Chinese manufacturer Tecno Mobile is the newest entrant to the South African smartphone market. The company makes affordable handsets and has been around since 2006, with a focus on the African, South Asian and Middle East regions. Their presence follows another Chinese brand Vivo who launched devices in South Africa last December.
Tecno handsets were available through select retailers in 2019 locally, but its official presence here, as of March 2020 means a wider variety of phones.
Affordability for our consumers is key for us to ensure that the African market has access to smartphones – Jasper Zhan, head of GTM and Marketing for Tecno Mobile
The company has sold over 124-million mobile phones globally, and its Camon range of handsets are available in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, India and now South Africa.
An official launch event was meant to take place in Johannesburg but the global pandemic put a halt to those plans. Instead, I was sent a unit for review.
INTRODUCING THE CAMON 12
The Camon 12 is a 6.52″ smartphone (720×1600 resolution) with a centred dot notch that runs on Android 9 Pie, with its own HiOS overlay. This particular model has a strong focus on photography when compared to other models, with triple rear cameras (16+8+2MP) and 16MP selfie-cam. It runs on a 2Ghz Octa-core Mediatek MT6762 Helio processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 4000mAh battery. Sensors include G-Sensor, ambient light, proximity and fingerprint.
Inside the box you get the smartphone, earphones (3.5mm audio jack), 2-pin plug, micro USB charging cable, sim tool, plastic phone cover, screen protector and instruction manual.
I love the addition of the screen protector, plastic cover and headphone jack for a low-cost phone, but not sure why they didn’t put a USB-C port instead.
DESIGN AND LOOK
The 6.52″ smartphone is thin and elongated with dimensions of 165.97×75.8×8.2mm. It fits in my one hand but you need both hands to use it – your thumb won’t reach the top of the screen. On the back you will notice a camera bump, which is the norm these days and a fingerprint sensor at the top centre.
The unit that I have is in a “sky cyan” ombre shade. I like the look, very modern but it’s glossy and attracts fingerprints easily. You definitely need to put that cover on asap.
USER EXPERIENCE AND APPS
The Camon 12 runs Android 9 and has the Google suite of apps pre-loaded. This includes Google, Chrome, Gmail, Maps, YouTube, YT Music, Drive etc. The reason I am listing all these apps is if you’re considering a future Huawei phone, it won’t have it. There are also other apps, including a Vodacom folder – the phone also comes pre-loaded with a Vodacom wallpaper.
In addition to the Play Store, HiOS has its own Palm Store to download apps. Once I opened it, it installed the SuperSport app before I knew what was happening. I think it’s just safer to trust the Google Play Store instead.
By default there are ads on the phone. One is via a bar above the Google search bar; I had to look it up online on how to disable it. Long press the homescreen and go to Desktop settings; I disabled a bunch of things, including recommended apps that are ads. I don’t know why this is switched on.
On the lockscreen, there are permanent stories being shown for you to click on. If you swipe a story away, it will be replaced by another. I figured out it was coming from the Phoenix browser, which I deleted. The notifications tab is also very messy; I’m not sure why everything is so busy and confusing. Once you figured out how to disable all these ads and extras, the experience will be much better.
The triple rear AI cameras consist of a 16+8+2MP shooter that has AI scene detection and AI HDR; 120-degree wide angle support, macro shots and bokeh effects. I found with macro shots, it sometimes struggles to focus; but portrait shots are fine. Night photos or low-light pics are not as good as day time shots. It also has some fun AR filters built-in, like Snapchat. You can toggle the main camera to shoot in different sizes and ratios from 6MP (1:1) to 9MP (20:9) all the way up to 16MP (4:3). Both front and back cameras shoot videos at 1080p HD.
The 16MP selfie-cam is good and you can toggle between AI Cam, Portrait, Beauty mode, AR shots or wide selfie. There is definitely a difference between AI, Portrait and Beauty, and depending on what sort of effect you like on selfies, you’ll find one that you like. I’m not a fan of beauty mode because it removes my freckles.
In terms of features against what other cameras have to offer in a similar class, it is all there.
The Tecno Camon 12 is a good low-cost device option right now, which should be available to purchase after lockdown in South Africa. It runs smoothly, has a good overall camera setup and a battery capacity of 4000mAh, which is more than enough for a day. There is a sound enhancement option under settings, which works best when turned on, especially for watching YouTube videos.
We cannot ignore the fact that Huawei no longer has Google Mobile Services, and that Tenco Mobile has full access. The Camon 12 lets you sign into apps like Google Maps, Chrome and YouTube, with access to the Play Store. It is slightly let down by the default ads, which can be turned off with a bit of digging but I’m not sure how savvy enough users are to figure this out.
The Tecno Camon 12 is priced at R2999 and available to purchase with delivery after lockdown from the Hi-Online store.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 14 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ firstname.lastname@example.org