Tecno Phantom 6 Plus: First Impressions

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This year, Tecno is going all in on mobile. So far in 2016, they have released so many products that I have to keep referring to my Evernote notes all the time just to keep track. And the year is not yet even done. Of all those devices, however, none will be as big as the Phantom 6 Plus, the brand’s showstopper this year.

By Tecno’s own standards, well, they’ve tried with the Phantom 6 Plus. At least from what I have seen in my few days with the device.

For starters, like you would expect of any device with the moniker “Plus” added to its name, the Phantom 6 Plus is large. Huge, actually. Design-wise, it reminds me of a device I used extensively early in the year, Huawei’s Mate 8. It is almost identical. Moreso at the back. Heck it even has that extra “fake” speaker grille at the bottom just like the Mate 8 and a couple of other smartphones we’ve seen before.

Talking about the speaker, wherever you are likely to be with a Phantom 6 Plus, it is almost guaranteed that it will be the loudest phone in the room. The crispiness and bass quality of the sound you get is a different matter altogether but it is definitely very loud. Just like the Phantom 5 was last year.

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Still on the sound, the included earphones look great but I’d still take the ones that accompanied the Phantom 5 over these. The Phantom 5’s headsets were great, I still use them from time to time. They even sounded better than the Boom J8’s gigantic headphones. One year later, they still trump whatever is packaged with the Phantom 5’s successor. The one thing that has been addressed in the Phantom 6 Plus’ earphones is the sliding ear tips. You won’t be needing replacement tips every now and then when using the Phantom 6 Plus’ earphones.

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At the back is also where one finds the 21-megapixel camera sensor protruding gently from the metal body slightly above the fingerprint scanner. Unlike other smartphones where such a camera bump usually means that the devices wobbles from left to right when placed on a flat surface like on a table, that is not the case with the Phantom 6 Plus. Clearly, Tecno got something right here. However, you will need to turn to the smaller Phantom 6 if you are to try out Tecno’s new dual cameras. The Phantom 6 Plus doesn’t have any of those.

Unlike the Phantom 5, the Phantom 6 Plus’ display is a real beauty. It’s still a full HD panel like its predecessor but using LTPS tech. Tecno has swapped the IPS LCD for AMOLED, known for its more vivid and saturated colours (which may irk fans of more “true”/real world colours like my picky colleague Kiruti but draw applause from those of us who do love AMOLED displays) and deep blacks on the smaller Phantom 6 and LTPS on the Phantom 6 Plus. It is this massive 6-inch display that results in the device being almost unwieldy. Dropping it is easy and if you are not a fan of massive displays then you should be considering its smaller sibling, the Phantom 6. But then, even that one has a 5.5-inch display so it is not so small.

The boxy feel of the Phantom 5 is gone and in its place are rounded corners that blend right in when you’re holding the lower back of the device on your palm. It retains the slightly curved back of the Phantom 5 and, unlike what you may expect, it is not heavy at all.

One of the more noticeable things in the Phantom 6 Plus’ overall design is the lengths to which Tecno has gone to put the Phantom brand front and centre of the device. Last year’s Phantom 5 was mute on the front. You had to turn it over to see the Tecno branding at the back. It’s still the same case this year but there’s a “Phantom” logo at the bottom of the display that you definitely can’t miss. Just before the lower antenna line at the back, there’s more emphasis with the device’s name prominently engraved.

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I am on record for not being a big fan of device maker’s efforts to customize the hell out of Android. That’s what Tecno has been doing subtly over the years and in a big way these last few months with its own custom overlay, HiOS. Having followed HiOS closely since its launch on the various devices it has been available on, I can say that it is finally worthy of my attention on the Phantom 6 Plus. Whether that’s because Tecno has customized it further to properly match the colour of the device, I really don’t know. Software is about experiences and as a user, right now I feel right at home using HiOS on the Phantom 6 Plus. In fact, I have not even bothered installing my beloved Nova Launcher 5 days down the line.

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Some of the little annoyances like an elongated set up process after powering up the device for the first time in order to sign in to the Tecno forums as we noted during our stay with the Camon C9 are still there. As are several other apps you may not find much use for. Generally, though, it looks like adequate time was spent tweaking and optimizing HiOS to work in tandem with all the new/upgraded hardware Tecno has packed on the device. The end result is a very fast phone that is also very responsive.

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At the bottom, sandwiched between the microphones and the speaker grille is the USB Type-C port. This is the first time Tecno is putting this on any of their devices and you just can’t miss it.

There are still some other features of the device (like the camera, the fingerprint scanner, the battery and more) that I have only started to use, monitor and interact with deeply so I’ll reserve those for the full review which should drop some time soon. So far, Tecno’s best smartphone, yet, looks like it can deliver big time. I just hope it really does because it is too big (and beautiful) not to.

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