One of the most exciting launches of 2021 is definitely TECNO’s leap forward with the Phantom X. This is an exciting phone from appearance to actual use. It is such a jump forward by the company – from its previous offerings – so much that it makes sense to actually push the Phantom category as a sub-band.
Now, I know it is quite confusing to call something a flagship sub-brand. But this isn’t something new in the industry. TECNO in itself is part of the Transsion Company which also owns companies like Infinix. Other companies like Xiaomi and OPPO have also launched their own sub-brands which have over time grown to be huge smartphone sellers. So, TECNO definitely knows what it is going with in terms of the Phantom being a sub-brand. Let’s wait and see.
In episode 4 of the 24Bit Podcast, we discuss the Phantom X to great detail. In the discussion, we dive into not just the specs of the device and what you can expect from using the phone, but also the way this device is going to be TECNO’s way of getting into Western and European markets. So go listen to that podcast.
Back to my article (which you should read to completion, before drawing any conclusions)….
Saying the Phantom X is a big leap forward wouldn’t make sense if you’ve never used a TECNO device. But I believe most of you reading this have. You know the usual build, finish and design we’ve come to expect: Nothing bad really. A couple of times we get something really good. But never something really outstanding. And that’s the thing with the Phantom X; It is outstanding.
In a world with so many devices, one can argue that it looks like a OnePlus, or like a Samsung device. Yes, it sort of does. But it is a TECNO. And it is so well done, it definitely feels worthy of the flagship status TECNO is pitting it as.
Now before you get all crazy about that statement, mentioning specs, and if it’s worthy, blah blah… let’s talk a little about the design and build first. Then tackle the rest later. (As you will notice, I am talking about this phone without mentioning the price first. I want to focus on how good it is first, later on, we’ll cover worthiness.)
TECNO chose a 6.7-inch 90Hz AMOLED display for the device. It is great. Like really really good. They got everything right with this display. Let me explain:
- They got the colour reproduction right. So everything feels, and looks correct. I am glad they didn’t over-saturate colours, or make it more vibrant. It is just okay.
- They also got the refresh rate right. Meaning, I don’t get to feel a strain on my eyes after long use. Plus, you can with to auto refresh rate which changes between 60Hz and 90Hz depending on what you’re doing.
- Brightness is also well handled. And the sensors know when to reduce and increase brightness very well. This is something I’ve complained about with other Transsion devices. So it’s a good thing to see it well done here.
- And of course, they got the curves right. I know curves look great in pictures and in renders, and people love staring at curved-display phones. However, accidental touches are quite a bother. With this phone, the curves may appear to be quite aggressive, but I’ve never suffered from any accidental touches.
But you can’t get a display like this and put it on any design of a phone. It needs something to go with. Something that compliments the whole look. And TECNO’s choice here is also great. It is thin, light, delicate, and well done. Really, there’s nothing about the finish that’s not premium.
The metal rails around the phone blend in perfectly with the glass display. There are no gaps or bumps, and you don’t feel like they were forcing glass and metal to meet. It’s so well done. The same is the case for the back of the phone. Though I believe the back to be plastic, it is glass-shiny and has this texture that not only enhances grip but also feels good on the hand. The decision to have this is a good one because it helps hide annoying smudges. (NOTE: It helps.)
I really like how the back has been done. The camera bump feels like it was thought out well. It isn’t an eyesore fixated there because there was no way around it. Everything around it has been designed to showcase the bump. From the glass lift to the layers around the actual lenses. It looks so good. And I especially love the way light changes different ways these pieces appear.
If you have access to a Phantom X, check it out keenly. Everything is placed so well. Everything shines so nicely. It is truly a premium finish. And even the accessories, including the case, have been built specifically for the phone. I love the case so much. Unlike other cases that kill the whole vibe of a phone, this one actually accentuates the look. It’s soft touch, but rigid enough to actually offer protection.
At the top of the frame, you have an antenna line, a microphone, and the SIM Slot. At the bottom, you have two antenna lines on each side. In between the antennae you have the headphone jack, another microphone, the USB Type-C port and the Speaker.
I hate that they didn’t put a speaker up on top, or use the earpiece as other companies do. However, the single speaker at the bottom is good. Like of course it has very little bass, and can’t be your source of entertainment, but it is clear, loud and quite punchy.
All the buttons are to one side. They’re also really well done. Meaning you get good feedback with each click. Differentiating between the volume and the power button is easy as the power button is not only slightly larger, it also has a rough texture to it. The other side is clean.
My only issue with having all buttons to one side is that it makes it harder to take a screenshot. However, three-finger swipe to take a screenshot is still here, so that’s not a thing to worry about.
So yeah, everything is nice and well placed as I’ve said. But the most important thing I feel TECNO got absolutely right and deserves accolades is in the bezels. I really hated the idea behind reducing bezels but making the bottom bezel larger than the top. TECNO got it right. Everything is uniform; the top, the bottom, and the curved sides. A challenging bit I’ve noticed on many phones is always how they do the bezels around the corners of the phones, and around the camera cut-outs. TECNO got all that right too.
I think for the cameras, the Podcast above, the unboxing video below, and the gallery I have compiled of photos taken by the phone should give you an idea.
The 50MP camera is amazing. And TECNO’s software has evolved to better take advantage of the hardware. So processing of photos is fast and precise such that little to no quality in details and colour is lost. (NOTE: I am talking about still photos. Fast-moving objects are a struggle as you will see a little down below).
You can shoot 4K videos with both the back (50MP) and the front (48MP) lenses. And yes, they’re okay lenses for content creators who want to use the videos on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok etc. Just ensure you’re in good lighting, and you’ll be good to go. The audio captured is also respectable thanks to the dual microphones. But – and this was a huge mistake on TECNO’s side – there’s no stabilisation of any sort.
TECNO didn’t include both Electronic or Optical stabilisation. And this makes it a hard sell for people who want to use the cameras for videography. You will need to do so much to ensure if you’re moving the videos you record are smooth. This also affects photos. So if you want to take a photo of a fast-moving object, or you shake a little while taking a photo, you will find things to be blurred in your shot.
Where the Phantom X shines completely, however, is with night photography. Honestly, I don’t know what magic TECNO has been doing secretly, but they’ve nailed night mode so well. Like it is soooo good, it’s crazy. When in low light, just switch the camera to Night Mode (the AI will even tell you to when it notices phone’s in a dim place), and witness the magic. Shots take a few seconds to process, but that’s okay for me.
Photos taken by the Phantom X
(These have been compressed a lot, so as to be uploaded here)
When making a mid-range device, I like to think that there’s a couple of things manufacturers always consider. Do we make a phone with high-end specs, but basic design, and basic cameras? Or do we make a phone with mid-range specs, but high-quality design, and a respectable camera?
I believe TECNO chose to go with the second question. Let’s break it down:
|Design, Display and Build Quality
|Processor, RAM and Storage
The decision to use a Helio G95 chipset was a weird one for me. This is the same processor on the Infinix NOTE 10 Pro which is half the price of the Phantom X. However, here are a couple of things you must know from my experience with the phone:
- I’ve never had any performance issues
- I’ve never complained about device taking time in doing any tasks (In fact, this phone has one of the fastest boot times ever. Check as many unboxing videos as you can and see reviewers’ reactions, if you want to).
- Switching between apps, launching games, downloading stuff, and pretty much everything is smooth, fast, and well done. And this is thanks to the 8GB of fast RAM, and the 256GB of fast storage.
For me, TECNO’s choice of processor though bad is cancelled out by the performance I’ve gotten. The decision to use better RAM and faster UFS storage makes you forget that it’s just a Helio G95. Please take care to read throughout my article, before you say I am justifying anything. LOL.
As a standalone product, without looking at anything else in the market, this is a really good phone. I love it.
Some problems I hope they fix include:
- Android Auto – TECNO needs to make sure their devices can work with Android Auto. Check this thread to understand the issue. if you don’t have Android Auto in your car, don’t worry about this then.
- Bloatware – If you’ve read my recent article on the Pixel 6, you know the level of control Google has over small Android makers, and you understand why their phones come with all the bloatware. However, this is a much more expensive phone TECNO, and there’s already I bet good profit margins. So cut down on the bloatware please. (As I always say, just uninstall the unnecessary stuff).
- Fingerprint Scanner – The under-display scanner is cool. But I wish they put it one the side, like on the power button. This is because it is plagued with the same problems all optical scanners have; being slow.
- Updates – Well, the phone has received a couple of software update in my time using it. I just hope this hardware isn’t neglected when Android 12, Android 13, and Android 14 come out. TECNO should be able to update it to all those versions, for all those years, because it is very capable hardware. This is something Transsion still lags very much behind on.
Aya, now let’s address pricing!
Phantom X Price and Value for money:
This is where there’s a big disconnect I believe. The phone on its own is really good. Whatever TECNO left out or included doesn’t matter so much because you still get an amazing phone. However, the asking price is where things don’t feel right. But TECNO knows what they’re doing, and this decision is definitely a means to an end.
Hear me out on these two fronts:
- First: The Phantom X isn’t your normal TECNO Phone. From the naming, to the branding, to the adverts. You can see that TECNO is pushing the Phantom name, and very little of the TECNO name. If you want, go to YouTube, or their social media pages. It’s all Phantom. Nothing TECNO. Even at the launch, there was no TECNO branding anywhere. TECNO wants the phone to be judged on a different pedestal. Hence the pricing
- Second: The company has gotten bigger and it’s going global. That includes venturing into the Western and European markets. You’ve seen them get Chris Evans as the global ambassador, sponsor Manchester City football club, and even build a huge factory in Turkey. Launching a $400 to $500 device makes sense, because that’s the competitive price point in those markets. Devices at those prices are seen to be very affordable. And with TECNO’s design, and build quality choices for the Phantom X, people in those markets will see it as a very, very good deal!
However, I still feel like they are being quite ambitious with the price. Especially since they left out just two things that would make it a killer deal. If they’d used a Dimensity Chip from Mediatek to bring in 5G support, and if they’d gone out of their way to get an IP67 or IP68 water resistance certification, they’d argue out the pricing quite easily.
We are in a world where a bestseller like the Galaxy A52 exists, where there’s the amazing OPPO Reno 5 with crazy fast 65W charging, a world with the incredible absolute value for money beast like the Redmi NOTE 10 Pro, and many other devices. Asking for KES 50,000 is a huge demand if you can’t point out one more thing on top of the already really good design.
An idea I think TECNO needed to explore with the device was to make a unit with 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and price it at just below KES 30,000. Then see it sell like hot cake.
Anyways, this is a solid phone. Price aside, 10/10 would recommend it. But how can you get it, if it’s just too expensive? Let’s wait and see what the Phantom brand will be bringing to the table in the coming months.
Unboxing Phantom X:
Phantom X Specifications:
|RRP KES 49,999
|6.7 inch Full HD display
90Hz Refresh rate
|Triple Setup: 50MP main +13MP + 8MP
(Expandable Storage with dedicated Slot)
|Android 11 with HiOS Skin
|4700 mAh battery
|2G, 3G, 4G
|Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
3.5mm audio jack
|Under-display Fingerprint Scanner
DTS audio Dual Speakers