In a world dominated by designs that try to stand out for the sake of standing out, like the assortment of colors in the Samsung A series, or the 'Dare to leap' insignias on the Realmes, and the overly-accented camera islands (Xiaomi and Realme, again), the Nokia G21 is a breath of fresh air of simplicity.
The phone is available in two colors that are anything but flashy. Our review unit is in the 'Nordic Blue' colorway, a dark blue-green that is the one with more character out of the two. The 'Dusk' option is black to dark gray with a hint of brown in there. Both have an understated elegance to them.
Regardless of color, the plastic back panel is textured in what at first appears like a fine striped pattern, but closer inspection reveals it to be concentric large-radius arcs. That, too, makes it unlike most phones on the market, premium or budget, which are almost universally either glossy or matte, but rarely textured.
We'd like to say that the texture makes the rear panel particularly grippy, but it's neither here, nor there. Depending on whose fingers are touching it, the texture might be more slippery, in fact, because of the reduced contact area with your skin. It does somehow manage to pick up fingerprints, textured as it may be, but it's easy enough to wipe clean.
The camera island on the G21 is similarly understated in its styling, the three modules lined in a relatively compact formation in the top left corner. The thing is raised up enough (and is apparently soft enough) to get scratched pretty easily - we had an assortment of scuffs from just the usual review process, and real life will likely be harsher on its gloss.
The polycarbonate frame of the G21 has more of a satin finish and isn't prone to fingerprint accumulation. The flat sides allow for plenty of grip, no complaints here.
The G21 is equipped with a capacitive fingerprint sensor in the power button on the right of the phone. It's well-positioned for access with either a left index finger or a right thumb and doesn't discriminate which one you use for unlocking - it works equally well with either.
One potential issue is that there's no option for it to require a press to engage, so you're all too likely to end up locked out of fingerprint authentication because of failed accidental attempts registered when just handling the phone.
The volume rocker is high up on the right side, perhaps a little too high for operation without a minor adjustment in grip, but it's hardly a dealbreaker.
On the left side of the G21, you'll find a Google Assistant key, an always-on shortcut to the feature. We'd appreciate an option to remap it to something else or disable it altogether, but that's not really available - even turning off Google Assistant won't disable the key, and upon pressing it, you'll get a prompt to re-enable Assistant instead.
Above that useful (or annoying, depending on disposition) button is the card slot. The tray will take two nano SIMs and a microSD, and can accommodate all three at the same time.
The tour of the perimeter continues on the bottom, where the USB-C port is flanked by a loudspeaker and a mic pinhole. Another mic pinhole is up top, joined by a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The business end of the G21 sees the 6.5-inch display surrounded by reasonably sized bezels on the sides and top, but a more sizeable chin. This does seem to be the norm in the budget market segment, but the one on the Nokia is that extra bit more pronounced. It's another non-issue in the grand scheme of things, plus it could be potentially beneficial to handling for those who still insist that meatier bezels help with that.
There's a small waterdrop-shaped cutout in the top edge of the display to house the selfie camera, another par for the course design element. The earpiece above it is just that - an earpiece, and not a second speaker.
The G21 measures 164.6x75.9x8.5mm, which means the phone is bordering on 'large' for a 6.5-inch handset in its class. The Galaxy A22 and the Realme 8 are a bit more compact (to the tune of a tangible ~2mm narrower and ~5mm shorter, in fact) thanks in part to smaller screens and slightly thinner bezels. Then again, the Realme 10 is close to the Nokia G21's footprint. The G21 is the heaviest of this bunch at 190g, though the 13g difference to the lightest, the Realme, isn't huge.