These new Nokia mobiles remind us what 'cheap phone' really means

Nokia C21
(Image credit: HMD Global)

With the cheap phone market dominated by big Chinese names like Redmi, Realme and Pocophone, it can be easy to forget about the stalwart mobile manufacturers – but HMD Global has just given us a reason to pay it some heed.

HMD Global, which makes Nokia phones, debuted three new super-budget mobiles as part of annual tech conference MWC 2022.

These new mobiles are the Nokia C2 2nd Edition (the original came in 2020), Nokia C21, and Nokia C21 Plus – they're all part of the company's C line, which is its lowest-end collection, compared to the slightly-higher-end G and verging-on-mid-range X families.

As we said, these are super affordable handsets. The first and last phones are launching in the UK, and we have their prices as £75 (roughly $100, AU$140) and £100 (around $130, AU$190) respectively.

Here are their specs, so you can see how they compare:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
TCL 30 series specs
PhoneScreenRear camerasFront-facing cameraRAM / ROMBatteryChipsetFingerprint scannerConnectivity
Nokia C2 2nd Edition5.7-inch HD 60Hz5MP main2MP1,2GB / 32GB (expandable up to 256GB)2,400mAhUnspecifiedNone4G
Nokia C216.5-inch HD+ 60Hz8MP main5MP2,3GB / 32, 64GB (expandable up to 256GB) 3,000mAhUnspecifiedRearRow 2 - Cell 8
Nokia C21 Plus6.5-inch HD+ 60Hz13MP main, 2MP depth5MP2,3,4GB / 32,64GB (expandable up to 256GB)4,000mAh, 5,050mAhUnspecifiedRear-mounted4G

If you're confused about the C21 Plus' battery situation, it seems that you can opt between two sizes, just like how many mobiles offer you a choice in RAM and storage.

In an age where every budget phone maker is trying to put out a super-flashy, specs-heavy monster, it's slightly refreshing to see genuine true budget phones. Seriously, how many phones do you see nowadays with just 1GB RAM, or with a single rear camera?

Obviously, these devices aren't going to run like your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device, but they're designed for people who don't need a best-in-class smartphone. They're cheap and cheery, perhaps for seniors or technophobes who can't totally put off the tech-ification of the world.

Alongside the new smartphones, HMD Global unveiled a few headphones and earbuds, and they're all affordable devices just like their mobile counterparts.

The Nokia phones are coming to the UK starting in April, but we don't know if they'll be arriving elsewhere, so we'll have to wait and see.

These aren't the only cheap phones we've seen at MWC, either. TCL unveiled its own selection with impressive rear cameras and big batteries, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. We're expecting more to launch all the time, so stay tuned in the coming days for more.

  • MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest showcase for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting on the show all week. Follow our MWC 2022 live blog for the very latest news as it happens and visit our dedicated MWC 2022 hub for a round-up of the biggest announcements.
Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.