Tecno’s flagship smartphone is finally here.
As is the case with any device that gets to be a brand’s poster child, it packs lots of features, building on others that users of Tecno smartphones over the years have come to be accustomed to, mostly by way of upgrades. There are are also some new feature additions.
The Tecno Phantom 9 has a triple-lens camera setup going on. The 3 lenses at the back take care of the usual photography needs that come with the expectations of this day’s smartphone user. It also adds sensors for ultra-wide shots and addition of depth information to images to produce the macro shots and bokehs that one may be looking for. Granted, they won’t be as sharp as one will get elsewhere, they still get the job done.
Where the camera comes through, though, is when one tasks it with taking selfies. In low-light conditions, the dual-flash LEDs on the front (one on either side of the earpiece) spring into action and even though they may be blinding as you stare directly into the sensor to get the best shot, the end results should speak for themselves.
With an automatic AI mode, the phone will be doing most of the heavy lifting i.e. tuning scenes even though users can still enable features like HDR, switch to ultra-wide and macro modes etc.
The lack of a “pro” mode clearly speaks to the target audience of the Tecno Phantom 9’s camera: ordinary users like us who just want to take snaps with as little effort as possible and not having to worry about the little light in the room and looking to compensate for it by cranking up the ISO or tuning the white balance when the light situation is far from one’s reality. Where that comes back to bite us, though, is when you use the camera and, like yours truly, get frustrated by the slow shutter speed. From my experience, you can avoid the blurry shots that you get as a result by being a little more patient but there’s that.
When it comes to Tecno smartphones, cheap or expensive, good battery is almost a given these days. The reliability that the brand has come to be known for when it comes to endurance lives on in the Phantom 9. Not only is the standby time impressive, even when you push the device you’ll still manage to pull through a long day with lower double digits to spare before you need to plug it in. And when you do, it will juice up real fast.
It is not always a guarantee that a pairing of 6GB of memory and a chipset like the Helio P35 that comes with the Tecno Phantom 9 will automatically guarantee the best of performance as many things are usually at stake but it manages to do just fine.
Throughout my 2 weeks of constant usage of the device as my primary smartphone, I have no complaints to make. Granted I did not push it to the wall as I am likely to do at certain times, based on my usage, I am sure it would still get me wherever I need to go without stuttering or overheating.
A reduction in the animations and other bells and whistles that have been front and centre of the entire Tecno experience over the years is also to credit with the overall smoothness of everything.
Much as I didn’t find anything outstanding about the Phantom 9’s 6.4-inch 1080p display, the back of the device is stunning! The Lapland Aurora colour stands out and I’ve felt guilty having to hide it all in that included case (more on that below). It takes you in with its glow even though you may already have seen something similar on an Infinix device, or a Huawei smartphone or something from Xiaomi. It’s all the rage right now and it’s great to see Tecno join the fray.
Let this not fool you. There is nothing extra or beyond the norm that you get in the retail packaging of the Tecno Phantom 9, unlike how things have played out before. It’s just the usual stuff as you may have seen already. Those earphones included in the box? Nothing outstanding about them, even the sound. However, guess what caught my eye? That case!
It comes in a neutral colour (black) but it is not until you get to experience its soft sandstone feel that you get swept off your feet and won’t mind slapping it on the beauty that is the Phantom 9’s back. Even better, it doesn’t add any weight to the device. It just adds better grip.
6. Generous storage space
This is likely to split opinion but it exists and is worth pointing out. The Tecno Phantom 9 base storage configuration is 128 gigabytes. That is nothing unique as we have gotten used to this but it is commendable seeing Tecno step up to this.
The company’s flagship devices have always been generous with storage – I can still remember getting excited about the Phantom 5’s 32GB onboard storage and the Phantom 6 Plus’ 64GB – and the Phantom 9 is not any different.
That one can take advantage of the availability of a microSD card slot to add some extra 512GB is great.
7. Safaricom VoLTE-ready
By now, every Safaricom subscriber has a VoLTE profile ready and it is just a matter of having a smartphone that supports VoLTE (and making sure the same is enabled in the mobile network settings).
The Tecno Phantom 9 is one of those that arrive with ready support for Safaricom’s VoLTE allowing users to make crisp HD voice calls over 4G.
8. In-display fingerprint scanner
This comes in the list even though it is one of the things you’ll encounter immediately because it is kind of a mixed bag and will take some getting used. Instead of the fingerprint sensor being located on the back of the device as has been the case with Tecno devices over the years, or on the side of the device as brands like Samsung are doing, or on the front on a physical button like Tecno used to do, it’s embedded under the display.
The fingerprint sensor on the Tecno Phantom 9 is the optical type which means that one can only use it on a specific part of the display and not just anywhere. Also, owing to its optical nature, one has to press the finger being used to unlock against the display slightly so that as it is scanned (an LED light is shone on the finger to allow for the scanning), unique features like ridges are also captured so that the system can check them against the stored biometric record before authorizing access. The optical nature of the scanner also means that you will have issues using it with wet hands.
Are these features enough to have the Tecno Phantom 9 stand out from the competition?