With Nigeria’s budget smartphone market dominated by Infinix and Tecno, it is easy to assume that there is little or no room for new brands. But every year new entrants storm the market on a disruption mission, with more features at cheaper prices, and they are gradually becoming a threat to the incumbents.
Tambo Mobile is one of such new entrants looking to shake things up with its new Tambo TA55. With key specs including a 5.5 inch HD display, fingerprint sensor, 4000mAh battery, and Android 8.1 (Go edition), Tambo might just be ready to take on the market. The TA55 will cost about ₦25,000 to ₦30,000. So, it is somewhere between a standard mid-range and entry-level smartphone. It ships with a wall charger, USB cable, 3.5mm earphones, transparent phone case, warranty card and a specification manual. Though basic and functional enough for a smartphone tyro, the TA55 has a few bells and whistles that a mid-level user might find attractive. It is easily the kind of smartphone I would buy for my mum.
Tambo TA55 comes in two colours: black and gold. The body is made of a smooth polycarbonate material with thin stripe-like patterns on the back. Compared to phones within a similar price range like Infinix smart and Tecno F2, it is a big smartphone measuring 154 mm tall and 77.6 mm wide, giving it more room to accommodate a larger screen. It has a 5.5-inch HD IPS with a 2.5D curved display, plus a resolution of 1280 X 720 pixels, meaning you get a reasonably wide screen with sharp display and a modern slightly contoured edge. At the top are a 3.5mm audio jack and standard USB port. In addition, the TA55 has an 8MP rear camera with a LED flash and another 8MP front camera. Slightly below the rear camera, at the centre, is the fingerprint scanner, a pretty uncommon feature for smartphones in its price range. The loudspeaker is also at the back, which emits a muffled sound when the phone is facing up on a surface. Under the hood, there is a non-removable 4,000mAh battery, two Nano SIM slots and one microSD card slot. It also comes with 1GB of RAM, an MT6580 processor and 16GB of internal storage.
At first, I was apprehensive about having a fingerprint scanner on a budget phone. How secure can it be? Will it have a fast response time? Will it read my prints correctly? From my first time using the Tambo TA55, I noticed some lag with the fingerprint sensor. Another mild inconvenience I had with the fingerprint scanner was its location. I had to pick it up every time before I could access the scanner at the back. To solve this, I set up Google Smart Lock to keep the device unlocked so long as I am holding or carrying it. Apart from the occasional lag, the fingerprint scanner performed well for a smartphone at its range plus the scanner also doubles as a shutter button for taking photos.
Software and Performance
Tambo TA55 runs on Android 8.1 Oreo (Go edition), which means it comes preinstalled with some apps that are lightweight, occupy less storage space and save your data. But it also means you would not get to experience the full features and displays the standard versions of these apps offer. I was slightly irked by it, and some users who have experienced the standard versions of Google apps might be too. Having to use a more stripped down alternative was quite hard when I was already used to these same apps at their more robust capacities.
Another deficiency was the fact that I could not uninstall or disable the Go apps along with a few other bloatware like Opera News and UC Browser Mini. Also, the device did not seem to handle some app notifications very well, either delaying them longer than normal or not delivering them at all.
Both the front and rear 8MP cameras, which are higher than most devices with similar prices, performed quite well. It comes with a smart photo AI option that automatically assesses the photo to be taken and selects the best mode for them. I ended up putting off this feature because it did not always produce the best picture, especially with the front camera. There is also an HDR mode that I found myself using more often due to the higher sharpness and contrast it produced. It was not perfect, but it was better than the AI option. There is also the increasingly famous Bokeh mode that allows you to focus on a subject while manually blurring out the background. Unfortunately, the pictures taken in Bokeh mode did not turn out good, at all. The blurring effect was very inconsistent. Plus, taking a photo with these extra modes made the camera lag as it struggled to process them. So, it would be best to stick to the normal camera mode, and maybe HDR, for the best photos. Photos taken in low light were also not terrible, especially when taken with the flash on.
The 4000mAh battery in this smartphone was probably the best feature for me. The battery easily lasted a full day and a half, starting at just 97% charge. During the period, I was constantly connected to a WiFi, using Whatsapp, Instagram, Slack and streaming on Youtube. I also shot a number of photos and videos. But given the short time I used the device before this review, I cannot say how long the battery may last in the long run. The charging speed is also pretty standard, and I did not find the charger port on top of the device to be a bother at all.
To recap, here are the good and the bad of the Tambo TA55:
- Fingerprint scanner doubles for taking photos. Good for selfies
- Specs beat many phones at a similar price range
- Long lasting battery, even with heavy usage
- Laggy notifications for some apps
- Camera is very slow in AI mode
- Fingerprint scanner does not respond all the time
- Cannot uninstall Bloatware (Opera News, UC Mini)
In all, the Tambo TA55 is a decent smartphone for its price. It certainly does not measure up to the higher-end phones already existing in the market but in its own way, it gets the job done. Compared to older brands at similar price range, the Tambo TA55 is a way better option as it offers more and better features.