Tecno is making major moves. They have graduated from just making pocket-friendly 3rd world-centric smartphones to dipping their toes in the premium market. We had the Phantom X2 with a retractable telephoto lens. A first in the industry. However, what was missing in their lineup was a foldable. So at MWC 2023 they lifted the covers off the Phantom V, a very premium folding smartphone.
Least boring looking foldable
Okay so let me get this out of the way. Looking at all the other foldables available right now, Huawei was making the most good-looking ones. But Tecno did one better. These finishes are simply lovely. Works of art. A refreshing design approach in a world of boring glass and metal sandwiches.
Top-tier display inside and out
They didn’t skimp on the hardware too. The outer screen is a 120Hz LTPO capable of dynamically adjusting the refresh rate from 10Hz to 120Hz. It’s also a very familiar 6.42 inches and FHD+. The folding screen inside it is a 7.8-inch panel with the same LTPO tech and 10 to 120Hz dynamic refresh rate. So premium displays inside and out? Check.
A grade cameras
The cameras are very decent. Probably the most powerful camera system in a foldable right now. There is a 50MP main camera, a 50MP telephoto, and a 13MP ultrawide. Probably not as beefy as the system on the Phantom X2 Pro but still a pretty powerful system. You also get 2 selfie cameras. When folded, you’ll be looking at a 32MP camera and when using the big screen you’ll be facing a 16MP camera. Both are of the punchole variety. That’s a total of 5 cameras if anyone was counting. Premium camera system? Check.
Bags of performance
The beating heart of the Phantom V is the overclocked version of the chipset in the Phantom X2, A Mediatek Dimensity 9000+. In terms of pure horsepower, it’s right in line with the Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 so it’s plenty of flagship-grade performance. It’s kept company by 12GB of RAM and a storage choice of either 256GB or 512GB. As with premium smartphones, we don’t have an SD card slot on this one It’s also got a very decent 5000mAh battery with 45W fast charging that can take it from empty to full in 55 minutes. The great-looking body is a win but it does cost the Phantom V wireless charging. Regardless, premium performance? Check.
Foldables are not it…Yet
So Tecno’s execution of a foldable is very premium. Certified fresh and competing at the highest level. They came to play. But as great as it is, I am still not sold on foldables as a smartphone category for a number of reasons.
So the first is that it’s just not practical. As a smartphone, or in its folded form, it’s not going to be able to provide a better experience than the Phantom X2 Pro. Battery life will be worse, Durability is compromised with the moving parts and you lose some features like the retractable telephoto lens. And as a tablet it’s not very good as well, Battery is still an issue but also it’s a flimsier display. So on paper, a foldable is supposed to be the best of both worlds but in reality, it’s just not the best at either. Hopefully, technology catches up quickly enough to address this.
The second is that foldables are expensive. This Phantom V is expected to cost around US$1030. And you are paying that much for a product trying to be 2 devices in one and not being the best version of either
Then the third is the small matter that more and more people are upgrading their smartphones less frequently. And it’s a combination of 2 things. The price of smartphones is now the highest it’s ever been especially for flagships so the longer one keeps the phone, the better the investment.
Smartphones are also now providing A LOT MORE performance than what the user or the apps and services running on them demand. So you can use the same phone for 3 years comfortably and maybe only see a deterioration in battery life as the biggest wear. I am using a Huawei Mate 40 Pro released in 2020, I bought it second hand and I have had it for close to a year now. It’s still doing everything a power user like me expects it to do with no issues.
So I won’t really consider getting a foldable of any kind right now, but I have to admit I am very impressed with Tecno’s execution of a foldable. They made something special and if you are in the market for a foldable this one is another solid option to consider. The Phantom V fold will be launching in India first going for US$1,099 for the 256GB model and US$1,222 for the 512GB model. Zimbabwe can expect it around the end of March.