Tecno Camon C9: Playtime is over

There has been a lot of fanfare around this phone and Tecno has gone to great lengths to make sure that even if you don't buy this phone, you will at least hear of it.

Tecno Camon C9

Here's a review of yet another Tecno phone. I say 'yet another' because I find it quite hard to keep track of the numerous Tecno devices out there. It's like Tecno drops a new device every other month like a Yoruba king trying to extensively populate the earth. Anyways, I digress.

The subject of this review is the recently launched Tecno Camon C9. There has been a lot of fanfare around this phone and Tecno has gone to great lengths to make sure that even if you don't buy this phone, you will at least hear of it. Since Tecno is so turned up about this phone, let's get to it, shall we?

Unboxing. My review unit came in a Black and Blue box that had 'Camon C9' inscribed on it in front and a sort of mini spec sheet on the back. The whole packaging felt a bit too gimmicky for me but it's not bad to look at. The box contained the C9 itself, a power brick, USB cable, earphones, a user manual, a smart cover case, and some warranty stuff. You can watch the unboxing video at the end of this article.

Design and build quality.

As with most of the Tecno phones I have come in contact with recently, the C9 feels well put together. The design is a bit lazy and the plastic back cover has some type of carbon fiber type thing going on, but I wasn't a fan. The metal chassis running through the entire length of the side of the C9 wasn't a bad touch even though the screen seems to be on top of the inner bits rather than in the phone itself. The back of the phone is curved and that is both good and bad in this application.

That design aesthetic is good because it makes the C9 easier to pick from a flat surface but bad because it also makes the phone slippery when its on your lap or any surface that is not flat. I had so many heart-stopping moments with this phone, it’s a wonder I didn’t have a cardiac arrest or something. Then there is the 13MP front camera that Tecno could not rave about enough in their publicity campaigns. It is so obvious at the top front end of the phone that sometimes when I glanced at it, it seemed like it was a one-eyed transformer robot waiting to show its real face. All in all, the design is enough but don't expect to be stunned.

Display, battery life, earphones, smart cover.

The C9 has a 5.5-inch full HD IPS 1080x1920 screen that is quite clear and vibrant. The actual display is only 4.6-inches but I barely felt like it was small. Maybe that's because I'm not a fan of very large mobile screens. The display was capable indoors and outdoors but for some very (very) strange reason, pushing the screen brightness toggle to the lowest completely turns off the display. The first time this happened, I thought I had damaged the screen somehow.

The worst part is, unless you have some type of super power, you can only get screen brightness back by using the camera button to launch the camera and then accessing the screen brightness from there, or you turn off the phone completely. Stress.

On the battery front, the C9 has a good 3,000mAh non-removable (ugh) battery that will last anywhere from a day to a day and half on average use. The C9 did get hot a lot when I was using Snapchat or playing games but that was about it. The main problem I had with the battery is it took way too long to charge. It took me over two hours to get this phone from 18% to 100%. Kilode?

The earphones that come with the C9 are okay. No noise cancellation or any of that magic but it's okay. Also, it may fall out of your ear a lot, but it's okay (How many times have I said that?).

The smart cover is actually great. I'm not big on phone cases and covers, but I like the features built into the smart cover. You get three windows: one for your music playlist, one for accessing the flashlight without unlocking the phone, and the usual screen off mode with a large clock. Cool sturvs, Tecno.

UI.

I have not liked any of the UIs on the past Tecno phones I have reviewed or owned, and this is not any different. For one, the company seems to have some kind of strange fascination with Apple'siOS design. The C9 comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow out-of-the-box and is layered Tecno's HiOS (I see what you did there Tecno) skin. Now, the thinking behind the HiOS design is great (the name could be a little less obvious though) but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. There were several iOS rip offs (when you hold on an app you want to delete, you get the exact same effect you would on an iPhone) and in my opinion, the HiOS implementation on the C9 is the worst part of the phone.

There is so much bloatware, so many apps that you will probably never use and can't delete - I could go on and on. Don't even get me started on the many typos and gbagauns the C9 is littered with. I can't for the life of me understand why Tecno will not just take their time to perfect the HiOS before they bring it to market. If Tecno hadn't even been so heavy with the  HiOS layering on the Marshmallow, I'm sure it will not be that bad. The notifications pane always felt cluttered and it had some of the most unattractive app icons I have ever seen. See, let me just leave it at that.

Performance and storage.

The C9 is equipped with 16GB (expandable with a microSD card) of internal storage, 2GB of RAM and a 1.3GHz MediaTek MT6753 processor. Out of the box you only get 9.34GB of usable storage though, but the processor, in collaboration with Android Marshmallow, makes very efficient use of that 2GB of RAM.

The only issue is the HiOS and the plenty imperfections it brought with it. It made the phone hang, sometimes the screen refused to light up when I pressed the on/off button, and the most shocking of all was the way the phone could just completely lock me out randomly. I would be scrolling through the TL and next thing the screen is having a fit. You know when rain is falling and DSTV starts to hang? Now fast forward how your screen is behaving 6x - that's how the screen would be. The only solution was to turn it off then on again. Na wa.

Camera.

This is my favorite part of the C9. Both the front and rear cameras of this phone took me by surprise. The two cameras are both 13MP (rear has dual flash and front has front-facing flash too) and I dare say, this is one of the best cameras I've seen on any phone in at this price point. The beauty feature of the front-facing camera erased all the natural sandpaper effects on my face and brought out my real face. The autofocus on the rear camera could act a bit iffy sometimes, but brothers and sisters I was able to get some very nice pictures out of it. See some of them below.

My only issue with the camera was the lack of settings. Tecno has made a lot fanfare about the camera of this phone and I expected to at least be able to adjust white balance, ISO and all those things. But mba. You only get panorama, HDR, and something called gesture shot (for obvious reasons). Apart from that - like you would expect at this price point - both performed well under good lighting conditions and not so good under low-light conditions.

Extra stuff.

Conclusion and verdict.

I like the Camon C9. For N50,000, it brings a lot to the table. The design is good, the camera is great, performance is good and as a whole it's not a bad product to own or use. However, it has too many avoidable flaws. I didn't like the Tecno's bloatware-infested HiOS skin; I didn't like the plastic back cover or the odd way the screen sat on top of the phone; The eye scanner wasn't really necessary, especially as it didn't really work well; the camera had no manual settings in addition to the front-facing flash that added no light to your selfie; the many typos littered across the phone; and the in-built browser which doesn't support bookmarking or saves your browser history (really? In 2016?). Oh, before I forget, there are no lock-screen notifications too.

I applaud Tecno for what they tried to accomplish with this phone. But as a complete package it just feels like undone rice. It could be better. At the same time, for a recommended retail price of N50,000 it still works. All of its shortcomings are things that anyone could live with (after all, we are Nigerians). To that end, I think the Tecno Camon C9 is a John the Baptist of better Tecno phones to come. Not a bad buy.

Let me know what you think though. Would you buy this phone? Give your answer in the poll below.

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