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Nokia C32 review: Out of its depth

Our Rating :
£99.99 from
Price when reviewed : £130
inc VAT

The Nokia C32 takes steps to improve upon its predecessors but struggles to keep up with the best budget smartphones on the market


  • Very affordable
  • USB-C charging
  • Sleek, attractive design


  • There are faster phones at this price…
  • With better battery life…
  • And better cameras

The Nokia C32 is the latest entry in the brand’s ultra-budget line, coming in as an even cheaper alternative to the recent G22 and G42 5G. While the latter two feature repairable designs to balance out their middling specs, the C32 has no such buffering, and could struggle to stand out amid a growing roster of affordable competition.

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Compared to its predecessor, the Nokia C32 makes several important improvements, making it easily the better value of the two handsets. The problem is that there are several options in this price range that offer the same and more besides, leaving the Nokia C32 feeling a bit adrift in a sea of superior choices.

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Nokia C32 review: What you need to know

The biggest change made to the Nokia C32 compared to the C31 is that it drops micro-USB charging in favour of USB-C, which will delight anyone who’s sick of having to wrangle multiple charging cables. The battery itself is a slightly smaller 5,000mAh unit, and charging remains at a sluggish 10W – although there is a charger bundled in the box.

The processor gets slightly bumped up to an octa-core 1.6GHz Unisoc SC9863A1 chipset, once again paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. On the rear, you’ll find the dual camera array tucked away in a discreet module, comprising a 50MP main lens and a 2MP macro sensor. The 8MP selfie camera sits beneath the glass at the top of a 6.5in 720p display.

Nokia C32 review: Price and competition

The Nokia C32 launched with a price of £130, making it £10 more expensive than the Nokia C31 was, and £20 more than the Nokia C21 Plus – our current favourite of the brand’s ultra-cheap output. It’s worth noting, however, that at the time of writing, the C32 is discounted down to £99 on the company’s website, and a similarly cheap £100 on Amazon.

At its original price, the Nokia C32 falls squarely in the shadow of several budget phones against which it can’t hope to compete. Chief among these is the Motorola Moto G13 (originally £140 but currently £123), which offers much better performance and battery life for your money. Nokia’s own G22 is also in this range (£127), bringing better performance and battery life to the table, as well as the easily repairable design.

There’s more breathing room around the £100 mark, with our favourite ultra-cheap phone, the Nokia C21 Plus, discounted down to just £81. Even so, there’s a notable threat here in the form of the Realme C31, which delivers far superior speeds compared to the Nokia C32 for less than £10 more (£109 at the time of writing).

Nokia C32 review: Design and key features

For this price you’d expect there to be some serious compromises in the specification of the Nokia C32, and we will get there, but there’s precious little to criticise when it comes to design. Available in either a woodland green or the dusty pink you see here, the C32 features a striking two-tone design, with the glass back using a lighter shade than the plastic edges.

Does it look like a flagship? No, but it still looks a good couple of hundred pounds more premium than it actually is. It also packs in a decent selection of features for a budget phone. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top edge, the power button on the right side doubles as a fairly reliable fingerprint reader, and face unlocking is supported, too. The SIM-tray has space for two nano SIMs, as well as a separate slot for a microSD card, allowing you to expand the storage by up to a further 256GB.

Nokia has always been near the top of the list when it comes to clean Android installations, and the C32 thankfully sticks to that trend. Icons and menus are simple and unobtrusive, and there’s barely any bloatware, with and GoPro Quik once again being the outliers in an otherwise acceptable list of preinstalled apps. The C32 runs Android 13 out of the box, and Nokia has committed to two future OS updates and four years of monthly security updates.

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Nokia C32 review: Display

You generally need to keep expectations low when it comes to display quality in this price range, but the Nokia C32’s screen actually isn’t half bad. The 6.5in IPS panel has a 1,600 x 720 resolution and refreshes up to 60Hz. Brightness is nothing special, topping out at 411cd/m2, but the contrast is surprisingly solid, measuring 1,999:1.

Using a colorimeter, I measured an sRGB gamut coverage of 83.8% with a total volume of 91.2%, and while that’s not amazing, it’s about what you’d expect from a phone of this price. The average Delta E colour variance score came back at 2.47, which is a fair way off the target value of 1, but still better than the Nokia C21 Plus (2.87) or the G42 5G (3.88).

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Nokia C32 review: Performance and battery life

The octa-core Unisoc SC9863A1 chipset used here is clocked up to 1.6GHz and paired with 4GB of RAM. It makes for a fairly sluggish user experience, with notable pauses when opening and switching between apps, but once again, this is to be expected at this price.

If you can stretch your budget a little further, you need only look at the scores for the Moto G13 and Realme C31 to see what kind of performance leaps you can get for a bit more money; the Realme pulls a solid 67% ahead of the Nokia in the multicore results, while the Moto goes even further, closing in on a 75% lead.

Nokia C32 review - Geekbench 5 CPU performance chartDespite a slight difference in the CPU, both the Nokia C21 Plus and Nokia C32 use the same entry-level IMG8322 GPU, so it’s unsurprising to see them neck and neck in the GFXBench stress tests. Once again, the rest of the pack pulls ahead, with the Moto G13 coming out on top with a respectable result of 43fps.

Nokia C32 review - GFXBench GPU performance chartWe don’t have benchmark scores for the Nokia C31, so we can’t accurately judge whether or not there’s any improvement in battery stamina with the C32. We can, at least, see that the result of 14hrs 35mins is over an hour better than the C21 Plus, even if it’s definitely not the “three-day battery life” the marketing suggests – at least in terms of video playback.

Despite outpacing its budget sibling, the C32 is vastly overshadowed by the other options here. The Realme C31 is the next best, topping out at 15-and-a-half hours, but you see some real leaps with the Moto G13 and Nokia G22, both of which lasted for over 19 hours.

Nokia C32 review - Battery life chart

Nokia C32 review: Cameras

Cameras are never going to be the sharpest on a phone that barely costs triple figures so, as with most of the other aspects of the Nokia G32, you should temper your expectations.

Nokia doesn’t list the aperture size for the 50MP main lens, but after tooling around with it for a while, I can’t imagine it’s particularly great. If the lighting conditions are decent, images are mostly acceptable, with well-balanced exposure and natural colours, but I wasn’t impressed by the overall level of detail for a 50MP lens.

Nokia C32 review - BoatsIf that was the experience in good lighting, you can imagine the results after dark. To its credit, the artificial brightening is somewhat effective, but it’s riddled with excessive visual noise and still quite blurry, to the point where it’s not really worth bothering with. Plus, those lens flares are just ridiculous.

Nokia C32 review - Street at nightIt may be because my expectations were low, but I had the fewest issues with the 2MP macro lens. The background blur is effectively inserted, with clearly defined lines around the focal point, and the detail in the bee’s wings is particularly crisp.

Nokia C32 review - Bee on a flowerRounding out the camera suite is the video recording, which tops out at 1080p at 30fps. There’s no stabilisation, so expect to see some quivering in your footage, but otherwise, it mostly gets the job done – it’s a little sluggish in reacting to changes in exposure, but it gets there eventually, and picture quality is on a par with still images from the main camera.

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Nokia C32 review: Verdict

The Nokia C32 is stuck between a rock and a hard place, with better options at every turn, many of which come from Nokia’s own stable. Those looking for a capable handset priced as low as possible need look no further than the Nokia C21 Plus, while everyone else would be better served by forking out a little extra for the Nokia G22.

If the latter’s repairable design doesn’t entice you, the best bet in this price range is the Motorola Moto G13. Performance is superior to the Nokia C32 across the board, the display is more colour-accurate and it refreshes at a faster 90Hz to boot. The Nokia C32 is competent enough, but even at its discounted price you can do better elsewhere.

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