The Quick Verdict
The TECNO Phantom A3 is a device with lots of strong points and a few weaknesses. And it comes at a good price. It is designed for those who want the biggest baddest smartphones on the block. If a phablet is what you are in the market for and you want good value for your money, you cannot go wrong with the TECNO Phantom A3. Here is an outline of its strengths and weaknesses:
– Good design and good feel
– Good 6-inch display
– Pre-installed and pre-bundled apps
– Very good battery life
– Good price point
– Average loudspeaker and in-call volume
– Display washes a bit outdoors
Now, for those who would love to have more details, sit back and enjoy my detailed review of the A3.
Deja Vu: Size Matters
The TECNO Phantom A3 is a huge phone. With a 6-inch display, it is really huge. A smartphone that huge is called a phablet. But it is huge without being bulky. You see, the trick to making a big phone is to be sure to make it thin and light. That way, the user will adjust better to the size. TECNO got that right. The A3 is thin. At just 8.4mm thick, it is thinner than the Note II (9.4), the HTC One Max (10.3), the Nokia Lumia 1520 (8.7), LG G Pro (9.4) and is just 0.1mm thicker than the Samsung Note 3. Not bad at all.
The A3 is not bad looking either. It doesn’t have the slickest design, but it does look good. Oh; and the ladies love it! It must be the size, because I distinctively remember that Mrs Mo loved the slightly smaller Samsung galaxy Note II as well. Almost every lady who has seen the A3 with me wanted it. Ladies and big things… But that is a topic for another day.
The biggest single advantage of a 6-inch display smartphone for me is the ease of on-screen typing. I have large fingers and almost hate touchscreen typing because of the deluge of mistakes I make when entering text. But the A3’s huge display makes for onscreen typing heaven. I type faster and make fewer mistakes. With the A3, I might just forget that I actually hate typing on a touchscreen.
The display is only 720 x 1280 resolution, but it is a good one. Indoor use is very good, whether it is for web browsing, reading, or watching videos. However, it lets down a bit once you are outdoors, where it washes out. But if you crank the brightness up, it is totally usable. Also, there is no Gorilla Glass here to offer protection, so you need to be extra careful with the display. Fortunately, TECNO provides a flip cover that should help you keep it protected. Personally, I love my phones naked and so use it without any cover. Of course, I am extra careful with phones, so its not a big deal for me.
Dual SIM: Standard & Micro
TECNO was smart with the dual SIM functionality of the Phantom A3. They made one of the SIM slots a regular SIM type and the other a micro-SIM type. Since my primary SIM is micro, that saved me a lot of hassles. Incidentally, my data line is a standard SIM, so I just put that in the other SIM slot.
If there is one area where the Phantom A3 is weak, it is in the audio department. Whether you are listening to music via the built-in loudspeaker or you have the phone to your head on a phone call, the A3 produces just average audio. It gets the job done, but then I have been spoilt by superb audio from more endowed smartphones in that department.
A display this large is meant for video playback, and the A3 does not disappoint. Play back is good, and the ability to resume a video where you left off is there. You can also scroll through videos. I wasn’t able to test codec support though.
The TECNO Phantom A3 performs just fine as one would expect from an Android smartphone with its specifications. The 1.5GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM are more than adequate. There are no let downs in performance as far as I can see.
Initially, I was a bit sceptical about the 2600mAh battery. However, the A3 seems to manage power well, and I go through a day without having to worry about it running out of juice. If it had a 3000mAh battery, it would easily floor any of the top battery performers out there today. But like I said, it is quite fine. For extra juice though, TECNO has bundled a 5200mAh power bank with the A3. So, if you need to push the limits, you are well covered.
The 13 megapixel rear camera with LED flash is fine for a smartphone, though it won’t win any photography awards. It is very adequate for most smartphone users. If you are a smartphone photography buff, what you need is a smartphone built with photography in mind, in which case you need to look elsewhere.
If you do love to take selfies (ladies!), TECNO has you in mind. The front-facing camera is 8 megapixels, meaning that you get more details than the front-facing cameras on most other smartphones. To make the experience easier, TECNO has bundled an app called iFace. Just launch the app and it activates the front-facing camera by default. Smile. Shoot.
Pre-installed & Pre-packaged Apps
There are a number of pre-installed apps that come out of the box with the A3. BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is here and works fine. It is my de facto instant messaging app, and it is good that I can move from a BlackBerry smartphone to an Android smartphone and not have to lose touch with my BBM Contacts.
CarlCare is here too, providing quick access to contact information of all CarlCare service centres in 13 African countries. This is a handy app to have should you need support. TECNO offers a 13-month warranty on the A3 and have service centres in a number of cities across the country.
There is a torchlight app pre-installed too. It is a nice implementation and uses the camera’s LED flash.
With Flash Share, you can connect and share files easily with other TECNO users. If the receiver does not have Flash Share installed, you can still share with them if they have WiFi activated.
Other useful pre-installed apps include UC Browser and Opera Mini, both of them a blessing when you do a lot of browsing and need to keep data costs down. There is a NoteBook for taking quick notes.
The A3 comes with TECNO’s trademark Assistant app that has several apps pre-packaged for you, so you do not need to go download from Play Store. Some of those apps may also not be available in Play Store. There are over 15 of them, including local titles like Spinlet, Afrinolly, MedAfrica, and Jobberman. Just launch Assistant and install any of the available apps. If you need more apps, of course, Google’s Play Store is there as well to access hundreds of thousands of available apps.
If you are a gamer, have no worries. The A3 is fine in that department and runs some very demanding games smoothly. Not only does it have Real Football 2013 pre-installed, the version of the game on the A3 is TECNO-branded. Apparently, TECNO is partnering with developers to bring customised gaming experiences to their smartphone range. Nice. Another pre-installed game is Kingdoms & Lords. It has a medieval type setting with knights, lords and all. Both game titles are by Gameloft.
There is 16GB internal storage for your music, video and other files. There is also a microSD card slot so you can add more storage. No card comes in the box this time, so you have to get one. I own a 16GB card which I put in it to bring my total storage to 32GB. The large internal storage means that there is a lot of space for your downloaded apps too.
The A3 runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, which means that it is up-to-date. Not many Android smartphones are in the market with Kitkat, so it loses no points there.
Accessories in the sales pack include USB cable and charging adapter, audio headset and ear buds. There is a quick manual and warranty documentation as well.
Do I recommend the TECNO Phantom A3? Definitely. If you are looking for a phablet that is good value for money, here is one.
Mo Rating: 8.0/10