Lenovo A8 (A806) WCDMA 4G Kit Kat Android smartphone review and experiences + current situation at Chinese middle class smartphones market (Part 1)
Since my MT6577 Android 4.2 smartphone Amoi N820 (1GB RAM, 4.5" qHD) is after almost 2 years aging (although still quite smooth since I keep it neat/optimized, but since I work with newest prototypes of phones from biggest CN brands of course I am aware that smoothness is not on par with nowadays standards, but for someone who doesn't really know anything better it's still quite nice phone especially for 0 price I will be giving it away) and I plan to give it away soon I was in market for new replacement.
This year I chose 3 phones for in-laws and wife (and recommended plenty to others) - FIL wanted something big, at least 5.5" and since there were many phones announced but not many actually available for sale (this is typical situation with all great deals you read about on news websites, most of them are just announcement hype bullshits (especially infamous OnePlus and Xiaomi) and you have to wait months and months until the phones are actually on sale) I decided in the end for same brand as I owned and bought him in beginning of year Amoi A900T (T stands for Chinese TD-SCDMA 3G, useless abroad, if you want international phone you have to look for WCDMA 3G, same with 4G you want FDD-LTE, not Chinese TD-LTE, avoid China Mobile/Telecom branded phones, international China Unicom is your friend) for very reasonable 999RMB (122EUR, USD quotes not mentioned since Americans have cheap Google/Motorola phones unlike rest of the world and I would not be considering Chinese phone being in US), noticing that still quite unknown brand Amoi has very good deals - they have phones with very good specs usually for best prices compared to competitors (except some reall noname brands), while delivering good quality phones fitted usually almost with Vanilla clean Android, while keeping it updated if lucky (my N820 got updates from 4.0 through 4.1 to 4.2) and basically their only downside is boring design. Amoi should really hire some designer and step up in their marketing department and it could be big brand, since I can't understand how are their phones falling in price, right now it's possible to find FIL's phone alredy for 600-700RMB which is amazing deal for phone with those specs.
Wife really needed upgrade from her company phone Huawei C8812 for China Telecom CDMA network with small subpar display, crappy camera without LED and lagging Vanilla Android 4.3 which could not save a day, when phone has only 512MB RAM. So I knew for her it must be something with reasonable specs, international 3G WCDMA standard and at least 2GB RAM. At that time I was already aware of plenty of announced MT6592 phones or phones in market, although their prices didn't seem reasonable to me and once I saw TCL S950 (also known as Alcatel Idol X, since TCL owns brand Alcatel which was quite famous in Europe years ago) I fell in love with the phone, design is just amazing - supernarrow bezels comparable or even better than nowadays super high-end phones, also top and bottom bezel is so narrow that usually phones so short bottom bezel don't have there even capacitive buttons and use only on screen navigation bar, phone is also extremely thin with 7mm and quite light while having very good quality body, so only real downside I've found was aging MT6589T CPU (Antutu ~14-15K) which is actually slower or comparable to our Rockchip RK3188 tablet Chuwi V88S (1GB RAM, Kit Kat, superthin, lighter/thinner than iPad Mini at same dimensions), but since it's phone for wife which doesn't need that extensive powerhouse and everything else looked great I settled for this phone, which became later problem for myself when choosing new phone. Just quick note - capacitive buttons on TCL S950 are quite insensitive (although still improvement over her previous crappy Huawei C8812 which was even worse), which I wanted to fix by using navigation bar, but sadly ROM is quite heavily customized by TCL that it ain't possible to enable it, so hopefully in future with some AOSP ROM, since later I bought same phone just in TD-SCDMA version also for mother in law and to my surprise I've found that China Mobile equipped it basically with Vanilla stock Android, so I immediately enabled navbar for MIL and disabled backlight for capacitive buttons which are now basically invisible to her. Also be careful when installing Xposed (together with mandatory GravityBox), don't use anythign newer than version 2.3.1, otherwise you will end up in bootloop. 2000mAh battery is no problem, only other annoyance is Power button on top which should be considered crime at 5" phones, while I can bare it at my 4.5" phone but it was already there annoyance. As for storage there are more variants - single SIM with microSD which would be the best option, but sadly in China they sell basically only useless dual SIM version, so we had to settle with 16GB storage, which should be OK, just need to be more careful about heavy apps and tons of photos/music.
OK, so finally we are getting there - to my research of options for my next phone. As I said choosing TCL S950 for wife and MIL became problem for me, since the phone has nearly perfect body - it's one of the lightest and smallest 5" phones in market with amazing dimensions - small bezels on all sides, it's also very thin and light and once you hold something like this in your hand you don't really want another brick with huge bezels and not rounded corners. This became problem since apparently Chinese producers don't give a shit about bezels except flagships and to buy "average" phone in price range 1000-1300RMB equipped with MT6592 octacore (8) CPU (Antutu 26-32K, depending on frequency 1.7-2GHz, with 1.7GHz being common standard and then just depending on optimization of ROM), 2GB RAM and at least 720P 4.7" display 4.7" and bigger is more difficult than one would imagine. As for CPU I wanted something better which can again last for some time, these MT6592 phones have in Antutu scores higher than Samsung S4 which is still considered quite good phone by majority of people I guess and personally I have nothing against Mediatek company unlike brainwashed people who would be probably repeating same nonsense in 90's and 00's about Intel vs AMD, when I basically never had anything than AMD CPU in my desktop PC because their price/performance was unbeatable by Intel and never had any problems with compatibility. It's same story again with Qualcomm vs Mediatek, when people will be talking bullshit about how is Mediatek not publishing source codes (who cares, when after all they release newer Android ROMs, it just takes more time), never had any problems with compatibility and yes, GPS could be faster but with each generation they are catching up. As for spying on me, I don't really see difference if it's Chinese or Americans spying, same shit different country, at least with CN we are being reminded it every day by some FOX school journalist.
My hottest candidates for next phone (MT6592 1.7GHz Antutu 26-30K, 2GB RAM, 720P 4.7"<, under 1000RMB preferably), were in the end these 3:
TCL Idol X+ S960 - 1499RMB Jd.com/Yixun.com/Taobao - same as Idol X but stronger 2500mAh battery, 2GHz very fast MT6592 CPU with Antutu 31K, 16GB, same insensitive capacitive buttons, 1mm thicker at total 8mm, bezel around display 3.42mm (Idol X 2.62mm), 71% display/body ratio (Idol X 72.7%), dual micro SIM (=no microSD), faster 3G than Jiayu, LED notification diod, 140.4x69.1x7.9mm, 130g
ZTE Nubia Z7 Mini - 1499RMB Jd.com - 4core MSM8974AA Snapdragon 801 2GHz with 31K or less in Antutu on par with Idol X+, 2+16GB, 3.52mm bezel, 70.57% display/body, 5" FHD, dual SIM, microSD, FDD-LTE + WCDMA, Android 4.4, 2300mAh, 140.9x69.3x8.2mm, 143g, same length/width and almost same thickness as Idol X+, 10% heavier with weaker battery than Idol X+
Jiayu G4S WHITE - 899RMB Jiayu eshop (1069 from resellers) - review Jiayu G4S - 1.7GHz MT6592 +2GB RAM, only 720P display but 4.7" so smaller and OK PPI resolution, strong 3000mAh battery, 3.23mm bezel, 69.4% display/body, no backlight buttons?, weak wifi and slow GPS?, back button on right and power on right, Antutu 26200, no WCDMA900 (bad in rural areas in EU), dual sim micro+normal, no XDA support, backlight bleeding, bad camera, 133x65x10mm, 150g (big bat.). Jiayu S2 is even better, basically same as S960 but impossible to buy or overpried for 1800RMB.
The only problem with all these phones and especially first two was price, since my target was 1000RMB, I was able to find first two actually in some shady shop for 1300RMB but was not willing to risk some fake phone or subpar components or other problems, so that was not really option with price 1500RMB 50% over my budget. And after all when I look at Coolpad F1 it delivers basically same specs at half price, so there should be something for less than 1000RMB and sorry, but paying 50% surcharge just for better design in case of TCL S960 is just not justifiable - yes, it's great to have thin phone with narrow bezel, good quality metal frame and design I really like, but sorry 50% just for design is too much, since compared to average cheap MT6592 phone only advantage of S960 was higher frequence which means like max. 10% better performance, but crappy capacitive buttons (hopefully possible to fix by Xposed+GravityBox in AOSP ROM), better display resolution and notification diod while missing microSD card slot. ZTE Nubia Z7 Mini seem like extremely good deal, although I don't like design at all, dimensions are OK, it's versatile 4G phone supporting all 4G and 3G standards in world, it has microSD card slot (although hidden behind removable cover while battery is not removable so I don't reallt get this nonsense why they didn't make slots open and phone thinner. But as usual, 1300RMB was price in shady shop which I was not willing to risk especially in case when this phone is actually hard to get and even in JD.com they sell it in very limited amounts for 1500RMB and it's immediately sold out, so why would be everyone so stupid to buy it immediately for 1500RMB when they can buy it without waiting for 1300RMB, so there is something definitely shady especially since the shady shop must also make profit at least 100RMB, so in the end this was no no as well, because 1500RMB is not justifiable for little improvement in performance and design I don't actually like with bezels already not so special. Jiayu G4S seemed like very good option only if this phone would be available, Jiayu is not really selling it for advertised price 899RMB, which is immediately sold out when they release few pieces at this price (I was checking their website daily) and only way how to buy this phone is through reseller for 1069RMB which I was just not willing to do. 3000mAh battery is impressible, less is 10mm thickness/weight which is really like brick nowadays, but design/size is nice, but real review didn't make the phone exactly appealing for me to shill out 170RMB to scalper to get this phone. I don't want to support company like Jiayu which is already infamous for years for postponing and postponing release of their phones just to sell them in very limited amounts or unofficially at higher price than advertised, so fuck you jiayu with this strategy.
In the end I was actually seriously considering other phones with less impressive design/specs but at least possible to buy:
Amoi A928W (V2X) - 999RMB JD.com - 1.7GHz MT6592, 2+32GB, 5" FHD, microSD slot, Antutu 26-28K, thick bezel, thick and heavy body with small battery, 2100mAh, 140*70.5*8.3m, 148g
Coolpad F1 - 888RMB JD.com - 5" 720P, 1.7GHz MT6592, 2+8GB, 2500mAh strong battery so heavier, 4.62mm very THICK bezel, 68.35% display/body, microSD support, body not so long, thickness OK, but wide because of bezel, 141x71.5x9.3mm, 151g
Lenovo A806 - 898RMB official Unicom Suning price (resellers 999RMB?) - 5" 720P, 1.7GHz MT6592, 2+16GB, 2500mAh, everything except 16GB ROM same as Coolpad F1 but seem better design, Android 4.4 (!), microSD support, single SIM, quite thick bezel, shiny back, back button and all physical buttons on right side, 140.5×70.5×8.99mm (1mm shorter, 1mm narrower and 0.3mm thinner than Coolpad F1)
Now don't get me wrong, in the beginning of this post I was praising Amoi as being amazing deal - delivering good quality phones on time without postponing/hype with very good specs at best prices just with boring design. Being Amoi owner who also this year bought Amoi for FIL I didn't really want to buy just another Amoi phone because it was pragmatic choice despite design, by specs and price it would be one of the hottest candidates, but I wanted to avoid Amoi as hell, don't stick with one brand as some stupid Apple/Samsung fanboys do. In old times I had everything - Siemens, Nokia, Sony, Ericsson, Philips and I was for sure not loyal to any brand, always just choosing the best option for me and same was my history with Android despite brand. Here in this case I had to try to avoid my usual option for the sake not being some fanboy of Amoi and only really downside of their phone was square design I didn't want to stick with, since I prefer more rounded phones. Despite design is A928W very good phone for its price with only real downside, weaker 2100mAh battery.
Then there is Coolpad F1, being one of the biggest brands in China (which makes them one of the biggest in world, although unknown outside China) targeting low/middle class customers, avoiding high end market completely knowing their image is quite shitty that people would not really wanted to be seen with high end Coolpad phone and would never spend lot of money on their expensive phones. Problem of Coolpad seem to be to me their extremely low confidence, they don't even try to break into middle class market, they offer always some decent phone but fuck up some spec like display or like in this case, when they finally they offer decent all rounder they completely fuck up design and have the worst looking phone possible to buy with MT6592 CPU. Its real price 888RMB is amazing and it's already on sale for long long time, so there is no problem with availability, tons of ROMs and recently they released even Kit Kat AOSP untouched ROM so kudoz to Coolpad, but oh boy, why the heck you can't put same specs just into little bit nicer body, little bit thinner here and there, different edges/corners, I would give you easily 200-300RMB extra money over F1 if you would just sell F1 in better looking body, but sadly Coolpad is not litening to customers happy with selling tons of shitty looking phones with good specs/price not offering other option to customers at all. I was looking forward to better design again with good Coolpad price at successor F2 until I've found it's gonna be 5.5" which seem to be nowadays fashion to produce good looking phone in 5.5" format for price I would be willing to spend for same design with smaller and cheaper design to produce but apparently I must be very strange target group when I think 5" are more than enough and even 4.7" would be already OK to hold in my big hand (almost 2m tall).
One of recent additions which made quite big wave over Android websites was Lenovo Gold Warrior aka Lenovo A8 aka technically Lenovo A808T (TD-SCDMA, China Mobile) or Lenovo A806 (WCDMA, China Unicom). This phone seem to have quite decent design compared to F1 and A928W bricks, although of course bezels of all these 3 phones are nothing to brag about like at TCL S960 (and especially S950), but design looks decent nice rounded with all dimensions smaller than F1, battery is strong as at F1, display is same 5" 720P to save producing cost same as at F1, microSD is standard at these dimensions and prices since price aware customers know it's cheaper to put inside big microSD card than pay for integrated flash ROM storage. So basically there are no differences between these three phones - Amoi A928W vs Coolpad F1 vs Lenovo A806, except Amoi having Full HD display while other two only 720P display, Lenovo A806 having only one full SIM card slot while other two being Dual SIM phones (I don't really see appeal in using 2 SIM cards), Amoi has the weakest battery of the three and Lenovo as the only one has Kit Kat Android 4.4.2 out of the box (while there is AOSP update flying around for F1, not so familiar with A928W, probably not yet) and Lenovo is the only one with 4G support, although not sure if it's international FDD-LTE or Chinese TD-LTE since you never know with China Unicom, which supports both standards and you can get in China international 3G in combination with Chinese 4G, but anyway that's just bonus and I don't really care about 4G, I download movies at home, not on mobile.
So to avoid Amoi brand (don't want to own it for years looking like fanboy, otherwise nothing wrong with the brand, exactly opposite) and their not so appealing design, Coolpad F1 having just horrible design and in market for many months not being exactly new model, Lenovo A806 seemed like decent option with OK design, not so horrible bezels, Kit Kat out of the box, 4G as bonus, Lenovo brand which usually cost significantly more than anything else from competition, if Amoi or Coolpad sell something for 900-1000RMB you can bet Lenovo will ask at least 20% more for same specs. The problem with Lenovo was they released A808T with Chinese TD-SCDMA for amazing price 798RMB, although it was immediately sold out to scalpers which were selling it 200RMB more expensive and even when it was released few times there was still no mention when will be WCDMA 3G version for China Unicom released, so I was waiting and waiting and waiting, until they finally released WCDMA version on 8/18 special promotions day everywhere on Chinese internet (Chinese like number 8, that's why olympics 08/08/08) which I was luckily able to snatch for official price 898RMB without scalpers.
There are some other phones I checked but didn't considered buying them for particular reasons, unless I would be really desperate:
K-Touch Nibiru H1 - 998RMB JD.com/Yixun.com - 1.7GHz MT6592, 5" FHD, 2+16GB, only 2000mAh battery, very long bottom 5mm longer than other phones, thick 3.87mm bezel, only 68.36% display body, 144x70x7.5mm, 141g
Newsmy K18 - 1299RMB JD.com - 5" FHD, 1.7GHz MT6592, 2+16GB, 2000mAh, very long but thin bezel ???, 144*69.9*6.17mm, 135g
Neken N6 - 997RMB - 1.7GHz MT6592, 5" FHD, 2GB RAM, 16GB ROM, back and Power on right, volume on left, 10mm body!!, thin bezel or 4.12mm thick bezel???, 69% display/body???, dual SIM, microSD, only 2000mAh battery, 141.7×70.5×9.8mm
Uniscope XC2s - 1299RMB TMall 1399RMB JD.com - same as Idol X+ but all buttons better on right side + back capacitive button on right better, seem like perfect combination, not sure about quality - weak battery barely 1 day (28 people complaining out of 200 comments I read), display maybe not sensitive (2 people), buttons not sensitive, overheating even when not thin (15), weak wifi (7), weak BT (4), weak sound (4), doesn't read SIM (4) and SD cards (3), many complaints about Ali OS but can be replaced for MIUI, 1.7GHz MT6592, 2000mAh only, 141.3*69*8.7mm, 156g
Xiaomi Mi3 - 1499RMB xiaomi.com - Qualcomm snapdragon 800 2.3GHz, 2+16GB, 5" FHD, 3050mAh big battery, NFC, 5.67mm thick bezel, only 65% display/body, long and wide body, also quite thick but light with big battery, 144x73.6x8.1mm, 145g, antutu 30-36000, similar to MT6592 2GHz, so only benefit compard to TCL S960 bigger battery and better ROM support
ZTE Nubia V5 - 1000RMB - Snapdragon 4core MSM8926 1.2GHz - 2+8GB, 4.37mm thick bezel, 69.8% display body, 5" 720P screen, 2400mAh, 165g, 8.9mm thick, 139mm long, antutu 17000
ZTE Nubia Z5s Mini - 1200RMB (TMall) - 4core APQ8064T SNapdragon 600 1.7GHz, 2+16GB, 3.59mm bezel, 68.76% display/body, 4.7" 720P, dual SIM, microSD, WCDMA (no 4G?), Kit kat android update available, dedicated cammera button, 2000mAh, 134.8x65.7x7.6mm, 120g (163g with battery?), 5.5mm shorter, 3mm narrower (although quite thick bezels) and little bit thinner than S960, lighter but with 20% weaker battery, antutu 21000 40% slower CPU
Nibiru H1 and K18 seem like good all rounders, but I can't get through their long body, there is really like 4-5mm which should not be there at 5" phone and that's just not acceptable, I don't need padle for boat. Neken N6 had very confusing specs and availability. Uniscope XC2s would be model phone how I imagine perfect phone when I call TCL S960 near perfect design, XC2s even improves the design by placing power button on side unlike criminal top location in S960, I like also capacitive back button on right although this ain't big deal to change by Xposed, dimensions are fine, price would be decent for 1300RMB if I didn't read horrible reviews customers were giving it and after reading them with so many problems this would be model situation when perfect design went wrong with quality/software issues. Also brand Uniscope doesn't sound exactly like something where you can expect many updates and big community for future, so one more reason despite troubles mentioned by customers why not to buy it, but I really need to mention that this phone has perfect design (OK it would be perfect if they would manage to fit it in S950 dimensions while fitting bigger battery :-)). Xiaomi Mi3 is just for comparison that I really can't understand anyone shilling money for this horrible long paddle, it's just worst design Xiaomi ever produced and I can't really understand how can anyone buy such long phone + the price is not really appealing compared to much better designed TCL S960 (which was actually copied in Xiaomi Mi4 design), while only benefit of Xiaomi compared to S960 for same price is maybe 15% better performance which I would for sure sacrifice for better design you hold every day in your hand, same with Nubia Z7 Mini which would be my preffered option over horrible design of Mi3.
For some time I was considering also Nubia V5, but I always end up saying that if I want phone with weak CPU I can just buy amazing TCL S950 with design not beaten by any phone I've seen, so I would rather buy S950 for same price over Nubia V5, despite having maybe 15% slower CPU, but at least all dimensions and design much better. In the very end when I was choosing between S960 and Z7 Mini both from shady shops for 1300RMB I discovered there should be available genuine older generation Z5S Mini for 1200RMB, but Antutu score only 21K so sorry spending more money for slower CPU and not really some impressive design doesn't seem like good deal compared to A806 which is like 1/3 cheaper, with faster CPU, bigger battery and better display. So all in all after comparing tons of phones which I didn't even mentioned here Lenovo A806 seemed like the best option with decent design, good specs and good price. There are phones with better design and basically same or just little bit better specs but their asking price are 30-50% higher which is not justified especially compared to Lenovo brand. If Lenovo is able to sell phones like this for such price (898RMB) then there is not really justification why brands like TCL or ZTE should be asking 50-60% more for similar specs just for nicer body.
Also this German chart may be useful for international buyers of MT6592 mobiles, although not so useful to me, I've had to do my own research b visiting Chinese websites like MTKsj (shouji means mobile in Chinese), ZOL and PCOnline, although the latter two are not so good.
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