Kazam is the latest company to enter the jam-packed Android market, but will it create a storm?
One thing you could never accuse the Android market of is a lack of options. A wealth of them exist for prospective smartphone buyers. And unlike the snobbish iPhone, your financial standing matters not. There are handsets priced for paupers to princes, and everyone in between.
But given the saturation of phones to choose from, is it wise to launch a new Android brand? Probably not. The folks at Kazam – the new kids on the mobile block – must be stubbornly optimistic.
Is Kazam’s Thunder Q4.5 – from a team largely comprised of Brits based outside the UK – about to draw a clap from smartphone fans, or is it just noise?
The Thunder Q4.5 is the definition of a middle-of-the-road Android phone. That is by no means a bad thing, and this handset is a very respectable entry from a very young company.
Perhaps what is most impressive about the Thunder Q4.5 is its build quality. Ordinarily, the body is one of the first things to suffer in cheaper handsets, but this device feels more expensive than its mooted price pitch would suggest (UK pricing has yet to be announced).
It’s rather easy on the eye, too, with a plain black bezel backed by a slightly textured graphite-coloured rear case. The two faces of the phone are held together by a subtle matte silver band of plastic that looks, and almost feels, like brushed metal.
The solid, three-piece construction, combined with its smooth looks, make it as handsome a handset as any on the market, regardless of price.
Software & apps
Unfortunately for Kazam, this simplicity, which is such a selling point on the outside, is something of a negative on the inside.
Those expecting unique or interesting Kazam-specific apps to match its appealing design will be disappointed.
The Thunder Q4.5 runs on Android’s Jelly Bean 4.2 operating system, which isn’t the latest iteration of Google’s software, but it is nonetheless the OS of choice for most handsets. As such, the applications that accompany it are unremarkable.
There is an FM radio tuner, which is useful, although it requires the rather naff headphones that accompany it to function, as the tuner is contained within them. So you can forget about playing the radio through a set of speakers.
There’s also a wealth of Google apps pre-installed – so many, in fact, that it borders on bloatware.
Not everyone will need Google Search, Google+, Google Hangouts, Google Local, Google Play Books, Google Play Newsstand and Gmail pre-installed on their new handset. Particularly when several of the apps are duplicates of other default programs (for Google Search, see Chrome, for Google Maps, see Navigation, and so on).
It’s odd that Kazam would opt for such a Google-heavy load when it calls attention to the Thunder Q4.5’s inbuilt storage – possibly its weakest asset.
The handset comes with a paltry 1.74GB of storage. Even the lowest of budget smartphones typically come with around 8GB.
The skimping on space means you only need to download a couple of everyday applications such as Twitter and eBay, and one game such as Dead Trigger 2 and the phone is already telling you that you can no longer take photos unless space is freed up first.
Thankfully, the phone’s storage can be expanded with an SD card of up to 32GB. Even so, many other smartphones can handle storage expansion of up to 64GB.
If you do manage to free up enough space to take a photo or two, you might be pleasantly surprised by the camera’s performance. The Thunder Q4.5’s eight-megapixel camera is better than average for a lower-priced phone, although it suffers slightly from a lack of decent software backing up the lens.
The camera can struggle to adapt to variations in lighting, and two differently lit areas in the same scene often causes trouble. There is an auto-focus though, albeit a fairly rudimentary one.
What might well be the most impressive photographic feature of the Thunder Q4.5 is its capacity for post-production. Once you’ve got your snap you can polish it up nicely with a wealth of filters, adjustments and frames. It’s like having Instagram and a basic photo suite built into your handset.
The device’s only other defining feature would be its dual-SIM capacity, meaning you can slot in two SIM cards at the same time and jump back and forth between them without having to reboot your phone or fiddle around. It’s an odd trend among lower-cost smartphones, but potentially a useful feature.
While there’s nothing special about the Thunder Q4.5’s MTK 1.3GHz quad-core processor, it’s impressive how well Kazam has optimised it.
It may produce a standard-issue 1GB of RAM – which determines how many programs can run at once and how fast – but it proves to be more than capable.
We’ve seen a remarkable variation in performance from devices with the same power on paper, good and bad, so it’s very promising that Kazam is near the top of the pile.
When we loaded up Dead Trigger 2, which is a good benchmark for how well a phone can handle games with impressive graphics, it ran as smooth as silk.
Web pages loaded promptly, too, as did YouTube videos.
Unfortunately the handset, like so many of its kind, is let down by its display. With a resolution of just 854 x 480 pixels, it produces an image with only 218 pixels per inch.
Comparatively, a top-of-the-line smartphone would double this. Of course, you get what you pay for, but it doesn’t change the fact that HD videos look, frankly, very poor on this device.
Another complaint about the display is its lack of sensitivity. With bizarre frequency, the Thunder Q4.5 fails to sense your taps or swipes, meaning you need to exert an unusual level of pressure for your touch to reliably register, particularly when typing.
It’s a shame, as the device’s 4.5-inch screen is refreshingly compact in an industry increasingly obsessed with humongous displays.
Strangely, there is no UK price set for the handset yet, but if the European pricing of €169 is anything to go by, then expect to pay around £140.
If you feel you need nothing more than the basic features of a middle-ranking smartphone, then you could certainly do worse than the Thunder Q4.5.
At that provisional price, you would be very hard pushed to find a handset with such a pleasing blend of attractive aesthetics and power – so long as you are willing to overlook its strange and avoidable flaws.
The Kazam Thunder Q4.5 is a sure case of style over substance, but in the lower-cost end of the market you’d usually be lucky to get either. While the phone lacks standout features, it won’t let you down when it comes to everyday smartphone functions.
Fancy taking a punt on a new brand? You could certainly do worse than the Q4.5.