Nokia 2.2 review: Affordable Android One option with a great battery

HMD Global has not been as aggressive about launching phones this year as it was last year, which is probably because the company is looking to streamline its portfolio and reduce the clutter. So far, HMD has launched three new devices in India in 2019 – Nokia 4.2, Nokia 3.2 and Nokia 2.2. These are budget phones and some of them are refreshes of last year’s models. We have already reviewed the Nokia 4.2 and Nokia 3.2, so today we’re looking at the Nokia 2.2.

As far as upgrades go, the Nokia 2.2 is a major bump from last year’s Nokia 2.1. It’s not just the design that gets an overhaul, but also the internals. More importantly, it’s the software. While the Nokia 2.1 was an Android Go phone, the Nokia 2.2 comes as an Android One device. With an introductory price of Rs 6,999, the Nokia 2.2 looks to offer a stock Android Pie experience, some AI smarts and modern looks. But will it offer the same appeal at its original price of Rs 7,699 after June 30? We review the Nokia 2.2 to find out whether the phone makes for good buy for budget consumers.

Nokia 2.2 Design

The Nokia 2.2 is the third phone from HMD in India to sport a waterdrop display. As far as notches go, the droplet-shaped forehead is easy to accept and won’t interfere with your viewing experience. The front looks a lot like the Nokia 4.2, which is not a bad thing. The bezels around the display are a lot thinner compared to the Nokia 2.1 which came with thick top bezel and chin. By reducing the bezels, the Nokia 2.2 is able to fit in more display in roughly the same footprint as the Nokia 2.1.

The back of the Nokia 2.2 is similar to its predecessor in that it is a plastic shell with a glossy finish. However, the Nokia 2.2 does not get contrastic accents on the logo and around the frame that made the Nokia 2.1 look just a touch more attractive. The Nokia 2.2’s rear cover can also be removed, revealing the battery and card slots. This time around, HMD Global allows you to remove the battery so that you can swap it for a newer one. The card slots flanking the rear camera module can support two nano SIM cards and a microSD card. The Nokia 2.2 comes in Steel and Tungsten Black colours, but if that’s too simple for your taste, you can swap them out for Xpress-On covers in Taurus Green, Pink Sand and Ice Blue.

The Nokia 2.2’s glossy rear panel is easy to smudge and scratch. That being said, you can trust Nokia phones to offer a solid build and the Nokia 2.2 is no different. The phone feels sturdy and the weight is light enough at around 153 grams. The volume and power buttons are placed on the right and the Google Assistant button is on the left. The Nokia 2.2 is thick at 9.3mm, but you will still be able to use the device with one hand.

The 3.5mm headphone jack is placed on the top side of the frame, while a small speaker slit can be found to the bottom right corner on the rear panel. The Nokia 2.2 comes with a microUSB port on the bottom, which we can’t really complain about for an entry-level smartphone.

HMD Global introduced the Google Assistant button on the Nokia 3.2 and Nokia 4.2 and it’s clear the company is looking to make this staple feature on its phones this year. The Nokia 2.2 also gets a dedicated Assistant button, which allows you to launch the Google AI quickly with a single tap. You can also long press the button to make long requests it works on lock screen as well. The button works even on lock screen which makes it convenient. That being said, it takes a while for Assistant to pop up, which can test your patience.

Nokia 2.2 Display

The Nokia 2.2 sports a 5.7-inch HD+ (720×1520) display with a 19:9 aspect ratio and 400 nits maximum brightness. The display offers good colours that look deep and pleasing. Brightness levels are decent indoors, but will leave you wanting more under sunlight.

With a 720p resolution, you can’t expect to find a lot of sharpness while watching videos or playing games. The jagged edges and pixelation is visible while streaming content on Netflix or YouTube.

Nokia 2.2 Performance and Software

The Nokia 2.2’s hardware and software have received the biggest upgrades. Last year’s Nokia 2.1 was offered with a Snapdragon 425 chipset with 1GB of RAM. It was also an Android Go phone that ran on a forked version of Android Oreo with lightweight and toned down Go-based apps.

The Nokia 2.2, on the other hand, now gets a slightly faster MediaTek Helio A22 chipset paired with 2GB or 3GB of RAM. Depending on the RAM option, you will either get 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. It has also been upgraded from Android Go to Android One, which is great to see. This means the phone runs on a complete Android Pie software with all its bells and whistles.

On the performance side, the Helio A22 doesn’t do much to make the phone snappy. Apps are slow to open and the general touch response felt slow. Even running day-to-day tasks like messaging on WhatsApp, browsing through some social media apps or opening, reading and responding to a mail felt sluggish and often tiresome. Even trying to quickly open the camera app from the lock screen would often fail, which could be a software issue as well.

The Nokia 2.2 is one of the most affordable Android One phones running on stock Android Pie. You get the full Pie experience with features like Adaptive Display, Adaptive Battery and the pie navigation gesture, which I still find hard to get used to. With Android One, you also get the guarantee of at least to major software updates and three years of monthly security patches. HMD has confirmed that the Nokia 2.2 is Android Q-ready.

The benefit of having a stock Android phone is that it offers a clean user interface free of bloatware. You won’t find any extra preloaded apps or heavy customisations. It should help keep the phone smooth in the long run. The Nokia 2.2 also offers a dark theme, which essentially only changes the drop-down notification panel to a darker shade rather than being system-wide.

The entry-level Nokia phone does not offer a fingerprint sensor, but it does get face unlock, which is quite slow. In daylight settings, the front camera will take a couple of seconds to unlock the device, and this get progressively longer and unreliable as the sun goes down. The single speaker on the back is easily blacked while playing games or watching something, while the audio quality is quite average.

Nokia 2.2 Camera

The cameras on the Nokia 2.2 are nothing to write home about. It gets a single 13-megapixel primary camera on the back with LED flash support and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. The cameras can shoot stills and videos, but that’s pretty much it. You won’t get any bokeh support, but you do get HDR, panorama, Google Lens and even some AI smarts.

HMD is touting AI-powered low-light photography with the Nokia 2.2. I was sceptical about the feature on an entry-level phone, and my scepticism was right on the money. The long exposure mode is supposed to automatically kick in when the camera detects low-light conditions, but during my time with the device, I was unable to tell when this happened. Whether it did or didn’t, low-light shots are quite unusable as they appear blurry and noisy.

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