It’s a sad fact that mobile phones tend to be fairly fragile overall and after a few screen replacements you’re usually keen for something sturdier – this is where the Nokia XR20 comes in. The phone is a ruggedised version of the Nokia X20 launched earlier this year offering upgrades that makes sure it can take whatever you and life throws at it.

Announced at the end of July, the XR20 brings the clean Nokia experience with that extra protection that Mil-Spec certification (MIL-STD 810H) can offer. Nokia are backing this ruggedised aspect further offering 3 years warranty which also includes a free screen replacement warranty for the first year – if you need it.

As well as the hardware, the Nokia XR20 software is also designed to last with OS updates guaranteed for three years, with four years of security updates.

With an RRP of $879 there’s stiff competition in this area of the market, so will the rugged aspect of the phone pay off? I’ve been using the Nokia XR20 for a month and here’s how it went.

Hardware and Design

At first glance on their website, the Nokia XR20 doesn’t look like a ruggedised phone. The phone in the flesh though has a heft and presence that makes it feel solid, though it still looks like other handsets including the Nokia X20 it’s stablemate, though there’s a little more bezel around the screen shows something is a little different.

The phone also feels different in the hand with a harder, textured polycarbonate shell on the rear of the Nokia XR20 which makes it feel solid, as well as making it easier to grip – even when wet. It doesn’t leave fingerprints anywhere on the plastic, and there’s definitely no need for a case.

The phone has an IP68 dust/water resistance rating as well as the MIL-STD-810H rating so it’s designed to take what life can throw at it. I’ve dropped the phone a fair bit onto a variety of surfaces from dirt to rocks, tiles and even concrete a few times – it doesn’t show any signs of wear.

The shell has aluminium rails at the side which poke through and it’s where the power and volume rocker are mounted on the right. The power key includes a fingerprint sensor which is convenient, accurate and fast to register a touch. There’s also face unlock using the front facing camera which is fast and convenient but not backed by any IR facial mapping for additional security,

There’s a Google Assistant key is on the left which is convenient if you don’t use Ok/Hey Google’ voice detection. If you do, you can easily disable it in the settings to avoid accidental touches.

HMD Global has included a fourth ‘Emergency’ key at the top of the XR20 alongside the SIM slot. It’s programmable for either long or short presses to launch apps or functions giving you options like turning on the flashlight or quickly launching an app. It’s super useful – more so than the Google Assistant key which ended up disabled after one too many accidental presses.

The base of the phone includes the USB-C port for charging, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack (Yes!) and an unusual feature: an accessory loop in the corner for threading a lanyard or one of those dangly mobile charms through.

Performance

The internals on the Nokia XR20 are powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 processor which includes 5G support, 6GB RAM and 128GB of storage used inside the Nokia X20 released earlier this year. The internal storage can also be expanded with a microSD card in the SIM tray.

The performance is Ok for the most part. The phone opens apps fairly easily with only a little lag, but there are times when the performance drops and you’re left hanging waiting for an app to do something. It’s not all the time but enough to be noticeable.

Display

The screen itself, at 6.67-inches is spacious and easy to read in either indoor or outdoor lighting with a 550 nits brightness boost available.

As an IPS display the screen does miss a little on the colour reproduction when compared to AMOLED panels which have better contrast and deeper blacks, but it’s a nice, decently high resolution 2400×1080 display.

One neat feature of the display is you can use it with wet hands which can be handy in the kitchen, or even after a swim.

There is also a slight lip around the edge of the display where the case raises slightly over. This protects the screen if you place it face down or drop it.

If you do drop the phone though the Gorilla Glass Victus on the front, which manufacturer Corning describes as ‘the toughest Gorilla Glass yet’ should help protect the display as well. It’s great and after a heap of use it’s not even showing signs of wear, but HMD Global does include a free screen replacement for the first year as part of their 3-year warranty, because even the toughest have a bad day.

Battery

The big 4630mAh battery on the Nokia XR20 promises ‘2-day battery life’, and to be fair it comes close even under my normally heavy usage. I averaged around 30 hours of use with up to 10 hours of screen on time which is decently impressive.

On the charging front, the phone supports 18W charging, and 15W wireless charging. Looking at the competition, the 18W wired charging is definitely on the slower side but the convenience of having wireless charging on board is a nice bonus.

Camera

There’s a decent camera bump on the rear of the Nokia XR20 which houses a dual 48MP primary sensor, with a second 13MP sensor with an ultrawide lens offering 123°FoV. The front gets an 8MP sensor in the punch-hole notch.

The camera sensor glass is slightly recessed from the bump itself, allowing greater protection in the ruggedised body. It also helps protect that glass from scratches which could potentially interfere with your shot.

In terms of quality, the camera setup is acceptable, though not fantastic. The main sensor at 48MP ‘bins’ the image stacking images to create essentially a 12MP image. The results are best in even, brighter lighting conditions, but the focus is decently fast and can lock to a target.

The low-light performance is pretty average with most of the images looking fairly grainy.

There’s also a few functions in the ‘More’ section of the camera UI with options like Dual Sight, which lets you snap a shot with both front and rear cameras and SpeedWarp which offers hyperlapse videos. There’s also TimeLapse, Panorama and a pro-mode if you want to delve into more of the camera settings as well.

Software

The Nokia XR20 comes with Android 11 out of the box, with the April 1st security update. There’s more updates available for the phone, with the September update available to download out of the box.

The good news for owners though is that HMD Global has committed to 3 years of OS updates, as well as four years of security updates. It’s becoming almost standard for three years from Android vendors at this point, but good to know you’ve got that much backing.

The build is absolutely as clean as an Android purist could want with only Google apps pre-installed. There are some functions built-in to the OS like the programmable key, but apart from that it’s clean and ready for you to install all your apps and games through the Play Store.

There’s one neat feature on the phone which is convenient for anyone needing a flashlight with a dimmer, and SOS mode available on the torch. Hitting the flashlight quick toggle activates the option which remains on-screen while you use it.

The end story here is that Android is as stock as you could want it, and it comes with Android updates, both security and OS for a respectable amount of time.

Should you buy this phone?

The Nokia XR20 is the ruggedised version of the Nokia X20, which essentially means you should be aiming for this phone if you need something that’s a bit tougher.

The price difference between the Nokia XR20 ($879 RRP) vs the Nokia X20 ($599 RRP) is fairly steep and you end up with a better camera (64MP) on the cheaper X20 model. You do get a lot of rugged features, as well as the 12 month screen replacement warranty on top, but that is the difference between the two models.

If, like me, you’ve had a couple of incidents in the past with dropped or dunked phones, cracked screens and more the incentive for a ruggedised phone is definitely there. It helps that the Nokia XR20 doesn’t look too much like the plastic bricks we’ve come to expect of ruggedised phones.

When it boils down to it, it’s the ruggedised features that make the difference here, and the big question is just how much is that worth to you?

You can find the Nokia XR20 at JB Hi-Fi, Officeworks (online), Harvey Norman, Big W (online) and The Good Guys (online) as well as on theNokia website.