When was the last time you used a smartphone with a removable backplate?

Heck, when was the last time you used a smart device with a removable battery?

When did you use a phone with back-firing speakers?

The short answer is a long time ago because phone makers have since switched to sealed unibody constructions. This was after tech journalists mounted pressure on device manufacturers to make premium phones, especially on the Android side of things and at a time when iPhones were considered superior phones because of their sealed construction.

To date, even budget devices have unibody designs, which is a good thing because of superior build quality – but it has made their repairs a headache.

But that is not what we are talking about today. At my hands is the Nokia C20, a budget device constructed by HMD, the current company that holds rights to the Nokia brand.

The C20 is a good phone, but I would understand if people don’t like it. And there are reasons for that.

But before we get there, here are some housekeeping things about the C20.

  1. The C line is the budget series from Nokia, because the company has since stopped naming phones according to numbers. In the past, the naming scheme started from 1 all the way to 9, with cumulative premium-ness with a higher number count. So, we have C for budget, G for midrange and X for the high-end.
  2. Nokia knows that Kenyans are budget hunters, and lowly-priced phones are an appeal here. The C line is here to attract these people.
  3. The C20 price is KES 11490, which is the same range that other budget phones from other brands cost. You know, the low end Redmis from Xiaomi, Sparks from TECNO and Hot series by Infinix.

Here are the official specs of the device, at a glance:

WEIGHT: 191g

4G: Yes

SIM: Dual, with separate MicroSD card slot – all under the backplate

SCREEN: 6.52 inches, 720 by 1600 pixels

SOFTWARE: Android 11 Go Edition


CHIPS: Unisoc SC9863A (28nm, octa), IMG8322 GPU

CAMERAS: 5 MP rear, 5 MP front

BATTERY: 3000 mAh removable

Humble specifications, right?

Well, for the package and price, we cannot fault the device for being modest because when you go that low in terms of price, then expect a ton of compromises.

To start, the phone ships with Android 11 Go Edition. This is a stripped-down version of Android that is easy on resources because as you can see, a fully-fledged Android version would bring this phone to its knees.

Day to day usage is more than satisfactorily if you are used to these kinds of phones. If you are coming from a premium phone, then the C20 will make you unhappy or even unhappy. You just have to know what you are getting into.

Which is why I did not push the device to the limits because that would have been an injustice. In fact, I chose to install Go and Lite apps so I could have some form of okay performance. I picked Instagram Lite, Facebook Lite, Messenger Lite and Tiktok Lite as my first apps. The phone also ships with essentials such Google Go and Gallery Go.

This approach, according to me, is what you should adopt. You can still run the full versions of the aforementioned apps, as well as other apps that do not have lite versions. Just note that they will be slower.

The software, as a whole, and as expected, is very clean. Nokia does not install ad-filled extras, nor is the software skinned. This, of course, ensures that Nokia releases software updates in a timely manner – and I hope or know that the C20 will get Android 12, although it will take a while before that happens owing to hierarchy.

The screen is okay. At 720p, I did not expect much from it. It is pixelated, not as bright outdoors, and perhaps worse than the G20 that I reviewed last week. It is notched to house a 5MP front, and the chin is huge you could park a vehicle there. But this is a budget phone, and we will let that slide.

I have had issues with budget phones before in terms of connections. They tend to perform poorly on Wi-Fi, especially when you move away from the router. This time around, I did not encounter that with the C20. LTE performance was also good, and I used Telkom over the assessment period.

How about that battery? Well, it is removable, which is an attraction for those who may need to have two or more cells for trips, and do not like powerbanks.

Still, it lasts for a day and even more, which means that it performs very well.

It charges via micro-USB, which is also expected because we haven’t seen Type C trickle down to budget phones. Charging speed is however slow, and takes over two hours to fill up.

The back-placed speaker is loud, but its position is just wrong. Just use the included earphones to listen to your tunes.

The last thing I want to talk about is the camera. And to be candid with you guys, these snappers are not good. Picture quality is poor, selfies look horrible and if you dare go into a dark room, the camera is just unusable. This is where I think the competition is better – and Nokia has traditionally been poor at developing good cams for its low-end phones. Also, if good camera performance is your concern, just add more money and grab something like the Nokia G20.

Overall, we love the C20. It has good software with promised updates and zero bloatware. The battery is more than enough (removable), the screen is big for media consumption, although a tad dim, and it is generally well constructed. The cameras are however bad, and software performance is slow, although Android Go tends to fix things. Also, just get Lite apps for a good experience.

For KES 11490, it checks the right boxes for a budget phone, but we know Nokia could have done more.