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Gadget of the Week: Tecno makes Pro move in SA

One of Africa’s most trusted smartphone brands is moving in on the South African youth market, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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What is it?

Last week saw the South African release of another low-cost, high-spec smartphone from a brand that has worked its way into the hearts of the rest of the continent.

Tecno, the most popular handset name in Nigeria, and with a powerful presence in Kenya – making it big in two of Africa’s biggest smartphone markets – has yet to convince the South African market. However, the last four months of 2021 may well change that. Starting with the release of the low-midrange Tecno Spark 7 Pro last week and the Tecno Camon 17P coming next month, Tecno appears to be taking on this market phone by phone.

The Spark 7 Pro has been described as a flagship phone at a budget price, but the former term is probably inappropriate, given that Tecno also has the Camon and Phantom sub-brands sitting higher up the range. Suffice to say that, for its price, this is as close to flagship as one can get right now.

It is equipped with a triple-camera on the back, led by a solid 48MP lens and Super Night Mode for low-light shooting. It is powered by the Mediatek Helio G80 chipset, comprising an octa-core processor and 950MHz graphics unit, which enables a fast 90Hz screen refresh rate on the 6.6-inch edge-to-edge display. That means animations are smoother, and apps load faster.

Stephen Ha, General Manager of Tecno Mobile, says the company is focused on what younger generations want from their smartphones: “We aim to provide them with the best of contemporary technology in artistic designs and elegant taste. The Tecno Spark 7 series reflects our promise to … tertiary students by offering advanced technology such as bigger and better displays and 48MP Clear Triple Cameras to bring an immersive cinema experience to their fingertips.”

The camera includes an artificial intelligence lens that is claimed to brighten dark environments and allow smiles to stand out. We can attest to the former, but the latter, using a “Smile Snapshot” photo function to focus on the face and capture the photo when it sees a smile, is hit and miss.

A real stand-out feature, on the other hand, is a Video Bokeh mode, which focuses on the subject and blurs the background – a feature now standard for still photos, but unusual in video – especially at this price point.

How much is it?

Starting at R1,999 for the basic 64GB storage edition with 4GB memory, up to R3,499 for the full-spec version with 128GB storage. It comes in 3 variants, namely 8+4GB, 64+6GB and 64+4GB.

Why should you care?

The youth market is extremely price-sensitive, and will find tremendous appeal in a handset that can also double as a tablet, thanks to its massive 6.6-inch screen. For some, it may even be a laptop replacement.

Most significantly, it gives Tecno a value proposition for South African users that is hard to beat, and will ensure the brand gains the “talkability” it enjoys in many markets across Africa.

Biggest negatives

  • Micro-USB charging port, at a time when most higher-end smartphones are moving to the more durable USB-C standard.
  • While it runs on Android 11, it uses the proprietary HiOS7.5 skin, which can complicate standard Android functionality.

Biggest positives

  • The price. One can’t argue with R1,999 for a near-flagship phone.
  • The size, if one is looking for both a lifestyle and productivity device – ideal for students, in other words. Not much smaller than a mini-tablet.
  • Comes with screen protector fitted.
  • Fingerprint scanner on the back – the preferred location for many users.
  • 3.5mm headphone jack, an important feature for its target market, at a time when high-end phones are dropping it.
  • At least a full day of use, thanks to large 5000mAh battery. In standby mode, when not in use, it can stay alive for up to two weeks.

* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

Click here to read how you can win a share of R600,000 in cash and prizes from Tecno.

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