Nokia 4.2 vs. Moto G7 Play: What’s the best phone for $200?

hmd-nokia-4.2
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Design trends and features that were once the preserve of flagships have started to filter down to midrange and budget devices. You can get a lot of phone for less than $200 nowadays, and the Nokia 4.2 and Moto G7 Play prove it. But if you have a couple of hundred dollars burning a hole in your pocket, which one of these budget Android phones should you spring for?

We compare the Nokia 4.2 and Moto G7 Play in various categories to find out what sets these phones apart and to help you decide which one to buy.

Specs

Nokia 4.2 Moto G7 Play
Size 148.9 × 71.3 × 8.4 mm (5.86 × 2.8 × 0.33 inches) 148.7 x 71.5 x 8.19 mm (5.85 x 2.81 x 0.32 inches)
Weight 161 grams (5.67 oz) 151 grams (5.3 ounces)
Screen Size 5.71-inch LCD 5.7-inch IPS LCD
Screen resolution 1,520 × 720 pixels (295 pixels per inch) 1,512 x 720 pixels (294 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie Android 9.0 Pie
Storage space 16GB or 32GB 32GB
MicroSD card slot Yes Yes
Tap-to-pay services (NFC) Google Pay No
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 Qualcomm Snapdragon 632
RAM 2GB or 3GB 2GB
Camera Dual lens 13-megapixel and 2MP rear, 8MP front Single lens 13-megapixel rear, 8MP front
Video TBC 1080p at 30 frames per second
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 4.2 Bluetooth 4.2
Ports Micro USB,  3.5mm headphone jack USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack
Fingerprint sensor Yes (back) Yes (back)
Water resistance No Water-repellent coating
Battery 3,000mAh 3,000mAh
App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support TBA T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
Colors Black, pink sand Starry black, deep indigo
Price $170 or $200 $200
Buy from Nokia Motorola
Review score Hands-on Hands-on

Performance, battery life, and charging

motorola moto g7 news play jc 4
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Moto G7 Play has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor inside with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The Nokia 4.2 has the Snapdragon 439 with either 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, or 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. As the number would suggest, the processor in the Moto G7 Play is more powerful and it also supports potentially faster LTE speeds, but there isn’t a huge amount in it. If you opt for the $200 version of the Nokia 4.2 with 3GB of RAM, we think performance will be quite close, but the Moto G7 Play is likely to feel more fluid and cope with demanding apps and games a bit better.

Battery capacity is identical at 3,000mAh, so there is no dividing them there, but the Moto G7 Play has an advantage with the USB-C port for charging. The Nokia 4.2 relies on the older Micro USB. There’s no wireless charging here, but the Moto G7 Play will charge fairly rapidly at 10W, which we suspect will be faster than the Nokia 4.2.

Winner: Moto G7 Play

Design and durability

These phones are a very similar size. The Nokia 4.2 is a tiny touch bigger and heavier, partly because it sports glass front and back. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the back with the vertically stacked dual-lens camera module above it. The screen has a teardrop notch at the top and a chin at the bottom. The Moto G7 Play has a notch carved out of the top of its screen and a thick bezel at the bottom. The back sports a microtextured resin finish and that signature round camera module with the M logo below, which marks out the fingerprint sensor. The Nokia 4.2 looks and feels a touch classier.

Neither of these phones has an IP rating, but the Moto G7 Play does boast a water-repellent coating. We would also expect the glass back of the Nokia 4.2 to be more damage prone than the plastic on the Moto G7 Play. This one is tight, but we prefer the look of the Nokia.

Winner: Nokia 4.2

Display

moto g7 play vs g6 front
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Nokia 4.2 has a very slightly bigger display, but you would be hard pressed to tell. The main difference is that the Nokia has a teardrop notch, while the Moto has a bigger bathtub-style notch. They’re both almost exactly the same sharpness. As budget phones, we wouldn’t expect too much in terms of brightness or color accuracy, but they should be adequate. We can’t separate them here.

Winner: Tie

Camera

hmd-nokia-4.2
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Nokia 4.2 has an edge with a dual-lens camera that pairs a 13-megapixel sensor with a 2-megapixel sensor. That secondary sensor will help with depth sensing and will allow for a better bokeh effect where the subject is in sharp relief before a blurred background. The Moto G7 Play has a single lens camera with a 13-megapixel sensor. Both phones have an 8-megapixel front-facing camera.

Winner: Nokia 4.2

Software and updates

hmd-nokia-4.2
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Here’s another category where the Nokia 4.2 has a distinct advantage. Because it’s an Android One phone it runs stock Android 9.0 Pie and is guaranteed to get speedy security updates for at least three years and Android version updates for at least two years. The Moto G7 Play also runs Android 9.0 Pie and Motorola’s skin is mercifully light, adding a couple of handy gesture shortcuts, but we only expect to see one major Android version update for the phone and there’s no telling how long it will take to roll out, which is disappointing.

Winner: Nokia 4.2

Special features

hmd-nokia-4.2
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Even the best cheap phones are often light on special features, but there are a few things worth mentioning here. The Nokia 4.2 has a dedicated Google Assistant button on the left edge that provides quick access with a tap or a rundown of your day with a double tap. It also supports NFC, a rarity in budget phones, which means you can use Google Pay.

The Moto G7 Play offers some handy gestures, like chop twice to turn on the flashlight or twist the phone to open the camera. Speaking of the camera, it also has a Hyperlapse option, which creates time-lapse videos, and high-res zoom, which is supposed to enhance the quality of photos when you zoom in.

Winner: Nokia 4.2

Price and availability

The Moto G7 Play will cost you $200 and should be available from a range of carriers and retailers very soon. The Nokia 4.2 costs $200 for the 3GB of RAM version or $170 for the 2GB of RAM version, and it will be available across Europe from April, but we’re still waiting for confirmation on a U.S. release.

Overall winner: Nokia 4.2

A slightly nicer design, dual camera, slick software with guaranteed updates, and NFC support swing this battle for the Nokia 4.2, but there’s a big caveat with this victory. We have concerns about the processor in the Nokia 4.2 and performance is very important to your day-to-day experience. If you play a lot of demanding games, then the Moto G7 Play is more likely to cope. If you do opt for the Nokia get the 3GB of RAM and 32GB  of storage model, as the extra RAM will help it feel a bit smoother when skipping in and out of apps and 16GB of storage simply isn’t enough for most people.

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