to find a phone that has fewer than three cameras on the back. The Nokia XR20 belongs to that rarity. It has a 48-megapixel primary camera and a 13-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera on the back, sitting inside the island that juts out from the rest of the body a bit. Nokia has given the standard camera features to the Nokia XR20, but some stand out. You have the SpeedWarp mode, which is another name for timelapse mode, and other features such as ZEISS Optics, ZEISS Portrait, and ZEISS Cinematic Effects.
I found myself using the primary camera in most cases. I took photos of things around me, such as flowers, plants, and some items lying at my house. Some images were clicked outdoors with ample sunlight, while some were taken indoors. There is a huge shift in colours between the photos taken in these two scenarios, and that is not good. For instance, the bougainvillaea flower in the photo has a good dynamic range and retains the original orange colour, which is also good, but, at the same time, the sticker on the bottle of snacks shows murkiness. You will like photos taken in daylight but may need to edit the ones taken indoors to make them appealing.
You can also use night mode to brighten the photos, but the resulting images have blurriness towards the edges. It seems as if there is a blurred vignette in these photos, and I am not sure whether that makes the images look good. The ultra-wide-angle camera clicks a lot of things in sight but does not retain their original colour or details. I think this camera could have been a bit better, considering it is Nokia we are talking about.
I clicked selfies, too, but never found myself appreciating them. The photos are detailed, but the colours seem a bit washed off. Using a portrait sensor gives depth to pictures, but the edge detection is slightly off for hair strands.
The Nokia XR20 can record 1080p videos at a maximum of 60fps, which may be disappointing for some users. Although powered by ZEISS Optics, the videos lack stabilisation, so you will have to use a gorilla pod or a tripod for stability in videos. The videos recorded by the phone look average, but you will appreciate the stereo sound recording in them, thanks to Nokia’s OZO technology.
Nokia XR20 review: Should you buy it?
The Nokia XR20 is not your regular phone. While the set of its qualities is a bit aloof, its price means it is not for everyone. The Nokia XR20’s price of Rs 46,999 pits it against some of the highly capable smartphones in the premium segment. Some of them are cheaper and yet better in terms of specifications. For instance, the Snapdragon 888-powered Realme GT starts at Rs 37,999, while the OnePlus 9R costs Rs 39,999. If you can spend a few more thousand, you can get an iPhone.
But it is not a question of how much you can spend. It is the question of what you want your phone to be. Do you want it to be the sturdiest device in the sea of fragile phones? If yes, Nokia XR20 is for you. This phone may not give you the fastest gaming experience or the best photography performance, but it surely can give you peace of mind. You can use the phone in extreme conditions, and the rugged Nokia XR20 can handle it. If you are someone who breaks their phone’s screen often, the Nokia XR20 is for you. It is also a good phone for parents of small kids, as well as those who work in extreme conditions.
Nokia XR20 review
- Rugged body with water resistance
- Long-lasting battery
- Wireless charging
- Bright and durable display
- Average cameras
- Wired charging could have been quicker
- Entry-level performance