If you’ve been following the Android space for some time, then you’ve likely seen the growing trend of unlocked smartphones. Whereas just a few years ago customers were content to fork out a couple hundred dollars and ink a two-year contract, today’s buyers are more reluctant to sign a long-term commitment. Moreover, we’re finding that many consumers are content with a mid-range device instead of top-tier flagships. And why not? Today’s middle ground is quite the powerful experience and can run circles around the best phones from just a short time ago.
If you keep an eye on the landscape then you may have surely identified the rise of foreign handset makers trying to crack the US market. A few years ago we had names like HTC and Motorola in the same conversations of Samsung and LG. Today, we’re chatting about Huawei, Meizu, Xiaomi, and others.
One brand who is looking to pick up some traction in the US is Chinese OEM KPhone. We have spent time with KPhone K5 5 and would like to share our thoughts and review.
In terms of hardware, the KPhone 5 is a decidedly mid-range experience. Specifications include 5-inch 1080p display, a 64-bit Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor with 2 gigabytes (GB) of RAM and 16 gigabytes (GB) of internal storage.
In terms of cameras, the unit offers up a 13-megapixel shooter on the back with a single LED flash, while the front houses a 5-megapixel camera. Running Android 5.1 Lollipop, the K5 is a dual-SIM device that works with many GSM carriers.
There’s nothing here to be ashamed of, really, and it’s enough to satisfy the needs of average consumers. Other companies are putting out phones in this realm so it’s not as if this is showing up with outdated specs.
Say what you want about other Android smartphone makers, but this is among the most iPhone-like model we’ve ever reviewed. From first glances to playing with the OS, it’s almost as if the OEM tried to emulate Apple.
This phone could easily be mistaken for an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4s. Thanks to the glass front and back, the chamfered edges, and placement of speakers, it has “clone” written all over it.
The right edge of the phone houses the power button; volume buttons are just above this and can easily be pressed with a thumb. Over to the left side, you’ll locate and access the micro-SD and dual-SIM tray.
Up top, and to the left, is the 3.5mm headphone jack. The bottom includes a microUSB port with what appears to be stereo speakers. It’s worth pointing out here that only the left side produces sound, while the right is simply here for balance and aesthetics.
We noticed early on that the glass front and back were quick to pick up fingerprints or smudges. After a few weeks we also saw that the glass was picking up tiny hints of scuffs. Blame this on the entirely flush design. There’s nothing to keep this guy from sliding around.
Those of you who follow the Android or mobile space closely understand that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 isn’t a monster. It’s not the type of processor that you want if you plan to play a lot of games or really tax your phone. The 410, rather, is an Average Joe CPU that’s optimized for typical day-to-day stuff like web browsing, email, social media, and some basic gaming.
The Kphone K5 handled pretty much everything we threw at it, but we were cognizant of what limitations might be. Tower defense, driving, and games with a lot of moving pieces did surprisingly well; perhaps it was due to the 1080 pixel display instead of the 2K stuff in higher end models.
Multi-tasking was right in line with expectations. As someone who gets to play with a lot of hardware, it’s easy to get accustomed to 3GB and 4GB RAM. The 2GB RAM on the K5 was enough for us and we suspect most folks would be content, too.
- FDD-LTE band 1/4/7/17
- TDD-LTE band 38/29/40/41
- WCDMA 850/1700/1900/2100/1700
- GSM 850/900/1900
As an unlocked phone, the K5 is designed to work with just about any of the GSM carriers. This means you’ll be good with AT&T, T-Mobile, and the numerous prepaid brands that utilize their respective networks. We tested both a standard AT&T and T-Mobile SIM card in the phone and found both coverage and call quality on par with other brands of phones.
It’s not uncommon for low-cost or lesser-name companies to cut corners in the area of displays. We were pleased to learn that Kphone didn’t scrimp on the screen when it comes to the K5. Colors were very accurate, viewing angles were impressive, and images popped. White balance and blacks were represented well, especially considering this is an LCD display. The 1080 pixel resolution was just right for a 5-inch screen phone and should make most users happy.
Touch was incredible; response was as good as can be expected. Whether it was single touch or multiple fingers, the Kphone K5 registered swipes, presses, and quick tapping.
Generally speaking, sound quality was average across the board. We were surprised to learn that bottom housed only one speaker, but it’s not a deal breaker of sorts. Audio is clean, clear, and crisp when listening at low and mid-level volumes. Push it toward the high end, though, and you’ll get some hints of distortion. Extended periods of music weren’t all that fun and reminded us why we’re so quick to pair a Bluetooth speaker.
Plugging in headphones we found a pretty similar situation. Here and there we experienced what can only be described as “quiet” audio. In other words, we weren’t getting the same level of volume that we did in a game or other music. Not to worry, however, as this was few and far between.
Open the camera app and you find the bottom (or right, in landscape) has a dedicated shutter and record button. This is a nice touch as it allows for easy snapping of pictures or video. It somewhat removes the step of switching function.
As for camera modes, the K5 gives users Manual, Beauty, HDR, Panorama, Gesture, Smile, Delay, and Back. Confused by what the latter one does, we learned it’s simply the manner of taking a selfie using the rear camera. Indeed, the phone audibly tells users when it has detected a face to capture. One feature we’ve come to love in our cameras is HDR, which was tucked away a bit. We’d prefer to tap an icon on the standard camera screen so we can more easily toggle the mode. Just a small quibble.
Shutter speeds are fast, perhaps faster than we expected. Whether snapping one pic or holding down the button for multiple images, it works quickly. The issue, though, is getting focus on the subject. If your subject is moving to and from, staying focused can be troublesome. Time and again we found ourselves forced to tap the display to stick on an item. Focus was slower than we’d like to have seen, but still images and basic scenery shots were just fine.
The overall quality of pictures was adequate considering the price point. In most cases users will likely find the results are up to par, especially if the main concerns are for Instagram or social media. Just know that low-light stuff is gonna look pretty bad if you’re trying to capture moving objects. Set it still on a tripod or surface, though, and you might be more than moderately impressed.
At approximately $200, it’s gonna take photos that most users can appreciate. It’s not until you physically do a comparison to other cameras that you find where things suffer. If the camera is your main attraction, our advice is to put a little more money aside and save for something better.
The Kphone K5 boasts a 2,920mAh battery which is capacious when you consider this is a 5-inch phone. Indeed, it’s bigger than most phones at this screen size. Does it translate to plenty of usage time? You bet it does.
We found that it was quite possible to get into a third day of average use on the phone. This is largely due to the Snapdragon 410 processor and its not-so-demanding performance. More often than not, the Kphone K5 was able to go bell-to-bell for us and into a second day.
Like other brands do, the Kphone has a couple of power saving modes to help stretch out your battery. To be honest, we didn’t really need to use them and were happy with the results otherwise.
Android and UI
Remember how we said this phone resembled an iPhone 4? The parallels are not surface deep; the Kphone looks every bit like it runs an iOS-infused version of Android. Not only are the icons shaded with the pastel gradients you’ll find in Apple’s phones, but the app drawer and menus setup is similar. Oh, and the fonts are Apple-y.
Don’t look for the middle icon on the bottom row to open a full list of apps and games. Nope, everything gets added to the home screen on panels to the right.
To be sure, this devices runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and performs otherwise like an Android device. It takes some getting used to the user interface, especially if you’ve become accustomed to the way just about every other manufacturer does things. After spending a few weeks with the nearly-stock Android build, I was ultimately relieved to install Nova as my launcher of choice.
Poking about the UI a bit, you will find Android standards and perhaps an almost Nexus-like configuration. The pull-down notification bar reminds us of the stuff you get on a stripped down Google experience. If you need to toggle settings for things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or anything else, it’s readily accessible. Also cool was that the lock screen seems to be untouched from the Nexus models, too.
The Kphone K5 is loaded with a select number of apps (FM Radio, NoteBook, Sound Recorder, and Compass) each of which has some basic, albeit convenient features. They don’t eat up a lot of space on your phone and do feel as if thought was put into them. It’s pretty easy to bake in some crappy versions of these types of apps so props to Kphone here.
Priced at $200, the Kphone K5 is in quite a competitive space. With more unlocked models and brands entering the fray on a regular basis, it’s hard to stand out. It’s even tougher to grab attention when you’re an unknown player.
Getting your hands on the K5 is fairly easy; it’s available through QVC’s website and can be had with Easy Pay options, too. Moreover, it’s possible to buy a three year service contract on top of the phone. Whereas you can learn more about the phone at the official Kphone website, purchasing is still handled through QVC.
Does the K5 have what it takes to stand out in the crowd? Yes, and no. It’s unique enough that it could attract a specific type of buyer. It’s not clear how successful the sales are for QVC or whether the iOS-like experience is popular among its demographic.
The K5 looks unlike most Android phones when you power it on. The problem, as we see it, is getting to that step. To do so, Kphone has to hope buyers find the phone in the first place. Then, at $200, it has to stand out against the likes of low-cost alternatives from Motorola and HTC. And, really, if the consumer is educated enough, they’ll also recognize that they are treading into the space of OnePlus, Blu, and other unlocked, semi-known brands.
Save for the price tag, we can’t fault the K5 for doing what it does. Were it but $50 cheaper, we would find it easier to recommend it. You’re not going to necessarily go wrong with this handset, but you may regret spending the money when you see other, more powerful devices going for less – from larger or established brands.