Entry-level Androids – MTN Steppa, Vodacom Smart Kicka, Alcatel OneTouch Pixi

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Not all smartphones are created equal. There are the top of the range, which cost a significant chunk of several monthly salaries and which have the specifications to make that one gaming computer you used to own sit in the corner and cry itself to sleep. And that was a dual-core machine too.

Then there is the mid-range, which is favoured by people who are just dying to get their hands on the high-end smartphones but – for some reason or another – cannot afford one.

But the often overlooked smartphone is the smaller phone. The device that we find ourselves forgetting about because we’ve moved past it. We’re talking about the entry-level smartphone and these little devices don’t get the credit that they deserve. Everyone has to start somewhere and, in a country like South Africa, that ‘somewhere’ might be a little further down the financial ladder than we’d like.

But starting out at the bottom means that the only place to go is up, where everything is fresh and new and awesome – which is how we’re all supposed to feel about the helpful devices in our lives. Here are three smartphones, all of which are less than R700, that will get the ball rolling.

  • MTN Steppa
    Display: 3.5-inch (320 x 480)
    Chipset/CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.0GHz (512MB RAM)
    Storage: 1GB
    Camera: 2MP
    Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0
    Battery: 1,300mAh Li-Ion
    Operating System: Android 2.3 Ginger Bread
    Dimensions: 121.4mm x 63.2 x 11.8
    You could argue that MTN, in South Africa, started the ball rolling for low-cost smartphones by bringing their Steppa handset to prominence. That isn’t to say that MTN had the first Android phone that would cost you in the region of R500 but they were certainly very vocal about their contribution to entry-level smartphones.

    What do you get?

    Android 2.3, once the toast of the technology world, is now confined mostly to handsets that will never see a operating system upgrade. But it’s still a very serviceable OS, if you’re looking to learn something about the Android ecosystem. MTN’s Steppa pairs some decent hardware with a 3.5-inch display, a staple for this price range, their own custom skin and a spot of advertising. 512MB of RAM, a 1GHz processor and a little 2MP camera might not sound like much to you but then you’re forgetting your roots. This used to be cutting edge. For people just learning the smartphone ropes, it still is.

  • Vodacom-Smart-Kicka
    Display: 3.5-inch (480 x 320)
    Chipset/CPU: MT6572 1.0GHz dual core (512MB RAM)
    Storage: 4GB
    Camera: 2MP
    Connectivity: 3G, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0
    Battery: 1,400mAh Li-Ion
    Operating System: Android 4.4 KitKat
    Dimensions: 112mm x 62 x 12
    Where one goes, the others will follow. That is the nature of cellular service providers in South Africa. MTN brought out the Steppa, soon afterwards Vodacom brought us the Smart Kicka. We’re going to conveniently ignore the other, slightly more expensive Vodafone handsets from the company in the interests of narrative stability.

    What do you get?

    Android 4.4, for one. If you’re planning on starting out in smartphones (be careful, there’s no going back to a feature phone) and are looking for the most advanced operating system on an extreme budget, Vodacom’s handset is your bunny. Though we have yet to get our hands on a Kicka, Vodacom have outfitted their phone with the bare minimum hardware to get Android KitKat running. Expect some lag and don’t plan on running any top-spec Android games but if you’re looking for app compatibility, you’ve found it here. Added bonus: the Kicka has the largest onboard storage allocation of this trio at 4GB.

  • OneTouch Pixi
    Display: 3.5-inch (320 x 480)
    Chipset/CPU: 1.0GHz (256MB RAM)
    Storage: 512MB
    Camera: 2MP
    Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
    Battery: 1,300mAh Li-Ion
    Operating System: Android 2.3 Ginger Bread
    Dimensions: 115mm x 62.3 x 12.2
    Alcatel is a name that we’ve been seeing more and more of lately. Present back when MTN was available in a couple of SA cities and coverage was more of a myth than a reality, Alcatel is slowly heading back to the fore. Can they take on the might of LG, Samsung and the rest? We’re not going to guess but they are definitely impressive when it comes to entry-level phones.

    What do you get?

    Alcatel’s OneTouch Pixi has a lot in common with MTN’s Steppa in terms of hardware, with both MTN and Vodacom’s device in terms of price and an advantage or two of its own. Android Ginger Bread, similar specs to MTN’s Steppa but the lowest RAM and storage allocation point towards the Pixi hitting the market before the competition. Yet somehow Alcatel have included Bluetooth 4.0 in this compact little starter and like everything else on offer here, the Pixi is capable of expanding that meagre 512MB of storage to 32GB with the help of a microSD card.

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