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The Techno Phantom A+

Branding breakthrough?

So as a PR/Communication/Branding enthusiast, I have been watching Tecno’s entry and penetration into the Kenyan mobile phone market with interest. It has not been without woes. For starters, in Kenya, the word “China”, (no offence to Chinese people) is almost a synonym for “fake”. This has been due to the huge influx of fake/counterfeited goods from China that have tormented Kenyan consumers for years. I mean it’s way cheaper, therefore tempting, but when you buy it, it will surprise you every time with a new way of not working. We all know that cheap is expensive (I mean, the *Wahenga said it and we are constantly being reminded), but if your products keep teaching us practical lessons, we ARE going to hate you.

So Tecno have had the uphill task of proving that despite being a Chinese brand,

1. They are not purporting to be anyone we are not and

2. They are making quality stuff (go ahead and test them, the warranty is 2 years) (Not anymore, I was rather vexed and impressed at the same time to discover)

image from Google

image from Google

So when the Tecno Phantom made its debut, it was not just a phone (IMO) it was a symbol of how far the brand has come. On a scale of HTC to Samsung, well, Tecno has arrived!

What I love about this phone:

Screen (size and resolution)

The 5.0 TFT High Definition screen display rocks. It’s great for reading. I am currently reading a Kindle book on it and it’s very comfortable. Its also pretty roomy and accommodates the keyboard quite nicely, that I haven’t had to use the auto-rotate feature for typing.

Camera

This is one of my favorite things about this phone. On an auto setting, this 8MP camera will focus and take a clear, bright picture. You can easily zoom in during a shot by a pinching open motion on the screen. The image resolution is pretty good. (You have to zoom into the image quite a lot for it to become blurry) It makes me happy that I do not have to be a professional to take decent pics for Instagram using my camera phone.

I took this photo using my Phantom.

I took this photo using my Phantom.

Note that I am not that tall so I had to zoom in 🙂

Design and feel

I am a big fan of large phone screens. And at 5.0 this phone is pushing it. The flip side is however, that unless it’s a pricey phone, a larger screen usually means a heavier phone. However, this phone is surprisingly light and easy to handle. So while we are on the subject, this phone looks so much like an S4, that everyone gets shocked when I tell them it’s not. The resemblance is such that I once spent a full day with a colleague who had just acquired a black phantom, A+, assuming that his phone was an S4, and he spent the same amount of time assuming that my white one was an S4! (we had a laugh over that one when I finally asked!)

I must say however, that while I like the idea of the protruding camera lens (gives the impression that the camera is uber-powerful) it makes it so much more vulnerable to breakage. Mine is already cracked, though I am happy to report, it hasn’t affected the image quality, yet. If anyone is listening, may I suggest a rubber ring around the lens? Or silicone? You get my drift.

Battery life

Technical specs aside (I know you can Google those 😉 ) The practical battery life of this phone is pretty impressive. Normally, despite what manufacturers claim, smartphone battery life sucks! So much so, that in Kenya it’s common practice to carry a basic phone as well (widely known as a *kabambe) coz you know you will run out of charge right about the middle of the day (that is if you are economical with usage).

Now I am a pretty heavy phone user. (I have heard complaints 😉 ) On a typical 2 hour trip to the office (when I am not the driver ) I will play music, Tweet, Whatsapp, do my emails (Gmail app), and the rest of the way read on the Kindle app or Bible Gateway app (which keeps crashing, by the way).

Usually I will switch off mobile data in-between using apps that need connectivity to preserve battery. And I will NOT play a game if I don’t want my charge to run out before I get to the office. With my previous phone (you can read about it here) I would get to the office at 25% or so battery. But with the Phantom, I do all that and still get to work at 70% battery! (I am trying to calm down here) I am in battery heaven. I do not even bother to switch off mobile data because I hardly notice its effect.

Powerbank!

To make things even better, this phone comes with a Powerbank. So if I run out of charge enroute, all I have to do is connect my phone and voila! As long as I have a charged Powerbank in my bag, I can go up to 10 hours or more without needing an electric outlet. For me, with a smartphone, this is huge.

Dual SIM

Another feature I like is the dual sim. Like many Kenyans, I have more than one sim card, which if you were using a smartphone would mean having an extra phone to keep both lines on (because no smartphone worth it’s salt would be dual-sim!) Well, yes, until Tecno went and did it with the Phantom! This was a risk, I’d say especially keeping in mind the branding thing that we talked about earlier.

The user interface is also a win, especially with regards to sending texts and making phones. One is able to do so with a single screen tap, not being taken to an additional, annoying menu that prompts you to select the sim card you want to use.

Apps! Especially Flashshare

The Phantom comes with a lot of considerately pre-loaded apps. My favorite being Truecaller, Whatsapp (which I love to hate – story for another day – but is convenient) and the one that had me all excited, Flashshare! So with this app, you do not need to be online to share stuff with another Phantom user. You connect (it creates a hotspot) and you shake it to send whatever you have selected (including apps!) to the paired device. I got a little carried away with this feature and received way too many videos into my internal memory. And now I can’t delete them before I watch them!

What sucks

Earphones

So the earphones sound pretty good, but they don’t seem to work on my laptop (MacBook Air) or my colleagues’ Windows laptops. That is a bummer as I had to get different ones for use with the laptop. Also, I recently misplaced my phone earphones (bummer!) and discovered that the earphones I got to use with my computer, do not work with my phone! (To clarify, when you plug them in while playing music, the instruments are audible but the vocals sound like they are being sung in a far away land. Very acoustic)

Covers

So the phone comes with a free flip cover, and a back-cover for those who do not want to use the flip (like me). I wish it came with a protective back cover for those anti-flip people whose phones tend to drop a lot! E.g. when you have a tech savvy toddler ☺. I for one would love a rubbery, yellow, floppy cover. I am yet to find one – and this is not from a lack of scouring the streets in search of one.

SD card

Well, Tecno seem to be good in a lot of things, but making SD cards is not one of them. The phone comes with a free 8GB card (my first thought was, “awesome deal!”) so from my normal usage, I determined I would not need to buy an additional card. However, every time I switch on my phone, it suggests that I format the card. Because it is damaged. Every time! So all my lovely photos that I have been taking with my awesome camera, have been disappearing on a regular basis.

Her Geekyness’ Conclusion

image from techpost.ug

image from techpost.ug

Overall, I think that at KES 24,000 this phone is incredible value for money. From the unwrapping the box experience (kudos for the awesome packaging), the extra accessories (especially the Powerbank), to it’s processing that is fast and robust (even with many apps open). I would buy this phone all over again. ☺ –

-her royal geekiness-

*Wahenga – wise people of the olden days who came up with all the wise quotes and proverbs in Africa (LOL)

*Kabambe – this would be a very simple feature phone, rarely internet-enabled. Most keep charge for days.

From “Just Geeky” to Savvy Entreprenuer

Your traditional image of a geek overlays comfortably with that of the mad scientist.
Hair unkempt, shabbily groomed, largely introverted and ill at ease in social situations prefers to sit and work away from everyone else, mostly in their bedroom at home. And of course, the compulsory geek glasses.

Your traditional geek (who we shall call Geek. Let’s allow Geek to be a he) is extremely intelligent, comes up with brilliant innovations and products. However, (s) he is largely lacking in social skills, has no idea how to pitch his/her product to a potential investor or partner. Geek has no clue on how to make his product attractive to a client, and is at a loss on how to begin letting people ‘out there’ know that it exists!

Because Geek is brilliant at what he does, he assumes that the market will just gratefully receive his app or e-platform, what with it being the perfect solution to the problems he identified. And tends to get rather easily disillusioned when the client critiques his ‘baby’.

So one day, through referrals, Geek lands his first big client. The down payment is larger than any amount of money he has ever received before! Yes!!! It’s time for Geek to go shopping! It’s time he upgraded from this tired, old computer anyway! A new high-performance smartphone is also necessary. After all, these are the tools of his trade. Connectivity, no?
To Geek’s rude shock, within 3 weeks, (2 weeks before he is done customizing the app for his client), his bank account balance is alarmingly low! Now he has to trudge on with this job, with hardly any of the comfort the down payment was meant to guarantee. Bummer! And who knows when another deal will be closed?

The iHub Jumpstart Series, whose maiden unconference took place on the 4th and 5th September at the iHub, is the answer to Geek’s dilemma.

iHub Hypemaster @Afrowave

iHub Hypemaster @Afrowave

Conceptualized and by Jimmy Gitonga (@afrowave), Jumpstart consisted of eight sessions in total (4 on each day) that were unconventionally facilitated by an expert and a start-up. They were tailored to address Geek’s questions.

• How do I manage my finances?
• How do I protect my idea?
• How do I go about ideation and testing my prototype?
• How do I brand myself and my product?
• How do I pitch to an investor/partner?
• How do I incorporate a company, and register a business/product name?
• Which business model would work for me?
• Where do I get funding?

Bootstrapping 101 with @TheMacharia

Bootstrapping 101 with @TheMacharia

The expert addressed the how-to, while the start-up gave their experience on the topic, including challenges and how they overcame them. The participants engaged the speakers in vibrant debates, sometimes having to stop on account of time.

The Branding session by Fadi (@fadzter) of @ARKnative is the expert session that stood out to yours truly. Simple. Clear. I understood not only what a brand is, but I felt I could verbalize the whole vague concept that is branding.

The start-up session that I enjoyed the most was Macharia’s (@TheMacharia) bootstrapping session. A candid poignant narration of his PesaTalk experience.

The iHub jumpstart series shall be a quarterly affair with the next one expected in December.

~Her Royal Geekiness~

HTC Sensational Rant

I had wanted a HTC phone for the longest time. Word was it was a true techie’s phone. Built for excellence. HTC did not even mass-produce phones like it’s counterpart in Android; Samsung.

image from Google

image from Google

No, they made quality, targeted gadgets. Any techie worth his (or in my case her) salt should be rocking that brand of a phone! This was from a college classmate of mine (which makes him a techie, too) whose name I shall not mention on here. He had been using his HTC Onex for about 6 months.

Buying a smartphone, the smart way

So after a particularly good gig, I was all set to buy my first real smartphone. I had smartphones before but hey, I was finally getting my HTC. I did my window shopping and finally got a Z104e  at the best bargain around. I wanted white, but they only had it in black. The Sony Experia Arc, which is the other phone I was considering getting, had a screen of 4.92in compare to HTC’s 4.96, with a higher resolution of 540 x 960 pixels to the Experia’s 480 x 854 pixels. For me, with screens, the bigger the better. But the Experia came in white, which was more than I could say for the Sensation.

Sony Experia Arc

image from Google

The HTC claimed superior battery capacity with talk time of 8.25 hours to the Experia’s 7.41 hours.

Then to crown it all my Sensation (I was already calling it that) boasted a  Dual core, 1200 MHz, processor. To the Experia’s mere Single core, 1400 MHz I was hooked.

My HTC experience

When I got my gadget I could hardly wait to charge it and use it! I was going out on a date that evening. Rather than wait until I got home and charge it there, I gave it to the waitress to charge it for me while my date and I chatted so I could start using it ASAP.

Battery life

This was a shocker to me. I mean, I knew it was a smartphone with all those superior features. Therefore it could do so much more that an ordinary phone, which was a strain on the battery. But seriously? On a trip to the office, which ordinarily takes 1.5 hours, I had mobile data on, and tweeted, Whatsapped and responded to the occasional GTalk chat. On getting there  I was on 25% or so battery. Then annoyingly on attempting to take a photo, the phone told me that since battery was lower than 30%, I could not use flash. So much for indoor photography.

Heartbreak

Then came the heartbreak. About 4 months into the use of the phone, this phone that I protected like a baby. Silicone cover, and I still had the original screen protector.( I know it came with corning Gorilla glass – aka scratch proof glass but I was not taking any chances.). So about 4 months of using my phone, the unspeakable happened. It hung! I was smack in the middle of typing a text, the keyboard stopped responding. I tried going back to the home screen, and that didn’t respond.

Not wanting to think too much about what this meant, I did a hard reboot (pressed down the power button until the phone went off then switched on).  It responded.

But over the next 2 days, the problem recurred enough times to be a real pain in my behind.  I synced my contacts, emailed myself all the texts I thought I needed to refer to, then – FACTORY RESET.

That gave me reprieve for a day or two, then back to the same story.

I gave it to someone who rooted it. (Lost all my texts and non-synced contacts) The hanging persisted. Things were getting to a point where I couldn’t receive calls sometimes because the screen would just not respond.

Oh yes, and my earphones only worked a couple of times, then the left earpiece went mute, and the charger head died within a week of usage.

Not a singular problem

One day after a particularly annoying episode with my phone, I went on a rant on Twitter. Turns out, about 5 of my friends with different models of the phone, and a few other random tweeps all had nasty things to say about theirs’.

One has a One X  (It takes the best pics by the way) (Did I mention that mine tended to take washed out pics half the time?) suddenly messed up her contacts. Most names disappeared and some numbers got matched to the wrong names. Don’t ask me how that happened.

Another one has a One X, which he does not use anymore because it “randomly hangs and sometimes just dies”.

My friend who has the exact same model as me experienced hanging for 2 weeks (this despite factory reset and uninstalling unnecessary apps) and now it’s dead. Won’t respond to charging, poking or prodding.

The only person who seems to be enjoying his HTC, one year down the line is my techie friend who convinced me to buy one in the first place.

I asked everybody I saw with different models of HTC about their experience for about a month (about 15 handsets) and most of them mentioned hanging, and lousy battery.

Might never happen again

So while I acknowledge that HTC phones have tons of really cool features – the swipe keyboard, the muted ringtone on pickup, the louder ringing while in bag/pocket, the loudspeaker on flipping the phone – way cool.

It is very unlikely that I will fork out any of my hard earned cash for a HTC phone. Especially because I am yet to hear of HTC going public and admitting any flaws in their hardware or firmware, and for that matter, recalling any model.

-her royal geekiness-