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The TECNO Camon 15 is here, which is few months after the release of the Camon 12 series. Obviously, the new line has some big shoes to fill, bearing in mind these phones are very popular among Kenyans who buy them because they are affordable, and offer some of the best specs for the price, including admirable camera performance.

At KES 18000, the Camon 15 is KES 2500 more than the Camon 12 when it first hit store shelves. However, this is a new era for mobile phone makers; the world is under lockdown because of the Coronavirus pandemic that is stretching supply chains and logistics, so we were expecting a slight bump in product prices besides oil.

The Camon 15 Premier is even more expensive at KES 27000, having added more than 7K from last year’s Camon 12 Pro. However, that is a story for another day.


There are a lot of questions potential buyers are asking, including if they should replace their Camon 12s, whether the camera performance of the Camon 15 is an improvement over the Camon 12, or if the extra costs are worth what you buy. These are important queries and I will strive to answer them as you read along, so sit tight.

Right off the bat, here are the specs of the Camon 15:

Screen IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen
6.55" 720 x 1600 pixels
PlatformAndroid 10.0; HIOS 6.0
Memory64 GB
RAM4 GB
Main snapperQuad system:
48 MP main
2 MP
2 MP
QVGA
Selfie16 MP, punched in the screen
Fingerprint readerYes, at the back
Battery5000 mAh
No fast-charging
ColoursShoal Gold, Fascinating Purple, Jade
ChipOcta-core
Mediatek MT6762 Helio P22 (12 nm)
GPUPowerVR GE8320
PriceKES 18000

From the spec sheet and our overall assessment, we can make the following quick conclusions:

The good

  1. The screen is big enough for consuming media content and browsing. There are no size limitations here, but we have come from compact phones to massive devices with shrunk bezels that house humongous screens. It is the trend now, and TECNO Camon 15 is subscribing to that design language. The screen, by the way, has a punch hole on the top left for the 16 MP front-facing camera.
  2. The camera is a notable improvement from the Camon 12 by sheer numbers. The Camon 12 is equipped with three rear sensors whereas the 15 has four of them. In terms of output, general usage, and software, the two are mostly the same. And that is not a bad thing.
  3. Hear me out: the device has HiOS, its custom skin on top of Android 10. HiOS has a ton of features that you can play around with, including a system-wide dark mode and multiple custom settings.
  4. The battery is large at 5000 mAh and you cannot kill it in a single day unless you really want to.
  5. The kinda green kinda blue Camon 15 in our possession is pretty, and the general hardware is put together nicely.

The not so good

  1. Size: at 6.55”, the Camon 15 is not a small phone. It also has some weight to it. This may rub people who love compact smartphones wrongly – but are there any small phones out there anymore?
  2. The cameras produce some outstanding shots during the day, and some night shots – but I have a general feeling there is no need for the quad-camera at the back. I mean, what does the fourth QVGA sensor even do – because the main (48 MP), ultrawide (2 MP) and depth (2 MP) sensors are serviceable?
  3. Display: it is high time TECNO started equipping the Camon series with FHD+ panels. At KES 18,000, I think a customer deserves a better display. The 720p one is fine, but if you compare it to competing devices at the same price range, the 15’s easily loses a few points. However, its immersive experience is still an attractive feature for the price.
  4. Battery: I wish it could charge a little bit faster top-up times go past the 2.5-hour mark. That is not admirable.
  5. Price: last year, we got the Camon 12 at a little over 15K. Right now, the Camon 15 starts at KES 18000. Is the price jump guaranteed? Well, that is what you are here to find out.

Design

Similar to previous Camon devices, the 15 focus is camera performance. This means the phone’s rear plate has four of those and a quad-tone LED flash – all tucked on the top left end in a rectangular and dark camera bump. This is a 2019 – 2020 design that was started by the iPhone 11, and other manufacturers have picked it quite well. It is an option you will love or hate, but it is executed quite well for the Camon 15.

The trusty capacitive and rear-mounted fingerprint reader is here. It works reliably, and I am yet to get over the fact that it is not here for long because phone makers will surely replace it with in-display solutions over time. Its reliability makes me question how long we are going to struggle with half-baked in-screen readers like the one on my Galaxy S10.

That is very much there is on the back, besides the paint job that I have come to love because TECNO went wild.

At the front is the expansive 6.55-inch HD+ display. I was not surprised when I found TECNO had stuck to this panel, but as I mentioned before, at KES 18000, I expected more. Look, it is not bad at all and it is likely most buyers will not notice its shortcomings, but TECNO could do better next time if it needs customers to continue loving these phones.

That aside, it is bright enough for indoor usage. Its maximum brightness does not help on the outside. You will struggle to see text or navigating throughout the UI, hence you need to keep that in mind. For the most part, these are minor annoyances that you can live with. The limitations are also eclipsed by the immersive nature of the panel. It has a hole punch on the top left corner for the 16 MP camera, and that is the only interruption you are going to see. If that is not your jam, the software allows you to hide the small notch for some uniformity.

The screen is also a pleasant reminder of the benefits of a flat display that does not try to hide the thinnest of bezels with curves. The curves on my main phone drive me crazy from accidental touches. They are also an ergonomic nightmare. This is me saying that I enjoy the typing on the Camon 15 screen.

The bottom end of the device has a micro-USB port, a small speaker grill and a headphone jack. There is no USB Type-C here, unfortunately, but that is a small omission we can let slide because we still have a bunch of micro-USB cables lying around – but not for long. The Phantom line from TECNO is equipped with Type C ports, so I suspect the trend will be replicated in Camons in the next generation.

So, you can use your wired earphones here, but if you want to blast your tunes using the speakers, your music isn’t going to get very loud. The earphones in the retail package are not very good too, but you can always purchase better ones separately. Other smartphone makers don’t bother including a pair, so I will cut TECNO some slack here.

The included charging brick does not top up the 5000 mAh battery fast. It takes over two and a half hours to fill the cell, and that is not a short time. I will add, it is a minor setback because you can always charge the phone overnight, and use it comfortably throughout the day.

All buttons are on the right. The left side has a SIM tray that accommodates two SIM cards, and a microSD card to supplement the 64 GB of onboard space.

On the whole, there are a lot of things to like about the design of the Camon 15. It has all the features of a handheld that punches above its price tag, although its minor issues have been brought to light.

Software, battery, and performance

After the first boot, you will realize that the set-up process is a smooth exercise. It took me less than five minutes before hitting the home screen. If you have been using TECNO phones, the CAMON 15 is not different at all because the interface, software tricks, and apps are generally the same. It is a familiar territory even for users who have been using other software skins.

HiOS continues to insist that many features are a plus, and there are plenty here to make an entire post, but I will highlight a few.

  1. The smart panel allows you to access apps quickly with a swipe from the right edge. The apps in the panel can also be edited. In some cases, you may trigger the tool by accident, but it does not happen often. 
  2. You can make the interface dark from the display settings. Supported apps will go dark as well. We dig this feature.
  3. The social turbo feature will switch on your LED flash if you receive a WhatsApp call (for whatever reason) or alert you if a friend uploads a meme on their Status.
  4. You can use gestures or the tried Android navigation bar. I cannot use the gestures because they do not work with Nova Launcher. Which brings me to the fifth point…
  5. Install a third-party home replacement app for some sanity (more of this in a moment).
  6. There is a game mode feature that, if toggles, diverts horsepower to the game for a better experience. It also does some basic features like put notifications on hold until you exit a game.
  7. Down in the Settings page is HiOS Lab. If a new feature is introduced, you can know about it from here, and test it afterward. There weren’t any new tricks in the Lab as of this writing.
  8. There is a Micro Intelligence setting that was introduced some time back in HiOS. It is just another fancy name for gestures: flip to mute a phone call, use three fingers to take a screenshot or control music using gestures.
  9. HiOS still support themes natively.
  10. There are a ton of included apps that you may or may not find useful. Whatever you choose to do with them is up to you.

Now, HiOS is all good but ads on your lock screen and app drawer will be a bother, at least to me. There is no easy way of deactivating lock screen ones besides switching off your data connection. Those that populate your drop-down menu can be done away with by A. deactivating or uninstalling the source app or B. deactivating notifications from the app(s).

App drawer ads are easier to eliminate: just get a launcher and you are good to go. My choice is Nova, but there are tens of good home replacement apps out there.

I have talked about this before, but I will keep reminding you Transsion (the company that makes TECNO phones) has smaller margins, so they try to get some money from these ads. They already sell their phones at a bargain, so making a buck or two from services is excusable. Maybe.

There are a lot of things to love here, and I have stated them above in case you are not the kind to notice and appreciate them. For instance, I would advise you to use dark mode as soon as you set up your Camon 15. It is easier on your eyes. When night time approaches, you can activate a blue light filter christened Eye Care from the display settings. You can even go ahead and change system-wide fonts. These are options that are at your disposal and will keep you busy before settling on options and apps that work for you.

The device rocks Android 10 out of the box and not Android 9 like a phone that launched recently for the Kenyan market. Also, very few phones run the latest OS from Google, and older ones under this price segment are yet to be updated. It is also likely the Camon 15 will see Android 11, although that is far into the future.

To reiterate, battery life is excellent because what do you expect from a 5000 mAh cell? It is huge, which is why the phone has some weight to it. The 15 Premier has a 4000 mAh battery, which is smaller than what we have here, but admirable nonetheless. Whichever you choose, you are guaranteed a full day of use, and frugal users can pull two days easily.

As a reminder, and I will continue singing this until the day TECNO will implement it, the Camon series desperately need some form of quick charge. Simply put, this juicer takes nearly three hours to charge.

Under the hood of the Camon 15 is an octa-core Mediatek Helio P22 (12 nm) chip that is complemented with PowerVR GE8320 GPU. What does this mean? Well, these low-tier mid-range specs. The Camon 15 runs everything as expected. You will not experience slow-downs unless you are deliberately looking for them. Apps are also kept in memory for a long time thanks to the generous 4 GB of RAM. In summary, the silicon is more than enough for the price, and will not frustrate you at all for a foreseeable future.

Camera

I did a separate camera review that has sample images from day time, night time and a couple of selfies of me in a face mask because, COVID-19. You can check them out on the review, as well as my assessment of the general optics package.

Here are some samples anyway:

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Is it worth KES 18000?

This is an easy recommendation because it nails most of the promises it seeks to deliver to buyers. The cameras are very good. The battery lasts forever. Software, while filled with ads and apps that you will not use, is equipped with a ton of features that are actually useful.

This is also a Camon smartphone, so you are buying it to take pictures of yourself, your friends and family, and the world around you. Make it count because you cannot anything better for KES 18000.

Where to buy

The Camon 15 is available across Kenya for the said price.

It is also available from e-commerce stores Jumia and XPARK through the following ambassador links:


Eric Omondi: Jumia or XPARK

MCA Tricky: Jumia or XPARK 

 

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