The TECNO Camon C9 Is Arguably the Selfie Phone of the Year [REVIEW]

Summary: For its warp speed processor, crisp and perfectly-sized screen display, dual-SIM 4G/LTE capability, a highly impressive camera for those selfies and video chats, awesome sound quality, a powerful battery and the eye scanner, it is hard to ignore this mid-range device from TECNO. However, the device would have been in the league of the top-range Android devices in the market were it not for its meagre internal storage capacity, an average RAM, its lack of photo adjustment options and an eye scanner that leaves more to be desired. That said, at N49,900, the TECNO Camon C9 is a steal, offers value for the money and is easily a strong contender in the mid-range smartphone category.


Unboxing

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The first thing I noticed when unboxing the TECNO Camon C9 was its really nice packaging, which has a lot of attention to detail, with accessories including earplugs, a three-pin charger, a type-C USB cord and a nicely designed pliable phone case.

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Apart from its primary use — which is, protecting the phone from scratches and falls — the phone case should come in handy when watching a movie or viewing videos on auto-rotate, the device’s screen awkwardly doesn’t auto-rotate, but rather remains in portrait mode, even when you enable the auto-rotate feature.

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When I picked up the phone from the box, it felt light even with its 3000mAh non-removable battery inside. Although there’s no official word on its weight, it is considered one of the slimmest devices out there at 3.5mm. However, when you put the phone in its case, it becomes slightly heavy and feels bulky to hold.

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My overall experience with unboxing the Camon C9 was quite refreshing that I did a video of the unboxing which you can watch below. One thing that stood out for me was the well-designed blend of blue, black and grey (or is it silver?) hue on its lens-focused package.

Now let’s dive into the review proper of the Camon C9, shall we?

Design and Display

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The Camon C9 has the same full metal unibody design options for its three colour variants — Black, Copper, Elegant blue — with a sleek matte finish that really feels nice to hold and wouldn’t necessarily make the phone slip out of your hands. While its horizontal-patterned back panel is undeniably plastic, the phone makes up for its underwhelming back panel with a sleek matte finish and ergonomic design.

The 5.5-inch screen covered with glass has a black panel around the bezel which gives the impression that the screen is larger than it really is, until it becomes lit and you realise that it isn’t end-to-end, as it appears when the screen isn’t lit. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll find just one visible on-screen back-lit touch button (which functions as the home button), but upon double-tapping the screen or tapping the power on/off button, you’ll find two other on-screen back-lit touch buttons — one to the left which lets you view apps running on the background for easy navigation and one to the right which functions as the back button.

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As with most phones, the power on/off button sits right below the volume rocker on the right side of the phone, while the USB charging port stays at the bottom of the phone, right beside the mic, leaving the earphone jack standing alone at the top of the phone. The phone sports a LED indicator beside its 13MP front-facing camera, which should display when the phone is low on power, is charging or when you have a missed call, unread message or any other app notification, but somehow doesn’t. There’s also a LED flash below the phone’s 13MP back camera and a speaker at the base of the phone.

Upon switching on the device, the TECNO logo greets you with graphics and then an artistic display appears that you can then swipe from bottom to top to display the phone’s menu, which has just a couple of pre-installed apps for quick and easy navigation, which you can rearrange based on your preference.

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That said, the app drawer features a bunch of pre-installed apps displayed with some Social apps, Google apps and some utility tools grouped separately on the screen. The quick settings menu is easily accessed by swiping the screen downwards from the top on the home screen; there you can quickly access airplane mode, WiFi, flashlight, data, Bluetooth, Hotspot, Battery saver or adjust screen brightness.

When you put the phone inside its well-designed case by oraimo, it gives a premium feel, although I expected the circle on the phone case to show app notifications, but instead you’ll see a TECNO-branded timepiece designed like a clock that basically shows you what the time says.

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With a 5.5-inch FHD IPS touchscreen with 1920×1280 pixel resolution that displays crisp graphics, images, text and movies, the Camon C9 doesn’t disappoint at all when it comes to screen clarity. However, the screen of the Camon C9 easily attracts dirt and leaves smudges on it, so if you have sweaty fingers or palms, you will need to be wiping the device’s screen from time to time.

Still, every touch of your finger on the screen of the Camon C9 offers a smooth and sultry tactile experience. From opening webpages and apps to playing the most graphically intensive games, the display of the Camon C9 didn’t fail to impress with its extremely bright and sharp resolution with colours appearing crystal clear. There are also a bunch of features on its display settings where you can adjust the phone’s screen to your preference.

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Overall, the Camon C9 has a sleek and stylish design and feels nice to hold. I also like the fact that you can hardly tell what device one is holding until you turn to the back and see the TECNO logo embossed at the back of the device.

Hardware and Performance

For a phone that is powered by a 1.7GHz Octa-core processor based on the MediaTek MT6582 chipset and a 2GB RAM (which is a huge boost from the Camon C8), you can rest assured that it was built for speed and smooth multitasking. Every single touch triggers a quick response from the device with absolutely no lagging when running multiple apps and playing heavily graphical games, although the phone gets slightly warmer upon heavy usage. Still, because of its plastic back, your hands won’t get burned, so don’t worry.

Thanks to the 3000mAh battery capacity on the Camon C9 — with power consumption features such as battery saver (which reduces performance and background data) and ultra power (which when enabled limits your phone usage to just a few things like making calls, messaging, using the notebook, calculator, sound recorder and clock) — the phone can can last up to 16 hours on moderate usage depending on your device’s power, sound and display settings, but lasts much longer when these power saving options are enabled.

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Apart from its highly impressive battery life, one exciting feature that is packed on the Camon C9 is its LTE-enabled dual-SIM capability (with micro-SIMs), which doesn’t feature on its predecessor, the Camon C8 and further puts it in the league of the high-end smartphones. However, I’m yet to experience its 4G capabilities as none of the mobile operators I use currently have 4G network in my hood, if at all.

In the storage department, the Camon C9 failed to impress me with its 16GB of internal storage, which the Camon C8 also had, although it scores points with a microSD card slot that can hold up to 128GB of storage. I also wished that it shipped with 3GB RAM which would have complemented its already good processor, but would perhaps have increased its price. Although with a 2GB RAM, the phone still performs well for a mid-range phone.

Overall, the Camon C9 packs power with good processor performance, although the storage could be better.

Software and Apps

On the software side, the Camon C9 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, overlaid with TECNO’s very own UI called HiOS, which basically adds a bunch of features including wallpapers, themes, fonts and an app management tool called Hi Manager which does memory cleanup and optimises the phone. The UI also offers an app drawer and lets you easily find apps, rearrange or delete them when necessary.

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The music app called Boom Player, which I think debuted on the TECNO Boom J7, lets you discover, stream and download unlimited music from your favourite artists, stream and download music videos and exclusive interviews from artists as well as like, comment, share a track, video or artist on social media. The Boom Player also features an FM Radio that lets you listen in to a bunch of pre-installed radio stations from all the states of Nigeria. Yeah, you heard that right.

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Other apps that come with the phone are the ever-present Google slew of apps, a battery saver app, Xender, WPS Office, social apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, BBM and Palmchat as well as two games — Asphalt Nitro and Puzzle Pets. There’s also the T-Band app which synchronizes with your TECNO smartband and the Camon C9 and allows you to monitor sleep patterns and steps as well as alerts you of calls and thefts.

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Overall, the Camon C9 offers a clean interface and apps run pretty smoothly and fast, with an app drawer that offers easy navigation of apps and tools.

Camera and Security

With a 13MP back camera and a 13MP front-facing camera alongside a bunch of features and flash functionality, the Camon C9 could probably contend for the selfie phone of the year. Heck, who needs a Canon when you’ve got a Camon?

The C9 can be a dependable companion for those selfies, video calls, and photo shoots with decent shots even on low-light conditions. I took it for a spin shooting different scenes and playing around its features including HDR, Gesture shot, Panorama, Delay capture, Slow motion mode, Night scene mode, to mention a few.

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However, the camera settings on the Camon C9 is very limited as it doesn’t allow you to adjust camera resolutions, ISO, White balance, image contrast, Exposure, etc. There’s also no Optical Image Stabilisation which lets you capture blur-free photos and videos even if the camera isn’t steady or in low light situation. In fact, when you enable the Night scene mode on the C9, it tells you that you need to steady the phone when taking pictures.

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On the security department, you can choose from a number of options from Screen Lock to Smart Lock, where Screen Lock allows you to set basic security options like swipe, pattern, PIN or Password, and an Eye Unlock feature. This unique feature utilizes Biometric identification to scan the eye-print with the phone’s camera and requires a four-digit password to access. However, it doesn’t scan your iris so don’t get too excited, although its a feature that you would love showing off to your friends and watch them drool over.

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The phone’s Smart Lock option has four features: Trusted devices, Trusted places, Trusted voice and On-body detection. Trusted devices lets you unlock the Camon C9 with another device like your Bluetooth-enabled watch or your car’s Bluetooth system. Trusted places lets you unlock the Camon C9 from a particular place you choose, either at home or the office which you can set on Google Maps. Trusted voice lets you unlock the C9 with your voice, while On-body detection, when enabled, lets you keep your phone unlocked while it’s in your hand, pocket or handbag, but automatically locks when it detects that it isn’t on you anymore.

Overall, the Camon C9’s camera is its major feature, but falls short with limited camera adjustment options and although its eye scanner technology is fanciful, it isn’t as secure as you would get with iris technology.

Verdict

For its warp speed processor, crisp and perfectly-sized screen display, dual-SIM 4G/LTE capability, a highly impressive camera for those selfies and video chats, awesome sound quality, a powerful battery and the eye scanner, it is hard to ignore this mid-range device from TECNO.

However, the device would have been in the league of the top-range Android devices in the market were it not for its meagre internal storage capacity, an average RAM, its lack of photo adjustment options and an eye scanner that leaves more to be desired.

That said, at N49,900, the TECNO Camon C9 is a steal, offers value for the money and is easily a strong contender in the mid-range smartphone category.



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