Occasionally, during the course of internet travels at the Stuff offices, we have to venture in search of a generic Android smartphone. Or, at least, images of one. I used to think that these devices existed only in myth, or in the mind of a designer who made a basic render and posted it online. I was wrong.
That’s because the THL L969 is the most generic-looking Android I’ve ever seen. A nondescript Android slab, with only a logo on the back to make it stand out, this is a smartphone out in public with its sunglasses on, hoping you won’t notice it.
By now you’re probably asking ‘Who the heck are THL?’ I actually asked the same question. The answer is that THL (which stands for Technology.Happy.Life) is a Chinese company that makes and sells their own smartphones around the world. They’re set to appear in SA some time around September this year but we got our hands on one of their introductory models a bit early.
Lost In The Crowd
Based just on looks, and leaving aside the fact that it looks so stereotypical, the THL L969 is quite an attractive phone. The review model was solid black (so it goes with everything), with a textured removable back plate that confers a reassuring amount of grip to the handset.
Because the microSD card and SIM fit below the back plate, there’s almost nothing to the edges of the phone. There’s a metal border all round, broken only by the power and volume buttons on the right and a charge/headphone port on top of the handset.
Looks, even as generically stylish as this, aren’t everything though. The THL L969 is being billed as a mid-range handset, though its crop of specs have been bumped to the lower tier of the mid-rangers since its original launch last year.
The display comes in at a paltry 854 x 480 which, on the 5-inch panel, definitely looks sub-par compared to HD and 720p phones. It’s to be expected though, THL isn’t taking on the big boys with this handset. Android 4.4.2, the default installation with this phone, looks grainy onscreen and the custom set of icons, with its garish orange everywhere, doesn’t help matters in that line.
THL have included a 2,700mAh battery, an unusual choice for a phone like this based on the rest of its specs (more on that in a bit). But it does have the advantage of conferring some decent battery life on the handset, with at least a couple of days between charges being possible. It’s a not-unexpected benefit of the screen/RAM/processor configuration but it’s also a welcome one.
You see, the THL L969 sports just 1GB of RAM backing a MediaTek MT6582 quad-core processor which runs at 1.30GHz. Though this mid-range setup is on the way out, to be supplanted by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 615 six-core solution for better-specced mid-range phones, it’s still workable.
There’s little screen lag to be seen when navigating Android and your average app, though you’re going to battle if you’re asking the L969 to do anything 3D-related. The screen hitches that were seen could have been the result of the screen protector fitted to the phone when it arrived as well, so there’s that.
As usual, I pushed the phone through Geekbench to see what popped out the other side and the results were as expected. The single-core score of 344 puts it into range of Samsung’s Galaxy S5 Mini, while the multi-core tally of 1134 sticks the THL L969’s performance around that Motorola’s Moto G handset.
The camera is where the THL L969 falls the hardest. Performance and appearance are average, the battery life is better than expected but the 5MP rear/0.3MP front camera arrangement has seen better days. Most mid-range phones plump for an 8MP camera at the very least so this effort, which takes merely adequate photos, isn’t something to get excited about.
But you can get a bit excited about the data connection options. The THL L969 has been outfitted with LTE capabilities but, as usual, your mileage will vary depending on your coverage location. It’s nice to know that the phone will support it if you luck into a decent 4G area, at least.
The THL L969 is a not-unattractive mid-range phone that trades away the screen and camera for some good battery life and average performance. The chief concerns about the phone are the unknown brand and its support in SA, which is something we’ll learn more about as time goes by, and how much the handset will cost. Conversions based on overseas pricing suggest that it’ll come in around R2,500 or less. The cheaper the THL L969’s launch price, the better it looks as far as we’re concerned. If it venture over R2.5k, its value drops dramatically. We’ll keep you posted with launch prices and details.