It’s been a busy couple of months for the Tecno brand as week after week, the Chinese mobile phone company has had a new device to showcase or tease. The latest, coming after the Phantom 9, which marked its return after a brief hiatus, and the Camon 12 series, is the Tecno Spark 4 series.
The fourth generation of Tecno’s entry-level smartphone lineup, its second line of defence after the F-series and the hard-to-place offshoots like the Pouvouir devices, brings with it minor improvements from our last interactions with its predecessors in the Spark 3 lineup.
For a start, as highlighted in our initial impressions piece, there’s the switch from a standard and Pro combo to an Air variant and a standard variant that is every bit the current generation’s own Pro model, minus the name.
Managing to cut down on the Spark 3 Pro’s price while offering the kind of improved feature set and aesthetics that one can expect of devices that are just over half a year apart, is its biggest attraction.
Big because for users of Tecno’s last generation Spark devices, there is no incentive to go out of their way to get the shiny new plastic that is the Tecno Spark 4. Big, as well, because for anyone that has stayed loyal to their second-generation Spark smartphone, this may be just the nudge they needed to update their hardware and get on board with Tecno’s updated software experience.
While there’s not much to say about the Tecno Spark 4’s design, beyond what we have already noted, how it all manages to come together makes for a device that is easy to handle, never mind that it packs what ought to be a large display (at over 6.5 inches).
One of the device’s biggest leaps since the last generation follows a recurring theme across Tecno devices unveiled in the second half of the year: a triple camera setup.
Given that it is an entry-level device, passing a verdict on the performance of its cameras is tricky.
On the face of it, it continues our longheld view that if you need better photos you should consider spending a bit more – Tecno’s own camera-centred budget devices, under the Camon series, are a good place to start.
However, when looking at the Spark 4 for just what it is: a basic entry-level smartphone that is just slightly better than its sibling the Spark 4 Air (which we are also sampling) and which is the result of years of work on what has morphed from a sub-Kshs 10,000 phone lineup to something justifying spending a thousand bob or more, it, well, sparks.
Of course, the sparking is very conditional. Give either cameras (front-facing or back) sufficient lighting and you’ll have acceptable results. Try to seek their services in dim lighting, as I did when I tried to keep my fondest memories of the hit staging of Kenya’s independence-era politician Tom Mboya’s life story for posterity, and the results will be nothing but disappointing.
This should be rather obvious for most smartphone users who are obsessed with photography and who are willing to strike a careful balance between their obsessions and other considerations but it will be something that the kind of users that the Spark 4 and its ilk target, will find out. The hard way.
The other considerations referenced above, are where the Tecno Spark 4 either stutters and falters or shines very well.
The former is the case when it comes to the performance, which is choppy. The latter is what one notes after using the device for an extended period: the battery life is good. The only speck is that, like other affordable devices from Tecno and Infinix, there is no fast charging. That means at least 2 and a half hours to charge up the device.
To sum up, the Tecno Spark 4 is just the kind of device that we can be glad it exists because it adds to the many options that budget smartphone buyers have. It also, thanks to its feature set, provides them with just the kind of headache that reviews like this one, should help clear up. Whether we’ve done that with this review, we have no idea (the comments section remains open).
What we know, though, is that from our usage, that display is a big deal-breaker. It’s good. The kind that stands out and makes you forget, for a moment, that you are staring at a lowly entry-level smartphone. It’s bright and vibrant, bringing to life the colourfulness of Tecno’s custom Android interface.
The camera, unfortunately, won’t be a deal-breaker. The mixed results we have managed to get mean that you’ll be looking to the device’s other features, like the aforementioned display, for instance, to help you know where to place it when pitted against competitors.
The all-plastic design, ergonomic button placement and the inclusion of everything one would need, whatever the trade-offs this results in, as well as the good battery life, go a long way in keeping the Tecno Spark 4 in our good graces.
However, the overall sluggishness of the device when it has too much to handle, which is to be expected at this price point and the usual constant stream of advertising that dominates the lock screen when the device is idle, don’t do much to add any points in the Spark 4’s favour.
Does the Tecno Spark 4 sound like your kind of device?