Last year our team started to review smartphones from TECNO – a subsidiary of TRANSSION Holdings. The latter is the group with the biggest sales in Africa and a relatively new player in East and Central Asia. To push its portfolio, TECNO has presence in more than 70 emerging markets and is the official partner of Manchester City football club. We mention these facts because having seen a lot of TECNO smartphones during the past few months we believe that this could be the beginning of something interesting in the mobile market. If performed properly, TECNO’s vision in the global market has all the necessary features to succeed. Yes, this is how excited we are after having played for several weeks with the latest smartphone of the brand, CAMON 18 Premier.
This… “premier” tag is added to advertise the camera abilities of the phone and believe me this happens for a reason! It comes with a stabilised Gimbal camera, a technology that has become now mainstream starting last year from certain vivo smartphones. The phone also features a digital 60X zoom ability on its telephoto lens, while the main CMOS is a 64MP sensor. The display is 6.7 inches large with an AMOLED panel and 120Hz refresh rate. Last but not least, the SoC is the new Helio G96, a SoC designed for gaming.
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – Specifications
- Dimensions: 8 x 75.9 x 8.2 mm,
- Weight: 200.6 g
- Display: AMOLED, 120Hz, 550 nits (typ), 6.7 inches, 108.4 cm2 (~87.2% screen-to-body ratio), 1080 x 2400 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~393 ppi density)
- CPU: Mediatek Helio G96 (12 nm), Octa-core (2×2.05 GHz Cortex-A76 & 6×2.0 GHz Cortex-A55)
- GPU: Mali-G57 MC2
- RAM+ROM: 8GB RAM, 128GB, microSDXC slot.
- Battery: Li-Po 4750 mAh, Fast charging 33W, 64% in 30 min
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, hotspot, HSPA 42.2/5.76 Mbps, LTE-A
- GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 – SIM 1 & SIM 2
- HSDPA 850 / 900 / 2100
- Biometrics: Fingerprint (side-mounted)
- Main Camera: Triple Camera, Quad-LED flash, panorama, HDR, gimbal OIS
- 64 MP, f/1.6, 26mm (wide), PDAF
- 8 MP, f/3.5, 135mm (periscope telephoto), PDAF, 5x optical zoom
- 12 MP, (ultrawide)
- Selfie Camera: 32 MP, Dual-LED flash.
- Video: 4K@30fps, 1080p@30fps, gyro-EIS
- Selfie Video: 1080p@30fps.
- Βluetooth: 5.0.
- GPS: dual-band A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS.
- Ports: USB Type-C, 3.5mm jack.
- Sound: 24-bit/192kHz audio.
- Sensors: FM radio,accelerometer, proximity.
- Colors: Polar night, Vast sky
- Software: Android 11, HIOS 8
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – Unboxing
Camon 18 Premier comes in a white box with multiple details, a good sign that the company has made the extra effort to properly present this smartphone. Around the box we can see a label with the characteristics (Made in China visible) and the partnership with Manchester’s City football club. Underneath the box we can spot the main characteristics of the device, along with 2 useful informations. The smartphone is TUV Rheinland Certified for Low Blue Light and has a Safe Fast-Charge System. Excellent presentation in my humble opinion.
Opening the box, we can see the smartphone, its 33W fast charger, a SIM tray pin, a soft silicon case, a set of headphones and a charging / data transfer cable. The manual is added in the phone itself – you can find it in the settings. We are happy for the extras, but the headphones cable could be of a better quality material, as it looks very fragile.
- A Camon 18 Premier smartphone
- A USB-C to USB-A data transfer / charging cable
- A 33W fast charger
- A SIM tray ejection pin
- A set of headphones
- A silicone soft case
A plastic screen protection film is pre-installed on the phone. It can be easily scratched and I advise the addition of a tempered glass sooner than later – after removing this film. The silicone soft case is very nice but soft, so if you drop your smartphone more times than you desire add a harder protective case. Summarizing the box is complete and we could not be more happy about it.
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – Design
A modern design, similar to OnePlus and Samsung latest smartphones, is the first thing that catches your eyesight. TECNO redesigned the smartphone from its previous generations with a flat angular design with flat surfaces. The company claims it is designed based on the Golden ratio G-2 curvature, placing all the details in a way for the device to look beautiful yet easy to use.
It is lightweight and the body is only thick at 8.15mm. The smartphone is big but not difficult to keep it in your hand.
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – More under the hood
The front of the phone has a huge 6.7 inch flat screen with a hole in the center upper part. Its bezels are small, a bit wider on the lower part. The selfie camera hole is not small – the company decided not to hide but to enhance the sensor entry with a silver ring. A small detail used to turn over the design into something positive. On the top bezel we can see the main head speaker on a wide thin tray. The screen has a thin plastic film on, to protect from daily scratches.
The chassis is almost flat, with a bit of curvature near the two panels. On the top we can see the external audio cancelling input, on the left side the sim tray and on the bottom the 3,5 mm audio jack port, a second external audio cancelling input, a USB-C port and the main speakers tray. The right side has the volume buttons and the power on/off button that also works as a fingerprint sensor. The display is AMOLED and the position to add the fingerprint sensor here is possibly a way to lower the cost of the smartphone.
Camon 18 Premier – Quality finish
The back panel is characterised by the last camera island – a similar design found in OnePlus latest premium flagships. The camera island is tall, a bit more than a millimeter with 3 same size circular lenses. The middle one has a red ring, the other two are just black. The lower one is square inside, a sign that it packs telescopic telephotos. On it we can read 60X and Video / AI triple camera adding in extra small font some camera details. The camera installation closes with a LED flash on the top right side.
The panel is clear other than a TECNO Camon logo vertically placed in the right bottom side. The phone comes in 2 colors, Polar Night and Vast SKy. We got the Polar Night color version ( light blue/green matte) which looks professional and modern. The matte finish is felt on the fingertips as silky glass and it is added to protect from fingerprints.
The panel itself is not coated with any special oil phobic material and you can see the fingerprints in the sun. Our opinion is to use the silicon case that comes in the retail box. It is good enough for everyday usage and is clear enough to see the color. The latter is altering under different angles of sun and is a pleasant surprise to the eye.
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – Hardware
The main star is of course the 6.7 inch display. It has a 92% ratio to the body with very slim bezels and a resolution of 1080p. The panel is AMOLED with excellent colors and 120 Hz refresh rate! Yes, the rate can be altered using software between 60Hz, 120Hz or auto-switch according to usage. The brand is focusing on generally extra sunny markets and the display goes up to 550 nits having excellent usage under direct sunlight.
Touch is precise. What is extra here and very appreciated is a Certification from TÜV Rheinland that this specified product is Low Blue Light (Hardware Solution). This means that the CAMON 18 Premier can reduce blue light to provide comfort for your eyes all day long and reduce overall power consumption. We can’t be more happy than this! Considering the price this is a major selling point.
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – Helio SoC
The driving power behind this smartphone is the MediaTek Helio G96 CPU. G96 is an 8-core chipset that was announced on June 16, 2021, and is manufactured using a 12-nanometer process technology. It has 2 cores Cortex-A76 at 2050 MHz and 6 cores Cortex-A55 at 2000 MHz. It is supported by Mali-G57 MC2 for graphics, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. This is a new SOC and at this point TECNO, realme and Infinix are the only users.
The CPU is gaming oriented and this means that the smartphone can handle multitasking, integration of multiple apps and gaming for everyday usage. It is not getting hot neither in gaming or during charging. In general, watching videos, playing games and swiping through various applications is smooth and lag-free. We found the SoC more than able in speed and energy efficiency.
Memory is plenty as mentioned with 8/256GB. In case you want extra space and you don’t like Cloud options, there is a SDcard option in the SIM tray to expand the storage in the device. COVID-19 is something we all must be aware of. Contact-less with payments through the phone is a much appreciated extra and TECNO had added NFC to it.
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TECNO Camon 18 Premier – Connectivity
Connectivity is excellent with WIFI Turbo, a technology powered by an industrial chip coupled with some antenna tuning algorithms. The results are 50% more range than similar phones while ensuring that handling the phone during gaming will not block the signal. Calls and video calls are performed without issues.
Sound is good, it has a single loudspeaker and music sounds ok in all levels of volume but we would prefer stereo sound. Sound during calls and video-calls is ok but nothing to brag about. Bluetooth is ok too – I ‘ve used the smartphone with my wireless headphones daily without interruptions. GPS is instantaneous.
There are two ways to unlock CAMON 18 Premier. Face-unlocking is very fast. There is no IR light for unlocking during the night, so in total darkness this method does not work. A minimal light source is needed for this functionality. The company says the Face Unlock enables closed eye protection and screen fill-in light. Please remember that this is not the safest method to unlock your phone so it is not the advised usage outside your usual premises.
The other way is the side panel fingerprint reader. The scanner is working perfectly with my first setup. The side sensor will meet your needs in all day usage – most of us wear masks – and it is very secure. My opinion is to use only the side sensor and disable the Face Unlock for the reasons I explained above. Adding also to this, is how quickly the sensor unlocks the phone – it is super fast. The only issue is the right side position, so for people that are left handed this is not very helpful.
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – Software
The operating system in the phone is the HiOS 8.0. It is redesigned and reminds me a lot of the ColorOS from OPPO/OnePlus. It is fast and smooth with many extras. An extra we did not find is multiple language support as it is intended for specific markets. Global markets should be the target here and a few translations could make the difference. Please check before buying this phone if your mother language is supported – else English can be used with the multiple language G-Keyboard, as in my case.
HiOS 8.0 has multiple features for daily usage. A unique Always-On Display which provides key information about notifications, date, turn-off patterns,clock, date and much more. Notifications and control center is divided for simpler presentation. There is a Real-time Weather Broadcasting with very beautiful animations. Animations are generally smooth with beautiful effects. Za-Hooc 2.0 is a personal security guard that sums all actions needed from the user to keep his smartphone clean and safe. There is a Video Editor for video customisation and Visha Player for playing local videos with various extras.
Film album is the native gallery app while adding the ability to make pictures into movies. Voice changer customizes voice effects. Phone cloner makes data transfer easy and safe from one phone to another in seconds. Document Correction uses perspective correction and page edge detection technology to auto course-correct documents and adjusts them for easy and correct viewing.
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – More under the hood
Added security is a must these days and we have a Security Keyboard for keeping digital identities secure. This is added to new App Privacy Permissions that control which application has permissions to your personal data. TECNO Language master provides real-time photo translation, voice recognition and translation, reading and typing assistance. It has support for 60 languages for in-app communication (Whatsapp, Messenger, Wecom, IMO, Teams, LINE, Twitter etc).
Ella is an AI Voice Assistant that is able to help scheduling activities, control media etc. AR cards is a method to present information like AR business cards and is a modern method to present 3D business identities. Smart Cards can also include Calendar, Business trips & meetings, Flight information and Birthday reminders.
We did not find anything missing but TECNO has added a lot of extra apps (bloatware) that are either obscured by Google Services pack or not really needed. If you like minimal looks and “clear” OS you can delete these apps. You can instantly start removing any application you don’t use/need. In 20-30 minutes the software is much cleaner and user friendly.
I have the feeling that the people behind HIOS will do a good job onwards since this very rich skin covers all needs of a user and does it with good speed and minimal energy consumption.
HIOS 8 is also updated with OTA and that is an excellent sign. According to the company this smartphone will get an update to Android 12.
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – Camera
As we said in the beginning, the “Premier” tag is used to promote the camera abilities of the phone. The gimbal technology is new on smartphones but works perfectly providing unparalleled Optical Stabilisation to videos. The company brags for 300% effectiveness over other smartphones without a similar mechanism.The gimbal has a rotation angle of up to 5x greater than traditional OIS technology and 3x better image stability. Basically you don’t need to buy a gimbal to shoot steady videos – according to them anyways.
The camera uses a wide angle lens and Camon 18 Premier is really capable of 109° wide-angle shooting with sublime clarity up to 4K resolution and this is a feature found only on premier flagships.
Unfortunately the gimbal mechanism is not available to all sensors, but only supports the ultra wide 12 MP camera. The main 64MP camera uses only EIS. 64MP is top choice for mid-range phones, and really we haven’t seen a bad picture from these shooters the last 3 years. The rule applies here too, with quality results day or night.
A third lens of 8MP is using a telescope mechanism ( a characteristic usually found also only on premier flagships)! The telephoto can zoom at 5X and uses a Galileo algorithm engine to gather pixel information to enhance resolution and clarity. The telephoto can also reach 12X zoom using an AI algorithm and then push up to 60x hybrid zoom! Yes you can use this phone for moon pics and astrophotography.
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – More under the hood
Pushing the envelope, Camon 18 Premier adds a 32 MP front camera for quality selfies and video calls.
What we really like, is that TECNO did not fall into the “quad camera” pit of advertisement by adding low quality macro or depth shooters. It takes courage to do so, having triple camera phones in the “quad camera phone era”, but believe us the 4th camera is usually useless.
The sum comes with a compact and convenient UI, incorporating clear function buttons and new intelligent gender-based identification for beautify functions. Users can now utilize the Portrait Light Effect Mode to lighten, darken, change, or remove the background completely!
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – More under the hood
This software is world wide class and a major selling point to Africa, because of the people’s dark characteristics. Equipped with 1.6micron pixels, the phone is able to capture 2X light as competitor phones. Photos captured with the CAMON 18 Premier appear brighter and have more details.
- From our usage these two weeks the videos are ultra clear and amazingly stable with good sound and colors.
- The pictures are good from the main 64MP sensor but medium quality from the other two shooters. Same goes for the night shots.
- The phone focuses more on videos and color discrimination and this is not bad at all.
- My opinion is that TECNO can work a bit on the telephoto max zoom and ultra wide shots for their future updates.
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – Battery
These are the times of large displays with 120Hz refresh rates, 3D gaming and surfing in social media. A smartphone is only good if it can stay on through the day. Energy efficient CPUs, large batteries and software customization is the only path. CPU is energy efficient enough. HiOS has a separate menu for battery and various modes of usage. Finally TECNO added a 4750mAh battery for extra long usage. We found that the phone has 11 hours of SoT, something more than good as you can understand.
With TÜV Rheinland certifications for Safe Fast-charge Systems, Camon 18 Premier supports 33W Flash Charging. It can charge from 0 to 50% in just 20 minutes. It can reach 100% in 65 minutes. The phone charges through a USB Type port.
TECNO Camon 18 Premier – Conclusion
We are impressed. This is a VFM camera/video phone that has basically everything. The display is top notch. The camera is a first in the mid-range category, a gimbal is something new and an excellent choice to stand out. The CPU is new and fast. The battery is big and fast charging. The fingerprint sensor is ultra fast. Hardware-wise the smartphone is what an average user needs – without having to break the bank.
The looks are excellent with top quality. The retail box has everything in. Connectivity is what we look for – sure there is no 5G but not all countries have 5G and the few that have do not support it fully.
Software is full and quite user friendly. TECNO must prove here that as a company, they have come to stay and show what they can do. The only way is constant support and upgrades. For example in some scenarios the camera needs improvement. Android 12 is on the road too. We need to see all these. Plus TECNO should REALLY add full language support. This way people can advertise and use your phones all around the planet.
What’s not to like?
The single speaker is basically the only drawback. We would also like to see a Global version that is not so bloated with applications. Google suite is used by most people in the West so all other applications do not need to be installed. The HiOS app store can provide them if the user needs them. We will look more carefully at the brand and its smartphones from now on. An excellent year 2021 for TECNO. Can’t wait for 2022!