Tecno Phantom 8 unboxing and first impressions

Tecno Mobile has a brand new phone in the Kenyan market, the Tecno Phantom 8. Unlike last year where it launched two devices, this year we have just one device to look at and, hopefully, buy. At least as of this point in time because, you never know, surprises do happen.

The Tecno Phantom 8 looks to be a fantastic device. At least, that is the impression it leaves you with when you unwrap the big black box (with gold inscriptions) it ships in and you get to savour the premium-looking (and feeling, actually) device.

In the box

Here’s what you get inside that big black box:

– Some documentation – user guide/manual and some other useful information. Interestingly, I did not sport the Palmchat sticker. Even the traditional blue Tecno 12-month warranty sticker is missing. That is not to mean, however, that the device lacks any warranty. It’s still there for a full year and that is well represented by another small black leaflet. One also gets a BoomPlay Music card. BoomPlay Music is the music app available on the device that can play both, locally available songs as well as stream a la Google Play Music.

– An extra back cover.

– A SIM-ejection tool.

– A clear plastic case (that’s a bit hard).

– A pair of earphones – not much appears to have changed from the ones that shipped with the Phantom 6/6 Plus last year. I am still of the opinion that the Phantom 5 had a really nice pair of headsets. These ones, though, do just fine.

– An “adaptive fast-charging” brick accompanied by a cable for that Light Speed Charge that Tecno is now known for. Surprisingly, there is no microUSB to USB Type-C adaptor as was the case last year and as is the case on Infinix’s newly-launched smartphone.







Impressions

As was the case last year, I have with me the champagne gold colour model. It is all black on the front top, bottom and minimal side bezels which complement the display. Tecno did not succumb to the near-bezel-less craze that has hit the mobile world. However, just like it did with the smaller Phantom 6, it stuck a dual-camera system at the back of the device, like every other device worth its name from the last one years.

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Talking about the back of the Tecno Phantom 8, it’s a straight-up fingerprint magnet. So much that you will be left with no choice but to engage the services of the clear plastic case included in the box. The shiny glass back, in the case of the champagne gold colour that my review unit (sourced from Tecno Mobile Kenya) rocks, it looks really good that the smudges it picks seem like some sort of punishment to anyone who’s just out to enjoy their purchase. Aaargh, the price we have to pay for happiness.

Thanks to its rounded edges, the Tecno Phantom 8’s sharp chamfered edges don’t become much of an issue. If anything, their shine makes the metallic frame, which separates the glass on both sides, a glittering beauty.

As was the case last year with the champagne gold Phantom 6/6 Plus, Tecno’s software overlay, dubbed HiOS, has been tweaked to match the colour of the device. The end result is a chocolate-y interface, a departure from the very colourful traditional HiOS interface. The only exception to this rule is the notification shade and the quick settings interface which retain the standard HiOS blue accents. For anyone upgrading to the Phantom 8 from the Phantom 6 and 6 Plus or even lower cadre Tecno devices like those in the Camon series, things should be pretty much familiar.

Since it’s been a while since I used a Tecno smartphone, I noticed the emergence of a news feed of some sort on the left of the home screen. Something like the Google Now feed of old (though we now have a Google feed) when one was using the Google Now launcher or a Nexus device. On top of that feed is a strip that acts as a quick access to the most commonly used applications.

Another quick catch is “Eye care” Tecno’s own blue light filter. Unfortunately, though, “Eye care” has to be manually activated and cannot be set to kick in as soon as night falls and return things to normal in the morning as the sun rises. I am not sure for how long Eye care has existed as a feature on Tecno devices but this is the first time I am encountering it on the Phantom 8 and I can’t wait to see Tecno improve on it in future updates.

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Another addition is T-point, a quick menu that should come in handy to anyone who finds the Tecno Phantom 8 borderline unwieldy. This feature simply adds floating shortcuts to access some apps (Tecno Spot forums, the camera, Facebook and WhatsApp are set by default even though there is space to add one more app), open the app drawer and fire up the recent apps menu.

Another thing that caught my eye during the set up process is the presence of a “Vision settings” button. This allows users to quickly set up some “magnification” gestures like triple-tap to magnify any part of the display work area.

Still on the software, not much has changed from last year. One is still presented with an option to sign up (or sign in for existing members) for Tecno’s Spot forums.

On the hardware side, the side buttons on the Tecno Phantom 8 are very clicky even without any sort of texturization which is amazing.

Selfies, which should be a big deal on this device, look very sharp both in bright lighting situations as well as in low light. I will be back with a full verdict on them in a few days.

The fingerprint sensor, which was available on the back of the Phantom 6 Plus and missing on the Phantom 6, is very fast.

My favourite feature of the Tecno Phantom 8, so far, is the bottom-firing speakers. They bring back memories of the Phantom 5 which had equally loud speakers. The only difference here is that the two years between the two devices seems to count for something. Unlike the Phantom 5’s speaker which was just loud and not much else, the Phantom 8’s speaker tries to balance the sound and the results are impressive. Since I am neither an audiophile nor a sound engineer, take my observations on the Phantom 8’s speaker with an extra pinch of salt since those are purely subjective opinions and your experience, should you lay your hands on the device, may differ.

Specifications of the device are as captured here.

The device costs Kshs 37,000.

Just how long does the Tecno Phantom 8 last? I will be answering that and any other questions you may have on the device in a few days’ time, stick around.

Emmanuel Chenze

Let's just say I know my stuff. I have 7 years experience handling, tinkering with and then writing extensively about Android stuff. Sometimes it is exciting, sometimes it is not; things can get stale with nothing new to show but I live for each one of those moments. Have something Android-related that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze@androidkenya.com