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9 Reasons Why Tecno’s Phantom 5 Is A Killer Smartphone

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Tecno as a mobile devices brand has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years across Africa, and, in particular Kenya. I have had the benefit of reviewing a good number of their mobile devices on this blog and the reality is that they keep getting better as the years go by.

What has become evident in Kenya is that Tecno as a mobile brand is essentially displacing well established mobile brands like Samsung by offering highly featured mobile devices at really great prices. In addition, Tecno has been gradually differentiating their brand from the myriad of low-cost Chinese mobile brands in Kenya by moving up the food chain to hitherto rarified altitudes. Indeed, whereas Tecno was historically known for great entry-level and mid-range smartphones, they are breaking down the door and demanding a seat at the big boys table!

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Enter the Kes. 39,999.00 Tecno Phantom 5. The Phantom 5 is essentially Tenco’s boldest attempt (as yet?) to become a player in the premium smartphone market segment by offering a mobile device that can go head to head with the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Apple’s iPhone 6 range (yes, seriously!). This is somewhat audacious(?) since these competing mobile devices represent the very top of the market in every sense of the word and command prices that are well into the Kes. 80,000+ range or thereabouts – rarified altitudes indeed!

Having used the Tecno Phantom 5 for the better part of a month since it was launched in Kenya, what I can say is that Tecno without a doubt has a contender in the heavyweight category. The Tecno Phantom 5 is a beauty and the beast in every sense. Its a device that is startlingly beautiful and at the same time is paradoxically handsome? It does not look and feel like a Tecno – It feels like a Toyota that has been reborn as a Lexus. Tecno has broken new ground with the Phantom 5.

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As all of my technology reviews go, I like to say it as it is and not dwell too much on jargon that would get you confused or inundated? I spent a fair bit of time trying to establish what the best bits about the Tecno Phantom 5 are and thought I would have a list of only 5 or so. Surprisingly, I ended up with 9 things that I really loved about it! Also, as always, I have thrown in a few things that could have been better about the Tecno Phantom 5 in this review to make sure that this is indeed a balanced and somewhat(?) impartial review. So, here we go:

4G/LTE

The first thing I loved about the Phantom 5 is that it comes with 4G/LTE. What this means is that when using the Safaricom mobile network in Kenya you can get Internet speeds that can be as high as 10 times faster than what you get on a 3G mobile device. This is phenomenal and it was immediately evident what I had been missing out on since this was my first 4G capable smartphone in Kenya. Unless I am mistaken, the Phantom 5 is the very first 4G mobile device from Tecno launched in Kenya and one can expect that increasingly this will become the norm going into 2016 and beyond.

Camera(s)

I am something of a budding photographer and a regular Instagrammer so I did put the Phantom 5 through its paces and it did not disappoint. It comes with a 13MP back camera with a dual flash and a 8MP front camera with a flash too. The back camera is incredibly fast in taking photos and focussing at the same time. It also has a larger aperture of f2.0 which means that it can take in more light than most smartphone cameras – leading to better pictures in low light conditions.

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Coupled with the dual flash this means that most of my photos were ridiculously well lit, day or night, leading to great photographic outcomes. As for the ‘selfie’ camera at the front what can I say? 8MP is a lot and with a flash it looks great all the time. The back camera also takes video at full 1080P HD video which means that I actually used it do some impressive recordings given its highly compact form factor compared to my regular point and shoot camera. I was really happy with both cameras as can be seen below with the unedited photos in variable lighting conditions:

Fingerprint Sensor

The Fingerprint sensor on the Phantom 5 was a real surprise. This is a feature that came to the most high-end smartphones with the Apple iPhone 5S and thereafter Samsung did the same with its Galaxy range. Therefore, to find it on the Phantom 5 was a delight. I was a little apprehensive to use it to be honest on getting the Phantom 5 but once I set it up I was really surprised at how well it worked and how much it became second nature to use it, even when I disabled it a few times for various reasons. The fingerprint sensor is located at the back of the Phantom 5 and it is really fast to detect your fingerprint to open and even more importantly it was really accurate. All I can say is that it works and I now get it! It works from any direction (i.e. 360 degrees) and you can use up to 5 fingers to open it which is really cool!

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Battery

The Tecno Phantom 5 comes with a 3,000 mAh battery. What this means is that this is a really large battery which will keep you going most of the day without having to recharge. It did take time to recharge it fully but once charged you generally never needed to have a power bank on the ready for a refill? The Phantom 5 just kept going, and going, and going…. I was really impressed in this respect since its not very often you come across a top of the line high-end smartphone that is able to do so with an energy-sapping large HD screen. The remarkable thing is that the Phantom 5 has a really slim profile so to pack in this much battery life is a commendable feat by Tecno.

Audio & Music

The audio and music capabilities of the Phantom 5 are impressive! The Phantom 5 has a really loud and large speaker at the back of the device that has really crisp sound. Its amazing how loud it is since I use it during my commute to listen to my audiobooks meaning I do not need to use my earphones when I am alone.

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At the same time, when using the gorgeous metallic earphones that came with Tecno Phantom 5, I also noticed that sound quality is excellent and there is a real ‘oomph’ to it that was a surprise. I have used loads of really bad earphones that come smartphones and I can say this with some confidence that these could be some of best I have ever used! True story.

In terms of software, Tecno have bundled their own music player called Boom Player which to be honest I never used since I just prefer the standard Android one. That being said, Boom Player has lots of impressive features that other users could find interesting? Another feature is that the Phantom 5 has Dolby Surround features so you can really ‘amp up’ the quality of its audio to the next level as well. As I mentioned before, this is not really a flagship killer – this IS a flagship. Its the real deal!

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3GB RAM

This thing comes with 3GB RAM. Let me say it again, the Tecno Phantom 5 has 3GB of RAM! What does this mean? It means that it handle lots of processing due to the fact it has all that extra memory available for running the phone. This means that its also faster. This means a phone that in conjunction with its fast processor is super snappy. Like really snappy. Nuff said. I think you get the point!

Octacore Processor

Octacore = super fast. Like really fast. So, in a nutshell, the Phantom 5 will zip through all sorts of things you may throw at it. From multitasking to rendering really demanding games, video and graphics, it can handle it. I have been using an almost 2 year old Nexus 5 as my main phone which is a decent phone but the Octacore processor on the Phantom 5 completely blows it away. The future has arrived and it is indeed ‘fast fast’ as my Nigerian friends would say. Furious fast indeed! It does not hurt that the Phantom 5 is running Android 5 which is the very recently replaced version of Android. That being said, the Phantom 5 should hopefully(?) be upgraded to Android 6 which just came out a few weeks ago.

5.5 HD Display

The 5.5 inch screen on the Phantom 5 is 1080P of gorgeous eye tingling HD. However, the irony these days is that the latest mid-range to high-end smartphones in general have really great displays and its getting really hard to tell the differences apart? Therefore, when I say that the HD display on the Tecno Phantom 5 is really good, I mean it looks better than the average really great screen (if that makes any sense?). I especially enjoyed watching movies on it and all the pixels were really vivid and smooth. This is a device that is designed for long stretches of visual entertainment and it helps that the battery has such serious stamina.

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Design

I found the overall design of the Tecno Phantom 5 to be the most deceptive part of it actually being a Tecno mobile device. You see, for the longest time, like Samsung, Tecno has always produced decent ‘plasticky’ mobile devices but I do not recall them ever launching a metal unibody smartphone? The Phantom 5 in this respect is a first. This is where it gets confusing since the overall look and feel is a complete departure from Tecno’s previous design language. The Phantom 5 looks and feels reminiscent of something that Sony or HTC would have made which is a huge compliment to Tecno!

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The Phantom 5 comes in two colours – space gray and champagne gold. Its incredibly slim, svelte and really smooth on the back meaning that it could easily slip from your hands or out of your pockets. However, out of the box, you also get a free flip cover which is really handy given how slippery this thing is at times! The placement of the camera and fingerprint sensor is bang on as are the on and off button and the audio rocker. Its got well tapered and sharp angles and the bezel is really thin. In a nutshell, the Phantom 5 is a looker!  The Phantom 5 is also a Dual SIM mobile device which is really handy these days and considered the norm rather than the exception when it comes to Tecno mobile devices.

Compromises

For all the 9 great things I loved about the Tecno Phantom 5, here are things that I felt they compromised on:

  • 32GB ROM is not bad but I think they should have tried to get it to 64GB is possible? I l know that this is a tall order given the relatively(?) competitive price of the Tecno Phantom 5 but that would have been nice.
  • The Phantom 5 is NOT able to shoot 4K video. Yes, I know, who even has 4K devices in this part of the world? The thing is that the latest ‘flagship’ mobile devices these days come with 4K so it should have it? Again, given the price this is probably me asking for too much.
  • I really initially(?) hated the customised Tecno overlay to the stock Android interface. I do not know why mobile devices OEMs keep doing this in the name of differentiation as it confuses consumers every time they switch mobile devices? However, over time, I actually started to like it and for as long as everything worked it did not matter.
  • The Tecno Phantom 5 comes with way too much bloatware from Tecno. I know that like Samsung of days past and present they want to give you all sorts of extra non-essential apps but its a real pain trying to get rid of them and after all you don’t need them? I may not represent the ideal customer target but I find it irritating.
  • Over the last week or so, I have noticed that some of the paint finish is chipping off from my Tecno Phantom 5 since I stopped using the flip cover? I am not sure why exactly this happening but I dread to imagine what it may look like in a couple of months at this rate? This is not cool!

Conclusion

I am very happy with the Tecno Phantom 5. Tecno has risen to the occasion with a flagship device that can indeed take the fight to the big boys of the smartphone game in Kenya and Africa. Since this is essentially their first outing at this level, there is still lots of room for improvement but just like Samsung was a few years ago, they could end up dominating the smartphone game given that they already have over 18.5% marketshare in Kenya for mobile devices – which is massive! I am comfortable giving the Phantom 5 a score of 8.5/10 and a strong ‘buy’ recommendation for consumers who want a high-end smartphone at a relatively affordable price. Kudos to Tecno!

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7 Comments

  1. October 29, 2015 at 1:48 pm — Reply

    Great review Moses. How do you think it compares with the Google Nexus 6 from Motorolla? I just picked one up a few months ago and while it may possibly be the ugliest phone ever made, it’s feature-rich and very powerful – kind of like this Phantom 5.

    • October 30, 2015 at 7:48 am — Reply

      @johann thanks! Its been a minute. Hope your well? I have no idea what the Nexus 6 is like but I am hoping to get my hands on the Nexus 6P by the end of the year? The Phantom is probably NOT as well spec’ed as the Nexus 6 but it certainly is heading in that direction. Personally, I am super impressed and essentially I have ditched my Nexus 5 at the moment, which could become a permanent move 🙂

  2. November 12, 2015 at 11:01 am — Reply

    Nice article Moses. How does this compare with the Techno C8? I hear the C8 is also good. I want a new smartphone and I’m looking at reviews to decide which one to buy.

    • November 17, 2015 at 6:57 pm — Reply

      @edwin thanks for your message. I have never used the C8 so not sure how it stacks up? What I do know is that the Phantom 5 is Tecno’s flagship so its the most capable mobile device in their line-up.

  3. December 7, 2015 at 3:13 pm — Reply

    Very good review. Those Camera samples are amazing

    • December 19, 2015 at 4:35 pm — Reply

      @ken Thanks for the feedback. It is a really good camera!

  4. jemminnah
    January 5, 2016 at 4:09 pm — Reply

    Phantom 5 has no comparison having used sumsung and Nokia phones. Try it you will never regret.

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