It’s relatively rare that a Mobicel smartphone enters the Stuff offices, a fact that looks like it’s about to start changing. The most recent contender from the local smartphone outfit — the first we’ve seen since 2015 — is certainly an attention-getter. The Mobicel Hype X has a touch of the peacock about it — pull one of these out of your pocket and folks are going to notice. But is it all flash and no substance or is there a foundation underneath the shine? Read on to find out.
Sometimes, you just want people to know that you’re there. Hey, you might be an extrovert. We believe there’s medication for that now. Mobicel’s Hype X is extroversion in smartphone form — a bright, eye-catching design that make you want to check out your reflection in the rainbow gradient on the rear of the phone. Look beyond the bold colour choices, though, and you’ll note a pretty conventional design language. Like a peacock, the colour’s the thing. All the functional bits are still where they should be.
That means that there’s a volume rocker and power button taking up residence on one side, a mid-point fingerprint sensor on the rear and a raised back camera bump — iPhone 8 style. The Hype X still uses microUSB for charging, but they’ve also kept the headphone jack so we’re okay with living in a past a little longer. The speakers live in the same line on the device. They could be bigger, but at the device’s R4,000 price point, not a whole lot bigger.
Build is something we could be happier with. The frame and chassis are sturdy enough but that whole rear panel is shiny, colourful plastic. It’s less prone to utter destruction on a drop (the 6in display might still come to grief) but it’s also less… premium. It feels like plastic when you hold it, a far cry from the heft of a metal, metal-like, or glass handset. We suspect that the body budget went to the (very pleasant) display instead.
It’s not how you look on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Parents and organ transplant surgeons both feel that way and, often, so do the folks at Stuff. Pair Apple’s design with crappy hardware and all you have is a highly-polished… ahem, anyway.
We peered inside the Hype X’s casing using the magic of analysis software and wandered out with the internal specifications. This phone’s packing Qualcom’s mid-range Snapdragon 450, running behind an above-average 6in 1,080 x 2,246 screen. The display takes its cues from Samsung’s Infinity Display design — you’ll see a few resemblances in the reduced bezels and rounded edges.
We noticed a little oddity with the display. It’s set to quite dim by default, meaning that users will have to opt for adaptive brightness (or something far more eye-searing) manually. Weird choice. When we wiped the phone to return it to sender, that dim display had returned.
There’s 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage inside (22GB available) and the Android 8.2 handset is powered by a 3,400mAh battery. All told, a decent crop of specs for an entry level phone. We ran some benchmark thingys, just to check, and came out with a few scores: 769 for Single Core on Geekbench 4, and 3890 for Multi-Core. That’s not too shabby, putting performance around the same place occupied by the old Galaxy S6.
Try not to break it
And now for some really bad news. Generally we’ve got little to complain about with regards to the Android OS. Most companies have gotten used to the idea that preinstalled software isn’t the way to go (unless you’re Apple) and limit the amount of bloatware. Mobicel didn’t get the memo. You can see in the images above what might be the worst bloatware we’ve ever encountered. That would be a subscription-based service (or rather, several of them) operated by Mobicel.
Which might have been acceptable if we’d been able to remove the software. Except it’s not really software, they’re… links. With a mind of their own. Each icon (which can be deleted from the home screen) can have its operation stopped, but it cannot be removed from the phone itself. They’re sticking around. And, worse, they will periodically pop up a message in your notifications drawer asking you to spend R3/day on stuff you really don’t need.
Guys, it’s 2019. If your smartphone has a non-essential app or function that cannot be deleted you’re doing it wrong. Given the price, this isn’t a dealbreaker for this phone but it does feel like an anachronism… and more than a little rude.
The speed of light (capture)
You can’t buy a phone in 2019 without giving some thought to the camera. Mobicel’s got some camera hardware that might distract you from the bloatware above, at least. There’s a 16MP front-facer that takes good-enough selfie shots. If you are constantly snapping your own mug (try explaining that sentence 10 years ago), there are worse ways to snatch away a piece of your soul.
The rear camera arrangement, of a 12MP+2MP sensor, is also a good one — though you’re going to have to work for your shots. In ideal conditions, you’re looking at clear, detailed, colourful images. In less-than-ideal conditions, it’s still possible to get them, but there’s effort involved. It’s not just a case of hitting the shutter and calling it a day.
Take a gander at the sample images above offer a few examples. If lighting is good you’ll snap some great shots (down to the dust on the shelves). We could have done with a faster shutter, though. Trying to grab images of a well-fed and almost stationary feline was a chore, through the twilight conditions didn’t help the camera keep up. In the cat photo, you’ll notice that everything stationary is well detailed — if a bit washed out. And the shrubbery? It look a few tries to get an image that didn’t look as though the central flower was emitting its own light.
The takeaway? You can take better pictures with a different phone but putting in the time to get to know the Hype X will see you rivalling other, far more expensive cameras.
Mobicel Hype X Verdict
A lot of time has passed since the Mobicel Air, a fairly nondescript device that managed to impress, performance-wise. And a lot of competition has emerged in the entry-level market since. Mobicel’s Hype X does well on a visual level (if being noticed is your thing) but more is needed to stay toe-to-toe with everyone else jostling for attention.
As it stands, the Hype X does well enough on the performance front to warrant your cash. If you’re especially mad about your cellphone photography, you’re less likely to be pleased, and you’d be better off forking out a little more for something else. The real score-slammer, though, is the subscription-based bloatware that can’t be deleted off the phone. We get testy if major apps like Facebook can’t be wholly removed at will. Something that could wind up users costing money? Yeah, that’s gonna be a solid no from us, Mobi.