When the Tecno Spark 4 went on sale last month, it did so without its companion, its stepped-down variant, the Tecno Spark 4 Air.
With an “available later” tag slapped next to its name, those that have been keen to sample a 2019 Tecno smartphone that costs under Kshs 10,000 have had to wait much longer to see what they can get from its entry-level Spark lineup.
The Tecno Spark 4 Air, which is available just as the holiday season kicks off in earnest carries over most of the deficiencies of its better-specced sibling while still managing to build on its own positives to warrant being talked about in the same breath as the Xiaomi Redmi 8A, its retiring sibling the Redmi 7A, among others.
Whereas the Tecno Spark 4 assumes a slender profile, the Spark 4 Air adds a few grams thanks to its “unique” design.
The design is “unique” because the standard variant trades it for a non-removable battery while the Air goes back to the last generation and borrows its removable back and adds a removable battery into the mix as well. This goes a long way in accounting for the overall thickness of the device even though one doesn’t notice this immediately they unbox the device thanks to the battery not being inserted.
The added weight, however, goes a long way in enhancing the handling of the device which is already much easier thanks to the reduced overall frame – the device is noticeably shorter by about 9 millimetres. This, in effect, also means that we are not getting the 6.52-inch HD+ display that defines the Spark 4’s front. Instead, we get an inferior panel that is also at least 0.4 inches short.
That variation is because of the large bezels on the Tecno Spark 4 Air which you can’t miss.
The changes also go all the way to the back where the smaller Tecno’s design comes into full view and it’s markedly different from the gradient design of the Spark 4. The plastic feel, while retained, is much more pronounced on the Spark 4 Air.
What all these design changes do that is of most significance is that they combine beautifully to make what should be otherwise an inferior device (when pitted directly against the Spark 4) stand out on its own and make me wish that Tecno had somehow offered the Spark 4 in such a size without trading off the other features it has had to remove in order to cut down the price.
Due to how nice it is to handle the Tecno Spark 4 Air, I just wish I didn’t have to live with the reduced battery capacity and downgraded snappers (when the ones on the Spark 4 were already not my cup of tea).
Going by the feels alone, the Tecno Spark 4 Air is my favourite device of the two. It makes it easy to not make a big fuss about one-handed use of a 6-incher. So much that the whole point of features geared towards enhancing one-handed use like the smart panel is likely to be lost on a user.
However, as everyone knows, smartphones are much more than the experience when handling them. While that is definitely important since our devices don’t spend entire days just laying facedown on desks, there’s more to them than just that.
Looking beyond, that is where things get cloudy for the Spark 4 Air.
The move to have the speaker go behind the device doesn’t do much to improve whatever was already a very low-quality audio experience. Neither does the choice of cameras used. If we are being honest, you should be able to take better quality snaps on the Spark 4 Air’s competitors like those on offer from Xiaomi’s sub-brand Redmi.
However, where Tecno scores favourably is its deliberate efforts to bring features it offers on its more expensive offerings all the way down to the entry-level smartphone, well, level. This provides it with something to build upon next year when the successors of the fourth generation of Spark devices are being mooted.
The battery life is also reduced thanks to the drop in capacity to 3,000mAh from the beefy 4,000mAh that one gets by simply spending Kshs 2,000 more. However, this is only an issue theoretically. Practically, throughout my usage of the device, it simply didn’t arise as I always had enough juice remaining after a whole day of being up and about. So, it is not a dealbreaker for anyone whose battery anxiety is always by the door waiting to be let in.
Other hiccups that were encountered in the Spark 4 like annoying ad placements on the lock screen, sluggish performance and what have you will also be rearing their ugly heads from time to time.
With the same amount of memory and storage capacity as the Spark 4, the Spark 4 Air can easily be what you’d want to go with if you are willing to trade in at least half a day of extra life, a few more inches on the screen real estate and one less camera for a slightly low price.
Features like face unlock 2.0 help make a case for it when pitted against other devices but the long time it takes to fully charge will have you pulling all your hair in a mix of anxiety and frustration if you hadn’t factored that in and you are running late.
Does the Tecno Spark 4 Air sound like the device for you or you’d rather stick with the Spark 4 itself?