So, the Tecno Spark 2 is here.
It’s carrying on the vision of its predecessor from last year of providing more options for those looking for entry-level smartphones in the country.
It’s also hell-bent on bringing the Spark lineup up to speed with the latest in the mobile tech world without raising eyebrows by raising the price to crazy levels, a tough thing to do.
In the box
Whatever you may end up taking away from this and your own personal experience taking the wrapper off this device, the Tecno Spark 2 appears to be set to impress from the start.
Well, save for that little matter of whoever packaged the review units my other friends and I who are also reviewing this device (Dickson, Kaluka) have, putting the cart before the horse: the display’s wrapper lays at the bottom of the box, denying us the enviable experience of taking it off.
Well, whatever. I am just being petty.
This is what you get inside the Tecno Spark 2’s box:
- The first thing that strikes you about the Tecno Spark 2 is how light it is. When you’re removing from the box, you are tempted to continue checking if the battery is someone in there even you know so well, it’s not removable.
- The design of the Tecno Spark 2 is almost the same as that of last year’s model. You get that good-feelling matte finish at the back and a logo-less front part. The only point of departure in the device’s design when compared to its predecessor is just the orientation of the camera module and the accompanying flash ring.
- As you can see from the above unboxing photograph, there is a snap on back cover included in the Tecno Spark 2’s packaging. I almost never dwell on such things but this deserves a mention because I kind of fell for it and, unlike other devices I get to use and review where I usually dump the accompanying cheap plastic cases and back covers as soon as I try them on, I think I’ll be using it throughout the time I have the Tecno Spark 2 with me. This because not only does it remind me of the Band-Aid-looking covers accompanying Apple’s laughable attempt at a “cheap” iPhone when it debuted the iPhone 5c almost almost 5 years ago, it actually feels good holding on to.
- Of course, that 6-inch 18:9 display is unmissable. For a couple of reasons, other than the obvious fact that it’s what you’ll be using. It’s the first time that the 2018-craze is hitting the year-old Tecno entry-level lineup. It’s also a rare sight on devices of the Spark 2’s type – both price-wise and platform-wise.
- Talking about the platform, the Tecno Spark arrives running Android 8.1, Oreo, Go Edition. Basically, it runs on Android Go. However, if you have used or seen a Tecno smartphone lately then this may be hard to deduce at first or until you open the Settings app and check ‘About phone’ or encounter the numerous Go apps that are pre-installed. This is because the Tecno Spark 2 runs Tecno’s custom overlay: HiOS. Version 3.3.0, to be specific. Tecno has gone the itel route to provide a customized experience for its users. This is a stark contrast to HMD Global, the makers of another Android Go smartphone available in the local market and which competes directly with the Spark 2, the Nokia 1. The Nokia 1’s software is untouched. That has its own advantages and disadvantages as I noted when reflecting on another Android Go smartphone, the itel A32F.
- Android Go, for all intents and purposes is almost an excuse for device makers to cut back on all the good things under the guise of delivering the best possible Android experience at prices we can’t afford to argue against. And, to be honest, I cannot blame them. However, Tecno appears to have missed the memo. This is because they give you more features than you would ordinarily expect on their Android Go devices. Well, at least the Spark 2 that I have used for the last few hours since I am not so sure what’s up with the F series. Or at least they try to. There’s a bigger battery than you will find on other Android Go phones already in the local market or set to enter the local market. There’s the 6-inch 18:9 display we have already explored and there’s a fingerprint scanner at the back of the device, something that you don’t expect to see often on Android Go devices. To complement it, there’s an even one other rarer feature: face unlock. Yes, that.
- Facebook Lite and WhatsApp are the only non-Google and non-Tecno apps that come pre-installed on the device. While WhatsApp may not have gotten on board with the whole “trimming the fat” concept of Android Go, at least the app is optimized for the platform, and, after all, seeing how popular it has become in Kenya and the world over, it would still make it to the first batch of apps that buyers of the Spark 2 install, anyway.
- I found it interesting that there’s some Boomplay promotional material included in the Tecno Spark 2’s box but the app is not included on the phone itself. The only music app/service available on the phone right out of the box is Google Play Music. Not that I am complaining since I am not such a fan of the app/service. Just an interesting observation. Also, thank God! There’s still some redundancy, though, in the form of Tecno’s own mobile web browser app, PHX, which comes pre-installed alongside a news app, Eagleee. Bloat.
- Who would’ve thought that a smartphone that costs just a little more than Kshs 10,000 and is, by the very definition of the word, budget, would have such a nice display?
- On any other day, the camera is what would perhaps have me picking the Tecno Spark 2 over the Xiaomi Redmi 5A, another budget smartphone I have used briefly that I really like that, unfortunately, has neither exceptionally good battery life as the Spark 2 does nor the optimizations of Android Go but brings to the table two times the memory. I have barely used the camera on the Tecno Spark 2 but it looks promising and, for a device of its price, impressive.
- Just like the battery life. I could only manage to drain half of it after 16.5 hours, 5 of which the screen was on and in use, complete with either mobile data turned on or Wi-Fi connected. Looks like instead of struggling to save power, as is the case on most cheap devices, the Tecno Spark 2 user’s biggest dilemma will be figuring out how to drain that battery. What a good problem to have!
Maybe after this onslaught everyone will go back to the drawing board and add some of these features if at all they plan to give Tecno a run for their money at the entry-level segment of the market.
Just in case you happen to forget, it’s a smartphone with just 1GB memory I am talking about here. 1GB RAM! I have my own misgivings about 1GB RAM devices but it looks like the Tecno Spark 2 is out to prove my ilk wrong. Want to know if its performance measures up just like the rest of its features managed to impress me at first? Stick around for the full review of the device in coming weeks.
The Tecno Spark 2 is available on Jumia for Kshs 11,299 and countrywide at various stores starting today. A 2GB RAM variant, which will surely cost slightly more, should also be on the way.