The primary camera performs fine in adequate light.
It has the latest software, which is a welcome sign for a budget category phone.
The design is similar to every other Tecno smartphone in this series.
On April 6, Tecno Mobile announced that it is the official smartphone partner for Kings XI Punjab IPL team. The announcement should not come as a surprise since cricket and bollywood are two of the easiest ways to get your brand recognized in India. Vivo and Oppo have grown to become the third and fifth largest smartphone brands primarily by involving cricket and Bollywood in their marketing strategies. Taking cues from these two brands, Transsion Holdings’ sub-brand Tecno has also joined the bandwagon.
The first smartphone from Tecno post that announcement is the Camon i Sky, a smartphone that is being promoted by the Kings XI Punjab IPL team as part of the sponsorship agreement. However, it is a smartphone that has the potential to reach the hands of several thousand first-time smartphone buyers in this day of increasingly affordable internet access.
India’s smartphone market is one where Xiaomi and Samsung seem likely to retain their leadership for the next few quarters but the rest of the market share is up for grabs and subject to change on a monthly basis. It is an opportunity for every other smartphone brand to tap, but Finland’s HMD Global with the Nokia brand, and Transsion Holdings with its three different sub-brands – Infinix, Tecno and iTel – have the best shot at cracking into top five list. With Tecno, Transsion has been trying to create a broad range of devices that offer latest design but at a cost that is fraction of what industry offers. It is taking the playbook of Xiaomi’s dominance in the online market to the offline retail segment. So, should you consider buying the Tecno Camon i Sky as an offline customer for Rs 7,499? We help you figure it out in this review.
Design and Display
I had the opportunity to review the Tecno Camon i Air recently and the new Camon i Sky is not much different in terms of design. It still sports a metal casing, which shows how materials previously exclusive to premium smartphones have become a standard even for budget devices. It features a smaller 5.65-inch display with a resolution of 960 x 480 pixels that translates to a pixel density of 190 pixels-per-inch. Yes, that does not sound like too many pixels but despite a WVGA+ display and the taller 18:9 aspect ratio, I found the Camon i Sky’s display easy enough to read. However, the display, as one would expect from a budget device, fails to show accurate colors.
The most common problem being one where the display seems to reflect white as grey especially when the brightness is set lower than usual. In simple terms, it struggles to show natural hues and prefers brighter colors than duller ones. On the bright side, it does get very bright and is easy to view even under direct sunlight. If seen from the budget smartphone lens then I would call this display panel as an acceptable standard.
Apart from the display, the front is also home to thinner bezels, a front-facing camera with dedicated LED flash and earpiece. The back is home to a 13-megapixel main camera, dual-LED flash, a fingerprint sensor and Tecno branding at the centre. There is a volume rocker and power button at the right side while left side is home to SIM and SD card slots. The top of the device is equipped with the 3.5mm headphone jack while bottom holds the microUSB charging port.
In a nutshell, the Tecno Camon i Sky looks like any other smartphone. It is rectangular in shape, has a metal back and a tall display with black bezels surrounding it. There isn’t much to write about when it comes to design, and I think that’s precisely the point. Take any smartphone that costs around eight thousand, and they all would look similar with their brand name being the only major differentiator.
Performance and Battery Life
The Tecno Camon i Sky is a smartphone powered by the MediaTek MT6739WA quad-core SoC coupled with PowerVR Rogue GE8100 GPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of RAM. I’ll be honest here, I didn’t stress-test this device with applications such as Need For Speed or Asphalt 8: Airborne.
However, I did stress-test this phone more realistically by having multiple Chrome tabs, syncing my office email, downloading Slack for office communication, connecting Facebook, Twitter and Instagram apps. I even downloaded WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, the two main messaging services. The most common way to stretch a phone to its limits is by opening multiple apps and having multiple Chrome tabs running simultaneously. Since people buying such budget smartphones would be mostly looking at communicating with friends, posting on social media and surfing the web, this test reflected that the Camon i Sky handled these applications without any serious issues. As long as you aren’t expecting too much, the phone won’t disappoint you.
On synthetic benchmarks, however, it seemed to perform slower than usual. It took longer for the smartphone to render an HD video and graphically-intensive apps stuck on launch screen before revealing the content. I’m particularly concerned about the aging of this MediaTek processor, which does not have a proven track record of staying updated for different app environments. If you are planning to use Camon i Sky strictly for basic media consumption and communicating with friends then this device will serve you well. Anything more than that will be a slow process.
The Camon i Sky packs a 3,050mAh battery, which is decent for such a budget device. It lasted me a full day with all the above mentioned apps running and the device staying connected either through 4G or a wireless connection. It is a fairly decent performer in that regard but there are competing devices with huge 4,000mAh batteries, which tend to last for two full days. If endurance is the key feature for you then you should probably on the other side of fence.
The Google Pixel 2 scored 98 on DxOMark. The Apple iPhone X came close and Samsung Galaxy S9+ dethroned it with a score of 99. Then came, Huawei P20 and P20 Pro, which defeated all these devices with scores of 102 and 109 respectively. The one big takeaway from this “Who takes the DxOMark crown” saga is that a smartphone can produce good pictures with a relatively new sensor supporting large pixels and an algorithm that brings the best of image processing into the compact form factor.
The Tecno Camon i Sky does not do any of that. It has a 13-megapixel image sensor (the make of which I could not verify) at the back that does the job of taking decent pictures whenever there is enough light. In other words, it is a camera that gets the job done only in ideal daylight conditions. The primary problem I found to be the way it locks onto subjects. The auto-focus is rather slow and if you try capturing something from a moving vehicle or a moving object then the Camon i Sky either misses out the subject or takes blurry pictures. In the low-light scenario, its sensor with narrow aperture does not absorb a lot of light and the final result is generally low on detail and high on noise.
I think this is expected since the company is trying to keep cost here and image sensors and signal processors are generally the most expensive components on any smartphone. However, Tecno should take this as a learning lesson and try to improve the imaging aspects of its smartphones with future models. The 8-megapixel selfie camera, on the other end, does good job with dedicated flash but the portrait mode is rather disappointing.
I can say that a lot has changed in terms of software since I reviewed the Camon i Air. For starters, the Camon i Sky is running Android 8.1 Oreo as the base operating system with HiOS version 3.3 on top of it. This is a welcome change considering a smartphone made by same brand not long ago was running a year old operating system. It has been patched with the Android security update for the month of February, which isn’t the most recent but is certainly acceptable for a budget smartphone.
Since it is running Android Oreo, you get all the basic features of the operating system including Notification Channels and PiP mode. With HiOS v3.3.0, Tecno has added more customization options including WhatsApp mode which allows only the messaging app to use data for downloads while all other apps are restricted from accessing data. This is an interesting feature since it works seamlessly with the app used by more than 200 million users in the country.
There is also an app called Freezer, which allows users to freeze applications they won’t be using after a certain point. You can unfreeze them when you actually need to use them. It also supports face unlock feature (strangely it is called Face ID, which could lead to trademark concerns) which can be used to unlock the device with your face but I would recommend using fingerprint sensor instead since the technology is not that secure. While Tecno has developed a few useful enhancements to its own OS, it has failed to curb duplication of apps. The Camon i Sky comes with Phoenix browser and Kika keyboard, which are basically duplicate apps for Google Chrome and Google Keyboard. Since they are baked into the UI, users cannot remove them and Tecno does not let you freeze them either.
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This is a very critical thing to say but after using the Camon i Sky, I could not stop but keep thinking about the Camon i Air. That smartphone offers a display with more pixels and a slightly faster CPU at a cost that is just Rs 500 more. If I have to pick a smartphone from Tecno’s product lineup then it will surely be the Camon i Air and not Camon i Sky, particularly when the price difference is so little.
The Tecno Camon i Sky is a very good attempt at offering lot of good stuff for budget price but at the end of the day, its entirely outmatched by a product from the company’s own line up. However, if that Rs 500 is critical to your budget, it might just be worth considering this phone for getting the basics right.