TECNO has a made a name for itself in the Kenya market. Heck, the company appears to have got its act together, and is, indirectly, looking forward to dipping its toes in the Western market (a couple of American blogs are reviewing TECNO devices now). And that it a good thing because having many players in the field forces participants to stretch their craft to appeal to customers.
Which is what the Camon 16 Premier appears to achieve. The phone, which has lived in my pocket for the better part of the month, does everything right, and that is from a person who is hard on mobile computing devices. I understand that this is a bold statement to make, but I should warn you that this is from an objective point of view, and objectivity, sometimes, is all you need before splashing around three Benjamins (KES 28500) for this handheld.
TECNO is making a notable push to sell as many Camon 16 Premiers as possible, first with the sticker price that is appealing for what it brings to the table, and second by the sheer fact it launched before its less-specc’d siblings, the Camon 16 and Camon 16 Pro.
Furthermore, the price puts it in direct competition with many devices out there: the KES 30000 Huawei Y9a, realme 6 and Galaxy A51, as well as its brother from rival brand Infinix, the Zero 8 that costs a few hundreds of shillings more.
What makes the 16 Premier different is its feature set, and that its perhaps TECNO’s best attempt at crafting a smartphone we have seen so far. TECNO has also gone out of its way to aggressively market the smartphone aggressive, and as said, even the Western markets are reviewing it now, which is something we haven’t seen in the past.
Differences from the Camon 15 Premier
Compared to the Camon 15 Premier, the main selling points are in battery, screen, cameras and performance: the 4500 mAh cell in the 16 Premier is huge and charges plenty fast using the included 33W charging brick and USB C. The 15 Premier launched with USB A, which we thought was a bummer at that time.
The screen has also grown from 6.6” to 6.9”, making the 16 Premier a huge device even by modern standards, and tad heavy too. The display also refreshes at 90 Hz, and this is something I have come to appreciate because of the silkiness and smoothness it brings. All devices should make a transition to high-refresh rate displays.
In terms of camera, you get 6 on the Camon 16 Premier with a dual-cam selfie snapper (48 MP and 8 MP compared to the 32 MP on the 15 Premier). Both are good shooters albeit the aggressive face smoothing feature. Whereas the 15 Premier uses a pop-up selfie, the 16 Premier has them punched in the display. The position of the rear cameras has also changed, with the Camon 16 Premier adopting a big square bump for the 4 sensors. Oh, the 16 Premier shoots 4K videos now.
The last notable difference or improvement is the silicon keeping the lights on: both have MTK chips, the Helio P35 in the 15 Premier, but a much better CPU in the Camon 16 Premier namely Helio G90T that we have been seeing in some popular handhelds.
The great stuff
- Good 6.9” screen with 90 Hz refresh rate
- Huge battery that fills up fast
- Great overall build quality
The not so great stuff
- Software serves you ads
- Bad speaker
|Specs||TECNO Camon 16 Premier|
90 Hz refresh rate
|Operating system||Android 10
|Internal memory||128 GB|
|Main cameras||Quad system
64 MP main
|Front camera||48 MP
33W charging, 70 percent in 30 mins
|Fingerprint||Yes, in power button|
The Camon 16 Premier does look great in the hand, and it does not feel cheap at all although its back is built using plastic. It is a big device, which can put some people off, but so are other phones out there.
The 128 GB of internal storage is substantial, and the majority of us are not going to fill this up, even with loads of multimedia files and apps. Also, you can expand it using a microSD card that doesn’t come in the way of you using two SIM cards.
While I don’t need to mention it, you get a headphone jack here in a world where the socket is becoming a rarity as the mobile world moves to wireless audio.
The Camon 16 Premier’s selling point is the FHD+ display that refreshes at 90 Hz. It is well done, is large enough for a wholesome visual experience and gets bright even in direct sunlight. Customers who are looking for high refresh rate screen will be satisfied with this panel, but if you want super high res screen (QHD), then this is not the device for you. Nevertheless, at 1080 by 2400, the are more than enough pixels even for a 6.9” screen.
If I were to nitpick, I would talk about the hole-punch dual selfie camera. I have no problem with such an implementation because I generally prefer it to screen cutouts or motorized cameras. But for reasons beyond my understanding, it is just a little bit too wide for my taste, and takes a lot of space that could otherwise been used for notification icons.
The other thing is that the fingerprint sensor is not at the back or under the display: it is baked right into the power button. this is a much better implementation, first because it is quick and convenient, and second because it makes the back cleaner, and avoids the finicky nature of under the display sensors.
And this takes me direct to what is underneath the device. the MTK Helio G90 chip is a capable processor that manages every action thrown at it without a sweat. It is a midrange chip, and since it is made by MTK, it is cheaper, and contributes to the lower price of the device.
The chip is complemented by 8 GB of RAM. Browsing the web is fast, apps load as expected, and rarely does the Camon 16 Premier struggle to render a screen or the next app you need.
Battery life is also excellent. It is long-lasting, and can do two days easily. However, battery performance has never really been an issue for the Camon line, and I can say the same thing for tens of other phones that cost nearly as much.
The 4500 mAh cell keeps up well with the 1080p screen, and if you need to juice it, TECNO has included a 33W charging brick in the box. You can get 70% in 30 minutes, and the device tops off before the one-hour mark. This is a very important feature, and we hope TECNO will, in the long run, avail it to its less expensive phones.
Let’s talk about the cameras. As seen from the spec sheet linked above, the Camon 16 Premier does is not shy of packing as many lenses as possible on its large footprint: you get a main 64 MP shooter, an 8 MP ultrawide (up from 5 MP in the Camon 15 Premier), and two 2 MP snappers for depth and video.
The front has two cams: 48 MP and 8 MP (ultrawide).
The device shoots 16 MP by default, but you can snap 64 MP images if you activate it from the viewfinder.
The images are excellent, like any other good camera for the price. They are markedly decent in good lighting. I am pleasantly surprised by the good colours and white balance the camera kicks, which is something the TECNO devices sometime misses on.
Low-light images are also good, and are serviceable for the price. They can further be improved with the super night mode included in the software.
You can also have fun with the 8 MP ultrawide lens for those wide images. I am also glad that TECNO hasn’t included a macro sensor in the array, which is a good thing because those sensors are mostly there for show.
The depth sensor is here to make sure that your portrait shots look terrific, and even if it weren’t there, the system simulates a shallow depth of field just fine.
Finally, I still have issues with the selfie snapper. It never got my face right, and went out of its way to get rid of my facial blemishes. The samples also look overprocessed, but maybe this is something TECNO will fix in the coming days.
Lastly, the Camon 16 Premier ships with Android 10 alongside HiOS. It is a highly customizable skin, and previous TECNO users will be right at home with the UI. I have talked a lot about this software, but I will still remind you that TECNO’s willingness to junk its phones with apps we will never use is something that needs to stop. The ad situation is also here: we get it, many services and products make revenue through ads, but for the price customers are paying for the smartphone, a clutter- and ad-free experience should be automatic.
Overall, the Camon 16 Premier delivers on three major things; the screen is terrific, the camera does more than enough, and the battery and charging speeds are excellent. However, making a generally good phone, especially for KES 30K is not an easy task. TECNO has tried this time around, although it has a big room to iron out some things with the Camon 16 Premier.