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TECNO Camon 16s Review: Not enough to stand out

For Ksh 17,699 is TECNO Camon 16s worth an upgrade?


TECNO Camon 16s Review: As smartphones continue to offer more for less, it’s a win-win situation for consumers. That has been the case on most budget phones. Chinese company TECNO has always focused on the budget segment, which has meant more sales.

TECNO Camon 16s is the latest budget phone from the company going for Ksh. 17,699. It comes as a cheaper variant to previously announced models in the Camon 16 series, including Camon 16 Pro and Premier.

The TECNO Camon 16 Premier review is already up, and now we have a chance to review the smaller sibling, TECNO Camon 16s.

Unlike the Pro and Premier models, TECNO Camon 16s goes for less than 20K.

At that price, do you get your money’s worth? That’s what we’re going to find out in this review.

Design & Build

TECNO Camon 16s design is slightly different from other Camon 16 series models. However, it is strikingly similar to the recently launched TECNO Spark 5 Pro.

On the front is a hole punch housing a single 8MP selfie camera. There’s also a single adjustable front flash located at the top bezel, which you’ll notice when charging.

TECNO Camon 16 S notch
TECNO Camon 16 S notch

The power button and volume rockers are placed on the right-hand side, and the Simcard tray is placed on the left. These buttons feel sturdy enough, so no cause for alarm.

TECNO Camon 16 S side view
TECNO Camon 16 S side view

At the back is a quad camera setup housed in a rectangular bump plus an LED flashlight. The rear fingerprint sensor is placed strategically for easier reach – at least for me. The single speaker, micro USB port, headphone jack, and mic are all located on the bottom.

TECNO Camon 16 S bottom view
TECNO Camon 16 S bottom view

TECNO Camon 16s build quality is similar to the Spark 5 Pro. Although crafted from plastic, the exterior is sturdy, and the phone comes in three different two-toned colors with a smooth transition in between. Our review unit is Ice Jadeite, and it really shines.

TECNO Camon 16 S
TECNO Camon 16 S rear view

But the lustrous finish does have its downsides – it does attract lots of smudges and fingerprints. But TECNO includes a free transparent case that could help with that.

Display

The 6.6-inch HD IPS display (720 x 1600p resolution) provides enough screen real-estate for watching videos, playing games, and staying up to date with your social media feeds. It’s flat and has enough brightness for outdoor usage. It’s not the sharpest, though, with 265 pixels per inch.

Performance

On the performance front, this phone doesn’t disappoint. Any real-life day to day tasks like browsing the web and social media are handled smoothly.

The MediaTek Helio P35 processor paired with 4GB of memory is just enough for running light tasks.

If your plan to use the phone for gaming, you won’t be disappointed, too, but I advise against continuous gaming for extended periods. But with the price tag, it’s a non-issue.

Although the company’s move to choose the Helio P35 processor is disappointing. For the uninitiated, Helio P35 was launched in Q1 2019, and I’d expect the company to select some newer chipsets under the Helio G branding, like the G80, that offer better performance.

To put this in context let me give you some real-life examples. realme C15(review) is priced nearly the same and has the Helio G35 which performs better. Infinix Note 8i is another excellent example, going for Ksh 17,499 and it has Helio G80 which beats the P35 hands-down on Antuntu benchmarks.

Internal storage is 128GB, a plus, and you can still expand via the available dedicated microSD card slot.

Software

TECNO Camon 16s ships with HiOS 6.1.0 on top of Android 10. It comes with all the goodies introduced in Android 10, like gesture navigation and dark mode.

Bloatware comes in abundance, yes, – a major issue with most budget devices – but you can uninstall most without heavy lifting.

You’ll also meet occasional intrusive advertisements, but you can disable most of them. It’s not all doom and gloom in HiOS land, though. Some proprietary features are handy.

For instance, the smart panel enables easier access to the most frequently used apps and features.

Smart panel in HiOS
The smart panel in HiOS

Game Mode is another. There’s also Social Turbo that adds extra features on WhatsApp like a voice recorder for calls, AI video beauty mode, a sticker maker, and the ability to save statuses.

Camera 

TECNO Camon 16s camera is a stepdown from the Premier and Pro models. Around the back, Camon 16s packs a 48-megapixel primary camera, a 2-megapixel macro lens, a 2-megapixel depth sensor, and a dedicated A.I lens. On the front of the phone is an 8-megapixel f/2.4 selfie camera.

The quad-camera setup performs well for the price, and throughout my two-week experience with the phone, just enough light is crucial.

In perfect lighting, Camon 16S can shoot decent-looking photos – but only when viewed from a distance. Details are soft, and there’s a lack of clarity when you zoom in.

Under the right lighting conditions, you can shoot pretty decent photos.

As for the selfie camera, the results aren’t awe-inspiring. The phone does excess image processing leading to washed-out images that lack clarity. But again, you don’t set your expectations too high for the price.

For the price, the overall camera performance is just enough. We have separate in-depth camera review coming up.

Battery & Charging

If there’s something I love about this phone is the battery life. The phone was able to withstand five hours of screen time before it even hit 50% of the battery. In total, however, the phone’s massive 5,000mAh battery supported over nine and a half hours of screen time – that’s almost two days of use.

My first day ended with barely 50% of the battery used.

The primary issue comes to charging this device. It lacks fast charging support, and with the massive battery, it takes about three and a half hours from 0 to 100.

That’s a lot of time to wait for your phone to charge in 2020. It takes about an hour to hit 40%, 1hr 35mins from 0 to 60%, and 2hrs 35mins to 90%.

Competing devices in this price range like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8, realme C15 (review), and Infinix Note 8i offer 18W fast charging support via USB type C.

What’s in the box

Out of the box, TECNO includes a USB-A-to-B cable, a transparent case, a standard 10W charging brick, paperwork, SIM ejector pin, earphones, a screen protector, and the phone itself.

TECNO Camon 16s box contents
TECNO Camon 16s box contents

Verdict

TECNO Camon 16s is a bit underwhelming on the spec sheet relative to competing devices for its price. But performance is good for day to day activities; battery life is impressive, and the build quality is just in line with other devices.

The letdowns here include the lack of USB Type C, considering other competing phones at that price have it onboard like the Infinix NOTE 8i. Also, TECNO Camon 16S has an older Helio P35 chipset which doesn’t perform any better than the newer Helio G series chipsets stocked in phones at 17K.

Check out our Infinix Note 8i vs. Tecno Camon 16s comparison.

TECNO Camon 16s is most suitable for those who are seeking an upgrade from entry-level phones. But if you value your USB type C port and fast charging, Infinix Note 8i is where it’s at for slightly less — Ksh 17,499.

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Alvin Wanjala

Alvin is a freelance tech journalist. Talk to me via email at alvinwanjala[at]pm[dot]me

2 Comments

  1. The mediatek helio P35 might not be the best processor for the phone given that most other phones are now integrating Mediatek’s Helio gaming series but its still a decent performer for everyday use

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