Tecno Boom J7: A decent affordable Android smartphone that does more

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It is not everyday that you meet a well-designed forward-thinking Android smartphone that is at the entry level. We’ve probably not seen such in Kenya in a while. There are a lot of these at the mid-range level (and some will argue that this is a mid-range device) but for a price of Ksh 13,000 you are probably getting the best deal with the Tecno Boom J7 than you can get elsewhere in the Kenyan market at that price. As far as Android devices go that is. There are some Lumias priced thereabout that will give it a run for its money if the platform ground was made level.

Here are the technical specifications of the Tecno Boom J7:

  • Display: 5 inch HD (720p)
  • Memory: 16 GB internal storage; 1 GB RAM
  • Camera: 8 MP back; 2 MP front
  • Processor: Quad-core MediaTek MT6582 clocked at 1.3 GHz
  • Operating system: Android 4.4.2 KitKat
  • Battery: 2020mAh
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
  • Network: 2G, 3G
  • Other: Dual-SIM

While music is what the Tecno Boom J7 is meant to be all about, we are sure anyone considering buying this device will be interested in knowing how it fairs in other areas as well like the camera or the battery. If music is all you want, you can see what I experienced in my three weeks of testing the device, else kindly read on.

Design

I’ve followed Tecno from the sidelines and when I look at the Boom J7 and remember the days when they introduced another interesting affordable smartphone (the N3 and the N3S), I can see progress. While I think they can do a lot better with their offerings at the flagship level, they are definitely killing it at the entry-level. The Tecno Boom J7’s design refines everything there is to know and like or hate about Tecno as a brand. It’s well done. From the red accents of the speaker grille and the camera at the back to the slim sideways bezels on the front, the device is a beauty.

I also applaud the decision to omit the Tecno logo from the front of the device. It makes it positively hideous and it stands out.

I am not a big fan of soft buttons like my peers seem to be but Tecno nailed it on the Boom J7 at least with the home button. It comes to life and blinks continuously when you get notifications. Reminds me of Skyline on the Oppos or that lit bottom bar on Sony Xperias. I’d actually pick such over blinking LED notifications at the top any day. Bring such a feature with the ability to change colours depending on notification type and you have a winner. Probably on a high end model as this is too much to ask for on a budget device.

Display

It’s decent. That’s the most I can say about it. It may not be as popping as what you find on other HD displays but it’s much better than the Infinix Hot Note’s display by comparison. The 5 inch display is also brighter than the display you find on the Wiko Getway which is even pricier but packing almost similar specifications. It is half-decent outdoors even at full brightness.

Camera

Both cameras on the Tecno Boom J7 are horrible. I am sorry to say this but I struggled to get good shots all the time. I am not a professional photographer but I can easily tell which photo I want to go straight to my Instagram feed and which one will never see the light of day beyond an internal trash folder. Taking selfies in low light is a pain in all the wrong places you can imagine. Using the bigger 8 megapixel sensor at the back of the phone doesn’t change things. Yes it won’t be bad all the time but you can actually count the number of times it produces really incredible shots. You’ll also need to be in brightly lit surroundings. You really have to struggle to get a better shot. Good luck doing that if you have shaky hands. Tinkering with the settings won’t get you much.

Here is a sample. It’s not as bad as I make it sound:

Tecno Boom J7 - Camera Sample

More camera samples can be found on our Google+ page.

While stills are an issue, videos aren’t rosy either.

The integration with apps that require the camera for video chat/calls is commendable though for a device of its calibre. I was able to test Facebook Messenger’s new video calling feature with my colleague Eric with relative ease.

There are some gimmicks in the stock camera app as well. Like those effects when you’re taking selfies.

Software

There’s noticeable lag on the home screen. Even getting rid of the many widgets there doesn’t do much to save face. I installed a custom launcher, Nova, and was able to have a buttery experience. No stutters, no lag on the home screen and the app drawer. The stutter however lives on when pulling the notification dropdown but that’s it.

I have been able to play all my favourite Android games without any issues. With the exception of Need for Speed Most Wanted which I couldn’t play due to device compatibility issues, I enjoyed every bit of Asphalt 8: Airborne. I just downloaded Real Racing 3 and can’t wait to race the new Renault collection that comes with the version 3.3.0 update.

The takeaway is that besides music, you can do other forms of entertainment without any issues. Like games. Or video. It’s no longer silly to watch videos on mobile devices. YouTube is great as is any HD video file you’ll play from your external sd card.

Battery

Tecno Boom J7 002 Techweez - Battery

Like I noted during the preview, I was able to get very impressive battery life when I stayed away from cellular data but then again that is not always the case. I managed to get at least 8 hour battery life when using the phone mildly on Wi-Fi. 6 hours was the standard when cellular data was on with the occassional Whatsapp, email and the like. Over three and a half hours of screen on time are guaranteed if you just stick to using your office or home hotspot. Good luck doing over 1 hour and 40 minutes when you’re using Safaricom 3G or Airtel Kenya’s so-called 3.75G.

Tecno Boom J7 battery

Others

The memory is more than sufficient. You get 16 gigs of internal storage which is more than enough. You can also pop-in your memory card like I did and the software will recognize and let the external storage do all the heavy lifting i.e. all games and apps you install will have their data located in the sd card instead of filling up your 16 GB.

The Tecno Boom J7’s not-so-bad battery life can be attributed to its few sensors. It only has three sensors: the proximity sensor, the accelerometer and the ambient light sensor.

I use Uber and Easy Taxi often and being able to accurately pinpoint my location via GPS is of utmost importance. Sadly I had to actually call the cab drivers every time I requested an Uber or an Easy Taxi since the phone couldn’t accurately point to my location. I gave up trying to get the Maramoja app to work. It force closed everytime though I don’t think the phone is entirely to blame for this. It must be something to do with compatibility.

Bottom Line

You know what they say about a fish? That if you judge it by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. Or something close to that if I am not wrong. That is the case. For Ksh 13,000, this is one of the best affordable smartphones in the Kenyan market. Whatever its misgivings are it is because it is first and foremost a budget device and corners have to be cut. If you need more then you’ll have to spend more. For all it is worth, it manages to deliver an experience that devices that were priced like it yesteyear like the Samsung S3 Lite will struggle to deliver.

I am hard to impress but it managed to fit into my daily routine during the review period and I’m at pains to state that it blew me away. Yes it could be faster, it could make do with a better software experience but more will always be better. In the case of the Tecno Boom J7, there is a struggle to balance a smooth software experience, keep a thin profile in a package that stands out design-wise while still clad in slippery plastic and a scratch-prone front glass panel and add-ons like an immersive audio experience. It manages to stay on top of all those.

Would I recommend it? Any day. It has better battery life than the Infinix Hot X507 which goes for almost half the price of the Tecno Boom J7 through online retailer Jumia Kenya (it has since been sold out) but doesn’t beat the Infinix Hot Note’s impressive 2-day battery life (but has not-so-good display) and is a few thousand shillings cheaper.

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