See previous article: A Cheap Android Phone
On my old Samsung Galaxy S3 phone, I used to use a program launcher called Solo, rather than the one built in. It’s a great way to build your Home screen on an Android phone. Since switching to the X12, with a lot of problems resolved regarding speed and lock-ups, I started getting more picky about the “little things”. One of which was the tendency for the Weather Clock and Calendar Applets to freeze from time to time, necessitating a reboot.
One of the reasons I found, on the internet, for this was that they are being crashed by over-enthusiastic “memory cleaners”, of which Solo has one built in. I tried a number of other Launchers, and generally they had the same problem. And they could not do what Solo did, to vary the screen grid (I think it looks better with 5 rows and 4 columns, than the standard 4×4).
Finally I tried “Nova Launcher”. It had mostly the same features as Solo, except it didn’t have an inbuilt memory cleaner. I found that (fingers crossed so far) my widgets no longer crashed! I added a stand-alone memory cleaner, CM Clean Master, and used the widget from that to perform cleans from time to time, and so far the widgets have still not crashed!
You can see some of the features in the photo. At the top, as well as the standard “Google Bar”, Nova also includes one with a second function on the right, the App Drawer. That avoids having to have the App Drawer button in the Dock at the bottom. Note also in the bottom row that you can place icons in “halfway” spots on the layout grid. And you can also see the Weather and Clock Widget.
Note that there is a Folder in the Dock. The standard Launcher does not have this feature. Nova is one of a number of add-on Launchers that does. A thing Nova has in common with Solo is the ability to edit icons, both the name and the image. However Nova does it a whole lot better, the three white widgets in the Dock are images I made on my computer. Solo scaled them down rather crudely, Nova has used a little anti-aliasing, to prevent them looking jagged.
More on CM Clean Master
Just to point out that as well as the widget, there is a full-featured program which tells you of every vulnerability on your phone. Don’t let this get you paranoid if you run it, just use the nice widget!
On my old Samsung S3, the standard Internet Application had been changed to give it Google Chrome-type features. which turned out to be rather annoying, If I want these features, I can download Google Chrome. But on a mobile, I wanted a basic browser, that guaranteed that if I put a shortcut on the Home desktop, that it would go directly to that page when called, not give me a choice of that and up to 15 other pages it’s holding in memory. Have a more sophisticated app by all means, for more serious browsing, but if I tap an icon on the phone, for a particular web page, then I want to go to that web page with no complications. So I’m pleased that Cubot uses the basic, uncomplicated browser.
The Cubot X12 also features an Infra Red output, which can be programmed as a remote control. Everyone recommends ZaZaRemote which is great, but if you want to edit certain keys, you’d need to get an Infra-red dongle to be able to read in remote codes, as this only sends, it doesn’t receive. At the other end of the scale, there is “irplus”, which is ugly, and brilliant! You can download ready-made remote control clones, but it also enables you to type hex values in for each button, which is useful if you know them. They can be got online from various sources, or off a learning remote if it connects to a computer. It gives the more technically minded user some real control over the keys.
These days, a mobile phone is expected to be everything, including a camera. Personally, if I’m off on holiday, I take a standalone camera, but there will always be times when you’re not expecting to take a photo, and you decide you need to. Sadly, in all but the most perfect lighting conditions, the Cubot X12 seems to add a red cast to its photos. But I think I have the solution! Remember you can go to Play Store and try all sorts of different software to use the camera feature of your phone, and I have come across a Camera app called Open Camera. This is an all singing, all dancing, camera app, where all the settings are fully adjustable, like you’d expect on a “real” camera. But of course you can leave them set to Auto. I found by leaving everything on Auto, except for “Exposure”, which is just a left-right finger slide, you can compensate for this, and you can see the expected result before taking the picture. The author of this program has released it as fully open-source, which means free and no adverts, and just asks for donations. The point is that you have huge choices of apps, there is no need to use the one that comes installed as standard.
I may be mistaken, but even at the Amazon price, around £70, the Cubot X12 is an exceptional deal. Nothing cheaper will give you 4G connection speeds for your mobile data (where available), AND two SIM cards. Indeed Cubot’s own more expensive models have combined the second SIM slot with the SDHC memory card slot, meaning one or the other, but this has separate slots for 2 SIMs (one up to 4G, one up to 2G), plus a memory card socket up to 32Gb, which is essential as the phone only has 8Gb internal storage. The screen doesn’t have the highest resolution, but in practice my eyes can’t see much difference. That it only has 1Gb of RAM, is compensated by the fact that it’s not full of bloatware, and the version of Android that comes with it, 5.1 (Lollipop), cleans up after itself better than earlier versions, so you don’t run out of memory all the time.
The screen is responsive, the only time I’m ever kept waiting for something to happen has far more to do with the internet or mobile signal I’m using, and this picks them up better than my old Samsung S3 used to. So I’m going to stick my neck out, and say that, unless you’re a gamer, then you don’t actually need anything better than this phone.