A Cheap Android Phone

One of the things that enables the British people to ripped off by Big Business, is their mistaken belief that the more you pay, the better product you will get. This is illustrated by a couple I used to know. The man of the house could tell Heinz Tomato Ketchup apart from rival brands and supermarket brands. He could taste the difference! However when the lady of the house craftily filled an empty Heinz bottle with Aldi own-brand ketchup, the Aldi sauce, when served from a Heinz bottle, tasted exactly like Heinz. Indeed, he could distinguish the flavours of Aldi ketchup from a Heinz bottle and Aldi ketchup from an Aldi bottle, the first being delicious and the latter being rubbish.

Of course, there are plenty of examples when something cheap just does not cut it, but the lesson is to keep an open mind, and try different things. I’m very much into music, and one thing I learnt over the years, is the law of diminishing returns. With Hi-Fi stereo equipment, you hit a price point, above which you have to pay a lot more to make a tiny difference in sound quality.

The X12 sitting in its rear protector. The bottom that the Menu, Home and Back touch spots are off the screen.

The X12 sitting in its rear protector. You can see at the bottom that the Menu, Home and Back touch spots are off the screen.

Is this also true for Mobile Phones? Well I took delivery this week of a new mobile phone. I’d heard so many complaints from people about some very expensive products. I’d also read favourable reviews of one particular phone model, the Cubot X12. On Amazon this phone sells for £77. When I saw it on offer from Everbuying.com at £41.67, with a warning of limited stock, I decided to jump. Indeed, not long after I had ordered, they had sold out. It was 2-3 weeks before it arrived, but I could manage in the meantime with my Samsung Galaxy S3.

Frustrating

The S3 was a frustrating phone to own. It always seemed to drag. Sometimes, apps just wouldn’t clear off the screen when I got an incoming phone call, and I missed the call as a result. Maybe I was partially to blame for that, not liking the built-in apps and system, and downloading other stuff from Play Store. But when it came down to it, half the 1Gb RAM had gone before I started adding my stuff!

One of the things you learn when you get a Chinese no-name brand phone, is that it makes better use of its memory, by just sticking to a simple Android system and enough basic apps to make it usable. Now when I added all my own stuff, there still seemed to be plenty of RAM for everything to run in, even though it had the same memory, 1Gb, and, on paper at least, a slightly slower processor. But in practice, the Cubot X12 runs a lot faster, with, at this stage, no freeze-ups.

There was a problem at first with Play Store crashing, but after a system update, then a software update, this ceased.

Initial Impressions

These were some initial impressions I had, even before I added the SIM and the Micro-SDHC card, of the X12:

  • Unlike my outgoing Samsung Galaxy S3, and, I’m led to believe, most other Samsungs, when I connect it with a USB lead to my computer, I can access stuff on it through the File Manager. No more waiting all day for Airdroid, and its regular connection drops.
  • The screen resolution of the X12 is much lower than that of the S3, yet viewed side by side, it’s hard to tell the difference. On the X12, the curves on the icons don’t appear at all jaggy. The lower resolution means fewer pixels for the memory and processor to have to shuffle about, which explains why, at first sight, the X12 appears a lot faster (though a few apps might change all that). There’s no point in having higher resolution if my old eyes can’t tell the difference. I would think that this would also mean less battery power used.
  • There’s pretty much no bloated unwanted apps installed. The Samsung is full of Samsung apps (and others) that I will never use. That’s probably why it’s so slow!
  • DSCF1138

    X12 comes with clear protector

    The X12 comes with a clear protective plastic cover that protects the back and the sides. The screen comes with a screen protector already fitted, no bubbles, and a spare one in the box. Nice touch!

  • With a wireless connection, the Facebook and Messenger Apps seem really quick on the Cubot. On Samsung they are painfully slow.
  • The Cubot cost me £42.19 brand new, (I got a few points which I cashed in to take it to £39 something, then the exchange rate and PayPal charges meant my card was actually charged £42.19). You’ll have to check here to see whether it’s in stock, last time I checked you could have any colour you liked as long as it was black. If it’s out of stock, other sites are asking from £60 to £80.

Bad Points

There were two things I didn’t like about the CUBOT, compared to the Samsung S3, that when the unit went into screensaver mode, you have to press the button on the right-hand side of the case to turn the screen on again. On the S3, the Home button also works, and I had got used to that!

Secondly, my old eyes are a problem, and because the front is solidly black, apart from the dark-grey icons at the bottom, I often pick it up, upside-down. That’s never a problem with a Samsung S3, due to the shiny “Home” button at the bottom.

In Use

DSCF1140

Screen, though lower resolution than the Samsung S3, is clear, and the response is good.

So, how is it after a couple of days use? Well I’ve only seen one slowdown on it, that was in a pub last night which uses The Cloud free wi-fi. But this was changed the moment I disabled the wi-fi, forcing it to use 4G instead. 4G is >>FAST>>. You can’t blame the phone if the problem is down to the internet connection. When it uses my own wi-fi at home, there is no problem.

 

I don’t have any problem with the lower resolution on the screen, compared to the S3, and it’s responsive, everything works as it should. If I start a program in error, hitting the “Back” key seems to close it instantly. Holding down “Home” to get a list of running programs is also instant. Closing programs from the list actually releases RAM (unlike the Samsung) though that may be down to the version of Android, I don’t know.

DSCF1141

DSCF1143

Side view of phone, top with protective cover, bottom without. It’s very thin as you can see. You can also see some metal trim embedded in the side. Despite being plastic, it’s tough and the body doesn’t bend.

Despite being plastic, it has a nice solid feel to it, and doesn’t bend. You can only tell the back is plastic by touching it, it has a nice “brushed metal” finish.

Another feature is that it has an Infra Red transmitter built in, and so far I can switch my TV on and off, and change the channel. I’ll investigate this further. In order to do this, I installed a program called ZaZaRemote but I will investigate others.

Backing up your stuff is important. I’m using CM Backup and Restore, which I also had on my old phone, and was able to recover my entire SMS history and merge them. CM File Manager enables me to move stuff to and from Dropbox, and CM QuickPic automatically backs up my photos to the cloud. These do not appear to have slowed the unit down.

Proof of the pudding

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I have a couple more things to chew on before I can give it the thumbs up totally. One is, photos and videos, still to be tested. I’m not expecting a great deal and when I plan to take pictures, I always take my camera!

Other thing, and this is crucial, how will it perform in 6 months’ time?

On the corner close to where I live, there is a CEX shop. They have a Samsung S3 in the window, second hand, for £120. I’ve seen them on line for £85 second hand. From what I’ve seen so far, the X12 is so much better. I don’t know how it would compare to a newer phone,  but for an S5 or S6, you are looking at well in excess of £300 if it’s without a contract.

In conclusion, I think I got a good deal!

One last thing — Electrical Safety

One last thing…. as I got this via China, it came with a Euro 2-pin charger. Have you seen all the stories on the internet about things catching fire whilst charging? You note that none of the charging plugs you get are fused. But a Euro 2-pin charger can be plugged in via a shaver adaptor, which has a 1A fuse. As the charger needs less than 1A, it is safe to plug it in via a shaver adaptor, and if it malfunctions, the fuse will blow rather than your home catching fire! Just a thought!

 

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