You will probably never use a Tecno phone. Up until this week I had never heard of the Chinese brand or their Camon range of mobile phones. Well, I’m unlikely to forget her.
The company recently did a swanky launch in New York City for its new Tecno Camon Series 19 Pro Android 12 phones, though the products won’t go on sale in the US (or UK). I honestly wondered what they were doing there and more importantly why I was there.
Tecno insisted on describing the phones as “designed for fashionistas”. I can’t tell you what that means, but I’ll admit that I’m intrigued by the design, the specs, and most importantly, the price.
Key specifications include:
- 6.8-inch FHD+ virtually borderless 120Hz display
- 32MP front camera with bore hole
- 64MP and 50MP rear cameras
- 2x optical zoom
- Optical image stabilization
- 5,000 mAh battery
- fingerprint reader
- face unlock
- Some nifty AI-infused photo tricks
- a 3.5mm headphone jack (!)
- A power adapter, cable and earplugs (!!)
It’s also a surprisingly attractive phone. There’s a diamond-coated back that’s fingerprint-resistant and looks and feels great. The dual-circle camera array (which houses three cameras – there’s a 2-megapixel bokeh-enhancing lens) is large but sleek, its premium looks supported by its crystal glass cover. The body is only slightly thicker than an iPhone 13 Pro Max, but the phone feels noticeably lighter.
The Camon 19 Pro comes with all of that (and more) for $280. It’s a phone you could pay off in five or six months (if you’re paying around $50 a month). The Camon Series 19 Pro 5G starts at just $320. That is, on both phones with 128 GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM.
To put that in perspective, the cheapest iPhone you can buy is the $429 Apple iPhone SE, which only has 64GB of storage.
There’s a catch
There are, of course, major caveats, the biggest of which is global availability. These Tecno phones are available in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South Asia, but not, as I mentioned, in the US or Europe. Prices can vary as well, and the Tecno’s advertised prices of $280 and $320 are still just an “estimate” for my market.
There are numerous limitations that often come with budget phones, such as: B. No fingerprint reader under the screen. Instead, the power/wake button doubles as an effective fingerprint reader. The screen is still LCD and not OLED. There is no reported IP rating (may keep away from deep puddles). It doesn’t offer wireless charging.
Then there’s the mobile CPU, a MediaTek Helio G96, which is likely equivalent to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G. Its benchmark numbers aren’t even in the same neighborhood as, for example, an Apple A15 Bionic or a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
So when I unexpectedly walked out of the event with a review device in hand and decided to spend a day or so with it, I tried to level my expectations.
For the most part, however, this budget device outperformed them.
Not that bad
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As I mentioned earlier, this is an attractive large-screen phone with a vibrant display that, of course, looks great indoors. Outside is a different matter. It struggled in bright light, but I could still see well enough to snap a variety of shots with its camera and fairly rich settings. Everything from standard to 2x tele and from portrait to slow motion looked pretty good. Even low light and night shots were decent (nothing would qualify as notable). There’s no wide-angle lens, let alone an ultra-wide-angle lens, but the included lenses captured sharp, colorful and accurate images.
The rear camera’s portrait mode is good (the front camera had more artifacts), although you can’t adjust the bokeh level before or after you capture it (how many people even do that on their iPhone 13 or Samsung Galaxy?). There’s an editing tool that lets you add and adjust a bokeh effect to any image, but it’s not tied directly to Portrait mode photography, which is kind of silly.
The AI powered camera and its efforts to identify objects in a scene were entertaining. Eventually I pointed the phone at my hand and it said “pet”.
There are so many photo editing options that you may never find or use them all. The body manipulation kit is problematic at best. It provides an opportunity to slim the waist, head, shoulders, slim and longer legs, “bulging butt” along with other cosmetic changes. Maybe that’s what Techno meant by a phone for “fashionistas”.
To be fair these features were difficult to find and the phone certainly doesn’t support them. Still, it’s strange that they’re there.
Hitting above his weight
For a sub-$300 phone, the Tecno Camon 19 Pro is a real performer. It played grueling games like Asphalt 9: Legends without missing a beat. I think it may have lost a frame or two, and the audio could be richer, but it was still an enjoyable experience.
It’s an effective productivity platform for browsing and file management, and I love the easy-to-find alphabetical app list.
That 5,000mAh battery is an all-day champ, by the way.
Basically this is an above average phone at a ridiculously good price.
Will it ever arrive in the US and UK? I don’t know and Tecno didn’t offer any guidance. I’m not sure if it matters. What the Tecno Camon 19 Pro shows to me is that all phone manufacturers can do better when it comes to affordability. We pay up to $999 for powerful, big-screen phones that probably do far more than we’ll ever need (at least for most of us).
The Camon 19 Pro sets a fine example of what’s possible on a budget. I think it’s about time Apple, Samsung and others responded in kind.
CLARIFICATION 06/19/2022: A previous version of this post stated that iOS doesn’t have an alphabetical app list. It does, under the App Library.