Tecno Camon 15 review

For the first half of 2020, Tecno is closing any loopholes that may be exploited by the competition as it seeks to break its hold of the Kenyan smartphone market.

It is doing so with a number of new smartphone releases.

The Tecno Camon 15, at least in Kenya, is the first of what are hopefully many such-like devices.

Like those that came before it, it arrives in several variants: the Tecno Camon 15 (standard), the Tecno Camon 15 Air and the Tecno Camon 15 Premier. The latter two enter the market in a few days – they probably will have been available already by the time you are reading this.

While the Premier, as we will see in a comparison, goes all out to deliver value to those that want more, the Air undercuts the standard model that is the subject of this review in price by playing around with numbers – less of this and less of that.

In a nutshell, the Tecno Camon 15 standard variant, as reviewed, may be just what is ideal for many. It’s a nice balance of features and price.

Design

That shows from the onset with the device’s design. To make something as big as a 6.6-inch device not sink into the unwieldy territory, there is even distribution of the weight and one can feel it in the hand almost immediately they lift the device from its packaging for the first time.

Where any first impressions have been suppressed by any observation, that is immediately neutralized by the glittering back.

The camera bump, necessary in order to accommodate the quad-camera setup on the device’s back, means that wobbling is everpresent when the device is placed on flat surfaces.

A clean top section of the device and a bottom that crams together all the basics – a headphone jack, a speaker and a charging port (microUSB) combine to ensure both function and aesthetics are taken care of. As is the button placement on the right side of the device.

Display

The display, while large and all, doesn’t stand in the way of the usage of the device in anyway. At least as far as I am concerned. It is just fine. While it isn’t as bright outdoors, it will mostly stay in your good graces with the contrast – especially if you make good use of the dark mode switch in the Quick Settings – and all the advantages that come with having a large play area, which is what that expansive 6.6-inch panel really is.

Camera

My number one fascination with the camera has been how Tecno managed to squeeze in a front-facing dual-LED flash on the front of the device while still keeping the “Dot-In” punch hole necessary to accommodate the selfie camera. Some devices we have used recently and which are the Camon 15’s direct competitors may have had us thinking that it’s either too much work for the money or just not worth it. Now we know better.

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As far as the photography goes, I didn’t have much to demand of it and the little that I tasked it with, it delivered. The AI scene detection and optimization works as advertised. Shifting in the dynamic range when one uses the auto mode gets corrected with the HDR mode turned on. Macro shots, too, turned out just fine. As did the selfies.

The two features of the camera that I did not get to test as much as I would’ve wanted are the Super Night mode, which Tecno makes bold claims of thanks to the presence of an Ultra Night sensor.

To summarize this, there are lots of features in the Camon 15’s camera than I have cared to list here based on my own usage of the device. How much you are able to get out of them, your mileage will vary but there’s almost a guarantee that it will be something that meets your expectations at this level.

Software

The Tecno Camon 15 is one of the first smartphones from Tecno to arrive running Androd 10 right out of the box. So, when you go for it, you are getting the latest software experience from both Tecno (HiOS) and Google which matters given how often these devices are upgraded – there are no guarantees.

I’d bemoan the usual bloat that comes with these devices but that’s too cliche and, I figured, there may be people out there that actually find them useful (hit the comment section when you read this). There’s also the bit where you can still disable and uninstall whatever it is that you don’t need, like I did, and end up enjoying the device.

My favourite feature in all the customizations Tecno made is the “Silent screen recording”. Yes, while we may want to share our screens, we may not necessarily want any sound captured. It’s good we have that option instead of having to rely on after-the-fact edits to achieve the same result. For what it’s worth, native Android is still flip-flopping when it comes to adding the feature and the best case at a universal adoption is the upcoming Android 11 after a botched rollout in Android 10.

Then there is phone recording… Google controversially removed the ability for third-party apps to be able to record phone calls with Android 9 Pie. Reading from the same script, device makers that used to include the feature in their custom builds also removed it. Not Tecno.

Another HiOS feature that users of this phone might find interesting is the Social Turbo feature. It, basically, turbo-charges your social media usage. Instead of leafing through the many apps on the Play Store that promise to download your friends’ WhatsApp status, or using workarounds, you’re a toggle away from doing so with relative ease.

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Performance

If I am to list anything else that impressed me about the Camon 15 besides the camera, design and battery then that would be the device’s performance.

It’s up to scratch.

It’s probably what you expect and then some more.

I did not identify a single bone to pick with the device’s performance, indicating a very careful merging of the hardware and the software, something that at some point before has been where the ball gets dropped.

If anything this experience I’ve had with the device makes me wonder what I’d say about the Premier variant and almost makes me sure to hesitate when recommending the Air which has less memory.

It’s fast, apps open almost instantaneously and switching from one to the other, when already open, didn’t have me pulling my hair because of forced closures that had me starting all over again.

This is the kind of performance that will blow away anyone who is just stepping up from, say, Tecno’s Spark series or any other entry-level smartphone. It is also the type of performance that will make anyone who’s used to high-performance devices still feel at home on a sub-Kshs 20,000 smartphone which is something that doesn’t happen every day but which is also something we are learning to live with. It’s the new normal, at least in our market where Kshs 40,000 and more devices, like the new iPhone SE, aren’t regarded as “budget”.

Battery

Two days are pretty much assured if your idea of a lockdown or self-quarantine isn’t spending 7 hours of non-stop gameplay on Asphalt 9. Even when you properly put the Camon 15 through its paces, a whole day of use (and then some) is guaranteed. The mammoth 5,000mAh does its work and does it very well.

Others

Calls are crystal clear. 4G reception on the device is also good.

I found the sound wanting, though.

The lowdown

The Tecno Camon 15 may be facing a lot of competition from what rival smartphone brands in the Kenyan market have to offer but it is its mix of features that gives it a chance against them now that Tecno has broken the Kshs 15,000 barrier for the Camon series (the Air, which is the cheaper variant, starts at Kshs 16,000).

Knowing what you know now, is this a device you would consider for a sub-Kshs 20,000 experience?

Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at] androidkenya.com