Buying the cheapest smartphones? Think again

In My Eyes: By Edward Antonio

Cheap phones abound in Philippine markets nowadays, fellas.

Have you bought one?

There really are a battle royale among those “affordable” cellphones in the market nowadays. There is a battle of specs, battery power and size.

Mang Maing used to own a Nokia cellphone. His latest is the Nokia Asha 311 he bought in Tacloban 2 years ago, that’s prior to Yolanda. It’s quite expensive but he says it is still working and looking good! But Nokia and its antique Symbian operating system slowly died and Google’s android took over.

Mang Maing bought a high-end cheap phone last month. It’s double tap to wake feature astounded and excited him no end. It also had smart gestures such that when you letter press letter C on the LCD when it’s in sleep mode, it will open the camera; S for setting etc. What a hi-tech phone, he said. And why not? With a battery saving mode that switches from colored to greyscale, 5″ High Definition display at a resolution of 1280X720 pixels, multi-touch features, 1 GB RAM, 1 GB ROM, 8 GB internal memory, running at 1.4 ghz clockspeed, 13 mp rear and 5 mp front camera in autofocus mode and a 2500 maH battery energy, who would not dare buy one at P3,999?

And so, Mang Maing started to enjoy his smartphone, even promoting it. He also posted his admiration to the phone via online through the reviews and comments portion of the smartphone page.

But last week, Mang Maing’s phone bogged down. After the weekly firmware update/upgrade, his phone was suddenly stuck to its dead android icon figure and could not boot! He referred this to the technician of his store supplier and it was declared it met the “boot loop” problem and had to be surrendered to the phone company for repair, that’s availing of its warranty.

Mang Maing asked the manager how many days would it take for the company to repair it, but the answer was a simple “I don’t know.”

The technician quipped: “Perhaps 3 to 4 months.”

And so, Mang Maing bought another phone because he needed it, but his time, not the cheapest ones. Because of this, Mang Maing visited again his online positive comments on the phone and changed them, telling netizens of his bad experience on the phone. He later learned that these cheapest phones are made in China and rebranded here in RP under different name.

However, these cheap android phones are plagued by defects since they are mostly re-branded phones from India and made in China. Although many units will work well, you don’t want to be a victim of a defective android phone or tablet.

Here is a compilation of the features that you must check before buying a cheap android phone or tablet.

1. Samples – Quality of Pictures and Audio

This is the first thing that we test with a smartphone – its camera. Filipinos are indeed addicted to taking pictures since we love to reminisce memories of special events in our lives.When you buy a cheap android phone or tablet, test its camera by taking a picture using its normal mode, macro mode and with its LED flash. Don’t forget to test the front facing camera too. After taking the shots, zoom the pictures and examine if they still look good.

Test the audio of the phone by playing any sound using its loudspeaker and earphones.

2. Factory Defects – Dead Pixel, Creaking Sound and Backlight Bleeding

This is very important. Check the screen of the android phone or tablet you are eyeing and look for any dot. If there is, that means it has a dead pixel and you should choose another unit.Try to press the back cover of the phone with more pressure. Observe if it makes a creaky noise. If it does, it means the phone or tablet is not well made and could be damaged easily.Try to charge the phone using the stock charger too. Usually, sales ladies test the charger but make sure they do so.

If the sales lady or salesman allows it, test the sim slot and microSD card slot of the phone. Use your own sim and microSD card and see if these features work just fine.

3. Aesthetics – Does it look cheap?

Many won’t agree with me but I don’t like the map of the Philippines at the back of every phone and tablet. There are better designs out there instead of the map. They say it’s a symbol of patriotism but it makes the phone look cheap. Phones with plain colors with accents on the sides look better. Good logos also compliment a phone or tablet even if it is a cheap one.

Personalized jelly case and hard covers look better for me even if they have the map of the Philippines. The point is that phones should be neat and professional looking but users should be able to add their personal taste if they want to.

4. Reviews – Performance in Games

One thing that you usually can’t test with these cheap phones and tablets is their performance in running games. Are you sure that they can run Temple Run 2 and Candy Crush just fine but what about NBA or Need for Speed?

Search for reviews of the particular phone that you are interested and look for any information about its gaming performance. Use Google or consult your favorite tech blog.

5. Warranty and After Sales Service

This is the last but definitely not the least. Most cheap phones and tablets have 1 week replacement warranty and 1 year of free service warranty. Check this with the sales lady and keep the receipt and warranty card.Ask for the service center too. Do they have a service center in your area? If not, consider buying from another brand if you can’t take the risk.

So before buying one of those cheapest phones especially those not-so-popular brands, think again.

You might end up like Mang Maing!#