Safaricom-exclusive Neon Ray 2 is an interesting phone.
Interesting because the phone is very cheap, and offers 4G services while at it thanks to Mediatek’s MT6735 chip. The silicon is a quad-core processor with cores that spin at 1.1 GHz.
It is the most special feature of the devices, and we know that is going to appeal to a lot of people who need faster internet speeds (by Safaricom) on their smartphones.
Before we look into the offerings of the Neon Ray 2, here are some things you should take note of:
- The phone costs KES 5000, but if you pick it right away from Masoko, you will pay KES 1000 less.
- It has 4G.
- The Neon Ray 2 is also equipped with Safaricom’s voice over LTE (VoLTE) feature.
- It is a single-SIM smartphone.
- And yes, it does not connect to other networks other than Safaricom.
Its hardware is kind of interesting too.
The backplate is removable, and so is the 2000 mAh cell.
Other than the single SIM slot, the Neon Ray 2 also supports microSD card expansion to supplement the 16 GB of onboard storage.
So far, so good, right?
There is a small black and white Safaricom logo at the rear. Over it is a 5 MP main snapper, alongside a 2 MP selfie cam.
The screen is a small 5.0”, and we say small because by today’s standards, that is really tiny, but it does not make it unusable. You can comfortably type on it even with big thumbs.
Navigation is taken care of by capacitive buttons, and I must admit, I haven’t used them for a long time.
Also, since the introduction of gesture navigation more than two years ago (officially), I was expecting something close to that, but it is something most of us can live without.
The software side of things is handled by Android 10 Go Edition. It is more than serviceable, but we expected about 2 gigs of RAM (there is only 1 GB here) because Google now tasks OEM to equip their Android Go phones with at least 2 GB or RAM. But, the phone costs only KES 5000, so we can let that slide too.
There isn’t any kind of customization with the software. It looks close to vanilla Android to me, but with a few exceptions. One of them is that Safaricom has programmed some of its apps into the phone, including the M-PESA App and mySafaricom. The apps are essential and have millions of users in Kenya.
There are a bunch of Go apps (just normal apps but have been stripped down to run smoothly on the Neon Ray 2). Most of them are made by Google.
It is at this point that I should remind you that Lite apps are actually what you should use on this phone. They are, as their name suggests, light, and will not tax system resources as much because, this is an affordable phone that is made to appeal to as many people as possible, especially groups that want to use smartphones for the first time, but do not have big budgets for more premium phones.
Many popular apps have their lite equivalent: Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, name them. Again, I strongly advise you to pick these apps over their full-fledged versions because you will have a better experience that way. Case in point is the Instagram app, which, quite honestly overwhelms the Neon Ray 2 in terms of raw performance.
Another point I need to circle back to is 4G performance. This is done using your Safaricom line, and it connects well. It is not as fast as what you would expect from a more expensive phone, but it is still way much better than 3G.
This is actually an important development because some phones that cost twice as much, may even more, do not ship with 4G radios, which is a shame in 2021. We are not going to mention names, but we think that any phone that costs more than KES 8000 should at least have LTE services.
About connections, I am kind of disappointed with Wi-Fi performance. At first, the Neon Ray 2 could not connect to my router, and I tried with another one with the same results. I rest the phone, and it connected afterwards.
Wi-Fi use cases ae also unimpressive, likely because of the Neon Ray 2’s Wi-Fi hardware. Downloads are not particularly fast, and you will notice the sluggishness when updating apps. Of course, this is something some people cannot see as a deal breaker, and probably because the phone is affordable – but some things such as Wi-Fi performance should not be excessively overlooked.
I wanted to talk about the cameras, but there is no need to because they are not good, to says the least. However, snapping a normal image is fine, and you have to be in a well-lit area, preferably outdoors to capture a usable or passable image. There is only so much that entry-level camera hardware can do, but let’s remember again, the Neon Ray 2 costs KES 5000.
Battery life is good. You can get a whole day of use from the 2000 mAh juicer. It charges via micro-USB and tops up in about two hours. If you are lucky, you can find another cell because the battery is user-replaceable.
Finally, I want to remind you who this phone has been made for. First are people who want to buy their first smartphone. Secondly, are groups that want to access the internet at good 4G speeds. Another group is that that has a budget of KES 5000, and don’t want to spend more for a smartphone. And of course, Safaricom customers are the ones who can purchase this handheld.
For 5K, and the features it offers, you cannot find a better phone.