Fero Mobile is not a name that should immediately ring a bell when you hear it unless you do the kind of stuff that I do. That is because the brand is still new and its marketing teams have an uphill task of making it a household name across the African continent. But that shouldn’t be hard, though, since the mother company, Midcom Group, has been in the mobile business for over a decade.
I had Fero Mobile’s flagship smartphone, the Royale X1, handed over to me following the brand’s prelaunch event in Nairobi. I have been using it ever since and I have made a few observations.
Royale X1 specifications
|Size and weight||143.8 x 72x 8.9 mm, 169g|
|Display||5-inch HD (1280 x 720 pixels) IPS protected by Panda King Glass|
|Processor||Quad-core MediaTek MTK6735 clocked at 1.0GHz|
|Memory||3GB RAM; 16GB internal storage (expandable via microSD up to 128GB)|
|Camera||13MP rear with auto-focus and LED flash; 5MP front|
|Operating System||Android 6.0 Marshmallow|
|Network||3G, 4G LTE|
|Connectivity||microUSB 2.0, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct|
|Other||Dual SIM (micro)|
First things first, the Fero Mobile brand is not going to battle it out with the high fliers of the industry as far as market focus and prices go. Not just yet. May be that (and it should be) that is the long term play. They are keen on getting a share of the bottom line by enticing users with flashy devices while slowly advancing to mid-range territory which is where the company places one of its best phones, the Royale X1.
The Royale X1, like most budget smartphones we have seen over the last few years, has a plastic build tuned to look like metal (actually, Fero Mobile says on its website that the device has a “Titanium-based metallic back panel” and I have no idea what that really means). It has this sharp boxy look that is accentuated by a few extra grams of weight thanks to the huge non-removable battery unit that is stuck at the back. But other than looking bulky, it isn’t that heavy.
The 5-inch HD display on the front is clear in proper lighting conditions and tuned just right for all manner of content. It does, however, struggle just a bit in too much light like when you’re outdoors.
The device’s cameras, a key focus of any smartphone in this day and age, aren’t much to write home about. The selfie camera does manage to get some nice shots but not without some of them looking like I was edited on to a fancy whiteboard background.
This is usually not a big deal for a device of the X1’s stature but then you remember there’s a device within the Royale X1’s range that really does deliver in the selfie department. In short, the Royale X1’s cameras meet your expectations of a budget device but Huawei and Infinix have kind of spoilt us and everyone has to go that route. There are no two ways about it.
Here are some quick samples of photos I took with the device:
Where the Royale X1 excels in, unsurprisingly, is the overall software experience. Like most nascent brands, Fero in all its infant innocence is sticking with stock Android. Save for an application meant for taking “sweet selfies”, Opera mini and an addition to the settings app of several sound enhancements (which are highly welcome), the Android experience is largely unblemished. If only everyone making budget devices did this!
I only have one bone to pick with the software. The included dialer app does a poor job when it comes to searching contacts. I have to switch to the separate contacts app just to do this if I don’t want to scroll through my entire 2000+ contacts which can be daunting.
The one thing the Royale X1 nails is the memory issue. There’s 3 gigs of RAM in there which, as you would know, goes a long way in boosting the overall performance of a device. But it could do even much more if the hardware was well-tuned to play nicely with the software and if the processor’s clock speed wasn’t capped at a mere 1GHz.
Besides the software, the other bit where Fero Mobile gets it right is the battery. It lasts for over 24 hours and you won’t have any complaints whatsoever. The battery drain is on the low. In fact, if you’re not as heavy a user as I am, you will still have some juice left the following day. The legendary 8 hours of screen on time are easy to achieve. You can get even 9 if you stretch it. That’s how good the battery is. The only problem? I’ve been spoilt by fast charging on similarly-priced devices. The Royale X1 lacks fast charging and as a result takes forever to fill that massive 4,000mAh tank. Patience is key when you plug in the device.
The sound from the back speaker is just good enough. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing exceptional. As is the voice quality.
Over my testing period, the device held up its end of the bargain when it came to LTE connectivity.
- Near-stock Android (though it somehow appears dated).
- Long battery life. I’ve taken the Royale X1 with me out of town a couple of times. To Mombasa and back and to Nakuru and back. While everyone was reaching for their portable chargers by the time we were getting ready to head back to Nairobi (when we were in Nakuru), my phone was just hitting the 70% mark. When everyone was anxious to know when we’d get out of the Miritini-Changamwe traffic as we entered Mombasa just so that they could get home and juice up, my Fero was calm at a respectable 65% after an entire day of use on the road. What more would you want?
- The device takes forever to charge. It’s a big battery, yes, but some form of expedited charging should’ve been considered.
- The device could’ve been better optimized. It does struggle when you put it through its paces.
As far as starts go, for a first generation device, the Royale X1 is a really good phone. I am impressed. I just hope the brand doesn’t grow too big and forget its humble beginnings with near-stock Android and start throwing ugly custom skins our way. We’ve seen that happen with everyone from Huawei (remember the first generation IDEOS devices?) to Tecno.
It’s a good thing to price one of your best phones at Kshs 14,000 but it’s quite another to match whatever the competition offers at that price, slightly below or slightly higher. The Infinix Hot S which is more good-looking and has a really good selfie camera, for instance, could be had for Kshs 2,000 more.