Nokia XR21 review: Phone can survive incredibly harsh treatment

Nokia has done it again and brought out, quite possibly, one of the most durable phones in the world.

The new Nokia XR21 Android smartphone is the exciting successor to last year’s XR20, which impressed me with its ability to withstand harsh landings on concrete, tumbles down flights of stairs and even being frozen in a block of ice.

The phone is now back, and improved, with hopes to take the title as the toughest smartphone since the infamous Nokia 3310.


In the (very recyclable) packaging of the Nokia XR21 you’ll find the phone, available in Midnight Black or Pine Green, documentation, a sim tool and a USB-C to USB-C charging cable.

Personally, I don’t think the phone’s design is anything to write home about, but it is a sleek, comfortable device in-hand, that is cleverly made to withstand a lot of life that you can throw at it.


It may not look radically different to its predecessor but the Nokia XR21 certainly has some key improvements. The phone is slightly lighter in weight, yet has a bigger 2-day battery capacity.

It now supports Android 12 and the display has up to 120Hz refresh rate for extra fluid scrolling, playback and fast app switching. Additionally, it has the better Snapdragon 695 5G processor making it more powerful and capable of better all-round performance.


The cameras have been upgraded to perform better in low light conditions, and when shooting portraits and moving subjects. And, to be honest, up until recently I wouldn’t have been so kind when recommending a Nokia for its camera quality.

However, they’ve come a long way in bringing quality imagery to their smartphones. And I was really happy with the front 16MP camera for its high quality, crisp selfies, and nice background blur. And the back 64MP main camera and 8MP ultrawide performed incredibly well, with colourful and rich details and balanced lighting. Photos are quick to shoot, and process, and come out looking impressive.

Video was also great, with stable footage even when walking and talking along, with good audio quality. However, the footage was a little grainy at times even when you wouldn’t expect it. But the average person likely wouldn’t notice this.


With all that being said, it’s an excellent feature-packed phone and I’m impressed with the improvements Nokia has brought to the table. They’ve made an already great phone even better.

But it’s the durability of the XR21 that is truly outstanding, and the lead reason for consumers to pick this one up off the shelves. The front screen is made with Corning® Gorilla® Glass Victus®, and the back of the phone and its frame are made of a strong polycarbonate and thermoplastic polyurethane, which is what allows the phone to have incredible shock absorbing capabilities.

Just like its predecessor this phone can topple down a flight of concrete stairs, and the edges may come up scuffed with a scratch here and there, but the screen will remain intact, and the phone continues on as if nothing happened.

It is the technological embodiment of the ‘Chumbawumba – Tubthumping I get knocked down, but I get up again’ song. Additionally, its IP68/IP69K dust/water resistance rating allows it to be submerged for up to 1.5m for 60 min. It’s also rated to be able to be dropped onto concrete from up to 1.8m, and survive.

This means it could be knocked off a table onto concrete, thrown on the ground, dropped into the toilet, have a drink spilled onto it, go for a dip in your bathtub, be covered with baby food or be hit with a pressure hose and it should come out alright.

Should you buy it?

The Nokia XR21 is truly the phone durable smartphone design that everyone wishes they had in their pocket. The only question is – do you want an Android smartphone?

If you’re not deep in the Apple ecosystem I would say this is certainly a smartphone to consider, even compared to the likes of Samsung and Google, which are often my top Android smartphone picks.

If you need a phone that doesn’t require a second thought and is actually durable, while offering up-to-date features, then this is an excellent smartphone for you. I am very impressed by this smartphone and at $799 I think it’s a great deal.

Elly Awesome is an Aussie tech and lifestyle vlogger | @ellyawesometech | YouTube

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