The Most Affordable Foldable Phone EVER.
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This is the most intriguing foldable phone on the planet right now. It's called the Tecno Phantom Z Fold, and it's fascinating for two reasons. It's the first foldable that Tecno have ever made, and yet somehow it's also the first fully-fledged foldable ever to be priced at $1,000. The same price as most normal flagship phones, and a whole $700 less than Samsung's Z Fold 4. Now this is a sponsored video, so it's not a review, but I've spent the last two weeks with this phone, and there are 10 genuinely incredible things it does that make it far better than it has any right to be. Number 10 being of course what it comes with.
You'd think the first place you'd start to trim things if you wanted to save on costs would be packaging, but this comes with a case, the cable, and a 45 watt charging brick, which is more than I can say for most top-end phones. Now number nine is that as well as static wallpapers and those snazzy live wallpapers that animate as you open the phone, Tecno's also added in a tier above that called perception wallpapers, and this is hands down the most intelligent wallpaper that I've ever seen.
So for starters, it's completely 3D. You go from a top-down view on the lock screen all the way into the scene when unlocked. Then as you scroll, and even as you just wobble the phone around in your hands, you see yourself moving around this 3D environment. It even gets gradually darker as you start to close up the phone, and lighter when you open. But the single coolest bit is that it's also integrated into my health app. I've recently set myself a goal of 6,000 steps minimum each day, and every time I pick up my phone, it's going to show me in the most visual, easy to understand way possible how far I am to that target. So that was a very early thing I noticed, but now as I've started to use the phone more, the next thing dawned on me.
That this is not a rushed out of the door as soon as possible foldable, like I thought it might be given the price and the fact that Tecno is so new to this. It's very clear that they've properly taken their time to introduce some genuinely big brain foldable features. There's floating windows which you can drag around anywhere from the top and then resize from the bottom, and then once you're in your apps, you can tap the top to quickly flick between all the different possible ways to display it to best use the big screen. You can trace gestures onto your phone to quickly open apps or swipe to control your music even when it's on standby. Or how swiping down with three fingers takes a full screenshot of the large screen, and holding with three fingers takes a partial screenshot of a specific section. There's a smart panel that lets you quickly fiddle with settings or open apps, smart touch, which basically means that holding a finger on either side of the screen will scan for all text and let you instantly edit it and copy it. One of my favourites is that you can always see your three most recent apps on your dock, showing you the exact state you left those apps in with the ability to then resume them from that state. When you rotate it gives you the option to flick the entire interface and apps to landscape mode. And because it's such a big screen, you can also even grey out certain portions of it to stop strangers seeing what you're up to, including choosing how much you want to grey out. The point is, this does not just feel like a normal phone with a bigger screen.
But then I started to properly set the phone up with my own apps and I found another gem. A group of settings hidden deep away in the dark depths of techno's menus that this company is suggesting will enhance your social life called Social Turbo. I have to say there are quite a few of these slightly cringe marketing phrases all around the phone. Super night mode and ultimate video enhancement and so on. But this one is seriously useful. It only works for WhatsApp right now, but they're saying that more apps are coming and it basically just extends the feature set. It lets you project your WhatsApp calls onto both sides of the phone. It gives you the option to record calls, change your voice, or even toggle a switch to make you look better during video calls. You can make your phone flash when you're receiving a WhatsApp call. There's even peak mode, which is kind of sneaky. It collects all incoming WhatsApp messages into a separate part of the phone, which allows you to fully see the contents of them without opening the app and therefore letting the other person know that you've seen them. All right, so then you've got, I guess, the defining feature of a foldable phone, the screens. And while they're definitely not better here than the absolute best foldables out there, there is some fall off with steep viewing angles and some interruption from this hole punch camera. They don't really feel worse, which you'd kind of expect them to given how much more affordable this is. Both the inside and the outside screens use OLED tech. They run at 120Hz refresh rates. Both have almost completely symmetrical borders around them, which makes the perfectionist inside of me very happy. But what I think is particularly well done here is the screen curvature.
The inner screen is flat, as you'd expect it to be, with I'd say the same level of crease that the absolute best competing phones have. But the front screen has this quite significant slope, and it goes a long way to counteracting the inconvenience of folding phones being so thick when folded. It makes it very easy for your thumb to just rest on the side and then glide in when you want to activate the back gesture on the Phantom. Oh, and a sub to the channel would be fan...cy.
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Now, I know processor chat is not normally the most invigorating, but the one in here is well beyond what I was expecting. It's running a chip made by MediaTek, which for me in the past has always been a, oh, okay, well, that kind of makes sense, but, ugh, kind of moment. But this specific chip, the Dimensity 9000+, can actually very happily juggle not one, not two, but three separate apps at the same time with no performance dip. And in terms of benchmarks, in terms of games, in terms of loading times, I'd say it fits right in between the flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 from last year and the flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 from this year, which makes it, I guess, the most powerful folding phone in the world right now, since Samsung probably won't launch theirs till like August. And the nice cherry on top with this chip is that it not just supports dual SIM, but two separate 5G SIMs at the same time.
FLIP IT AROUND
But it's really within the camera where you start to see the smartest ways that TECNO have managed to both save costs while also adding in something new. So for starters, it has the standard foldable phone perk of being able to flip the phone around and use its main set of rear cameras to also take selfies. And you probably know at this point, I love when phones do this. It feels like such a hack 'cause most people are just not ready to see selfies taken with a proper 50 megapixel sensor. And so every time they do, they double take like, that was taken on a phone? And when you're using this rear set of cameras on the front, it really is the full set of cameras. For some reason, the industry default has just become to only give you some of the features when you're using it on the front. But no, this is everything. So you can take ultra wide selfies and proper portrait mode selfies using the dedicated portrait mode lens on the back of this phone. Plus it means you can take proper 4K video on the front, which I suppose in itself is nothing new, but it's the sharpness, it's the separation between foreground and background and the surprising lack of grain even in the dark areas over here. And then also, if you're taking a photo or video of someone else, you can turn on rear screen preview so that they can see what you're seeing. But then it gets different. 'Cause if you want, you can actually take selfies that are even wider than your ultra wide camera using what they're calling wide selfie mode.
You hit the shutter button, you pan your phone around and it really smartly stitches it all together into one enormous, really high quality shot. That most importantly, doesn't require a single bit of extra hardware to actually pull off, which just makes it resourceful. Or like if you're shooting a video of your face and you want it to be brighter, this thing can take advantage of the extra screen space on the inside to turn it into a continuous video lamp. Or if the cameras are flipped around, use the flash on the back instead. Or to put this all another way, the common theme you'll find with this phone is that it really does maximize the hardware that it does have. And that's an attitude that I can wholly get behind.
Oh, but then I came across the smart beauty settings. Now I'm not someone who spends a lot of time adding digital makeup to my face. And I'm so grateful for that because there was a time in my life where I had crippling insecurity. But the beauty options on this phone are not just fascinating from a tech perspective, but incredibly advanced while also not creating over the top, obviously edited looking photos. So when you're taking closeup shots of your face, you get one set of options. Things like skin tone and eye enlargement and nose slimming. But like, look at how precisely it's identifying and changing these individual features one at a time. And then when you're taking photos of someone's full body, you unlock the second set of options, which includes slimming the waist, lengthening the legs, and I kid you not, plump butt mode. But again, these are really subtle effects with which you can't really tell what's been done in the photo, but you can just tell that something's been done. But the single thing that I appreciate more so than anything else on this V-fold is battery.
While Samsung's foldable has a 4,400 milliamp hour cell, Xiaomi's has a 4,500 milliamp hour cell. This is sitting at the top of the pack with a 5,000 milliamp hour battery, and it can be fully charged in 55 minutes. It's a simple, inexpensive thing to add, but I guess in the pursuit of slimmer and slimmer form factors, companies tend to skimp on it. So yeah, there's a new foldable contender in the market. To check out probably the most elaborate proposal that you've ever seen in your life, that's here, and I'll catch you there.