We have had lots of run-ins with Tecno devices here at Android Kenya over the years. Lots of them. Many have been impressive because Tecno and its mother company, the Transsion Group, have mastered the art of balancing user needs and features, offering the best of both worlds at prices that resonate with the masses.
The Tecno Camon 16 Premier is a continuation of that approach.
What sets it apart, however, is that it’s essentially the best device (yes, even when you factor in the Chinese brand’s dalliance with tablets) that Tecno has released this year, at least in my opinion.
To try to understand where Tecno is coming from with the Camon 16 Premier requires us to start where it all matters when you first interact with the device: the design.
With the same mould of refined plastic feel – not looks – as the Infinix Zero 8, the Tecno Camon 16 Premier, at least the Glacial Silver model that I have with me for review, glitters in the sun. The glittering helps hide the fingerprint magnet that the back really is and, thankfully, it’s never in sight as a result. That also means that you can keep the clear case that Tecno includes in the box in the drawer as the Camon 16 Premier is such a joy to hold and use “naked”.
The camera hump, also, is apparently no hump at all. At least not like others that we have seen. It is designed and placed in such a way that it doesn’t cause any imbalance when the device is placed on a flat surface, like a table, something that we are also seeing with a number of other devices like the budget realme C15.
The device is big, has some heft to it that you can’t ignore and is very domineering.
The dual selfie cameras on the front don’t do much to alter the looks of the front of the device as its still the same classic Tecno look we’ve known – bezels are slimmer and that’s pretty much it.
It does get very bright and I had no qualms using it outside. It’s big, it’s bright, it’s vibrant. Oh, and it’s a 90Hz panel as well, now that high-refresh-rate display panels are all the rage right now. Regarding that, other than the buttery smooth performance one enjoys, it’s not as explicit. A lot of that has something to do with the software needing to catch up with the hardware but hey, who’s complaining?
The Tecno Camon 16 Premier features 6 cameras and they all punch above their weight.
The main sensor at the back, the 64-megapixel lens, is one of the best that one can get on a mid-range device and it shows in the results.
Images are crisp, sharp and detailed, just the way you’d want them.
Now, Tecno has included a gazillion features to go with their cameras, opening up the device to myriad use cases. The ones that stood out for me are the automatic enhancements, thanks to the Camon 16 Premier’s Artificial Intelligence smarts (thanks to TAIVOS – Tecno AI Vision Optimization Solution). It detects various scenes and items and cranks up or down the necessary settings to get the killer shot that one desires (or, perhaps, more accurately, didn’t know they desired).
The selfie camera, for instance, will even automatically switch to a “group mode” to accommodate more people in a single shot without the need for one to spend time manually making the adjustment, taking advantage of the selfie camera’s 105-degree ultra-wide-angle sensor.
Talking about the ultra wides on the Camon 16 Premier, using the back cameras, one doesn’t get photos that are as detailed in ultra-wide-angle mode since you can’t get them in all their 64MP glory as that option disappears as soon as you switch to ultra-wide. So you end up with something like this (see below) which is good but which you can’t zoom into if you need to without losing many details:
Now look at this image in all its 9216 x 6912 glory:
At night, is when the fun begins. Like we saw with the Infinix Zero 8, a device that the Camon 16 Premier shares a lot in common with, there is a vast improvement in the night camera performance compared to anything we have seen from Tecno before. Sure, there will be visible noise in the finished product when you zoom in but scenes are well focused, a little on the lower side of sharpness but instantly clear and well illuminated. Whatever Tecno is on to, they are on to a good thing.
The much-touted 10x hybrid zoom works but it’s mainly just “nice to have” when you zoom all as lots of details get lost in the process. In my case, I couldn’t use it to snoop on car number plates on the road.
Given that the Camon 16 Premier is a rather large device, reaching the volume up/down buttons when holding it by one hand can be a, well, tall order. Which is why the ability to set the fingerprint sensor as a camera shutter is welcome.
Do we need to discuss the Helio G90T’s performance? It’s a beast of a mid-range chipset and, so far, we have seen that very well in all the devices that we have reviewed where it features.
In the case of the Camon 16 Premier, the device is as fast as it can get, everything is highly responsive and, generally, there is nothing to complain about. I had a bout of prolonged gaming – about an hour – and nothing slowed down or ground to a halt. I expect the same to be the case for just about everything. For equally demanding apps like Zoom, when handling video calls, users should expect the same level of high performance they get when doing other tasks.
For the games, there’s even a Game Mode, as has been the case on other Tecno smartphones we’ve looked at before. In this case, it only serves to make better what is already a very good experience. Unrelated to the phone’s performance but related to your own, it will alert you, by default, if you clock over 2 hours of gameplay. It even aggregates gameplay data which you can go over to see if you’re entering unhealthy territory where you can be said to be addicted. We’re veering off into the software…
It’s still the HiOS 7 that we have previously interacted with and not much has changed. It’s highly customized, features lots of annoying add-on features – apps and services that not only may not make much sense but also won’t let you have any peace, bombarding you with constant notifications and making the notification shade a mess. Still, they were much more bearable than my experience with the Zero 8 which is the worst experience I have had so far.
One thing I liked, though, is that the so-called smart panel is now no longer triggered by a simple swipe gesture on either side of the display (left or right) but a more intentional forceful one. It helps it stay out of the way for people like yours truly who find it annoying but also within the reach of anyone who finds it useful, which should be the case for many given how gargantuan the Tecno Camon 16 Premier is.
Turn off a lot of the unnecessary add-on features and services and you’ll have a relatively good experience on the Camon 16 Premier even though the annoying notifications cluttering the notification shade won’t let you off the hook. Slap a custom launcher and you’ll have drowned half the noise and just need to figure out a way to make peace with your newfound reality: not everything will go away.
Battery life on the Tecno Camon 16 Premier is fantastic. That is to be expected, though. As we have known over the years, the optimizations that Tecno makes are usually geared to provide users with the best performance all around. While many of us take that to mean lower latency thus less lag and more responsiveness, behind the scenes, it also means better management of resources which, in turn, has a huge bearing on a device’s battery life. That is the case with the Camon 16 Premier.
Even if it weren’t the case, you’d still be juicing up the device in a matter of minutes thanks to the included 33W fast-charger. It takes just an hour to fully charge up the device.
A stereo speaker would’ve been nice but the included bottom-firing speaker is loud enough so I’ll take that.
- Good display
- Good design
- The cameras are amazing
- Long battery life and equally superb fast-charging
- The software remains a constant pain-point. It’s refined to the point where it is very usable day-to-day and you wouldn’t complain but Tecno goes overboard with the notifications and promotions. Ads everywhere.
Tecno has done it again. In a big way.
There is little wonder, then, why this device has been scooping awards all over the place.
The hype is really justified on this one.
That is high praise for a device that belongs in a mere mid-range, well, range, but, given what we know now about it, what will Tecno do to make its next Phantom smartphone, if at all we’ll have one this year (there have been years where it’s been skipped in favour of standout budget devices like the Camon 16 series), stand out? The Tecno Camon 16 Premier ticks all the boxes. Sure, there are several areas that can be improved upon but what would be the incentive to get anything else from Tecno that costs Kshs 5,000 – 10,000 more when you can have this?
Now, if that is what I have to say about the competition that faces the Camon 16 Premier internally then what about externally?
The Infinix Zero 8, the Tecno Camon 16 Premier’s direct competitor, shares just about the same feature-set as the Camon 16 Premier so it’s all down to preferences and the little things. Pretty much nitpicking. Then there’s the competition out there. Whatever choice you end up making, it won’t be a bad one if you end up with the Camon 16 Premier. If anything, my fear is that it can be cannibalized by the standard variant which should keep many of the things that we like about the Premier while lowering the price.