Thursday, August 22, 2013

Welcome to the 21st Century

Guess who just joined the smartphone bandwagon.

This guy!

Yes, that's right.  In the year 2013, I was still clinging to my old flip phone, but a steady stream of Craigslist near-misses finally convinced me that it was time to make the transition.  You know me though.  When I make a purchase, I've got to wring just about every dang drop of value possible out of the transaction. 

So, did I get an iPhone?  No.  The latest Samsung Galaxy?  Nope.  A Google Nexus?  Not even close.

Meet my new partner in crime, a Chinese knockoff of the HTC One called the Tronsmart TS7 Glacier courtesy of (can also be found online as the Cubot One).

 With a quad core A7 processor, 1 gig of RAM, 16 gigs of ROM, 720p "retina" screen, and 13 megapixel back and 5 megapixel front camera, this thing certainly delivers a lot of tech for the low, low price of...

... wait for it...

...$150 bones without a contract!

It comes packaged with a guide, mini USB cable, USB charger, power adapter, clear rubberized case, headphones with built-in mic, screen protector, and TWO 2200 mAh batteries.  That's enough juice to get you through 3 days of average use without a charge.

The phones and mic are, as expected of freebies, garbage and the manual will require a degree in Engrish to decode, but everything else is of acceptable quality.  I love that this thing bucks the trend and allows user-swappable batteries, as that's been one of my biggest gripes about smartphones in the past. 

 Even with the large battery, the whole package is still quite svelte and feels solid.  Of course, there are some compromises.  Instead of aluminum, the case is rubberized plastic and you don't get the sapphire lenses or or Gorilla Glass that high-end manufacturers employ.

As far as performance, the Tronsmart fares well.  The quad core A7 processor, running at 1.2 gHz, scores around 1300 on the Antutu benchmark (more or less equivalent to the Tegra 3 in the last-generation Nexus 7) and runs Google's excellent Android 4.2 (almost stock - very little bloatware or crappy Chinese apps) smoothly.  The 720p IPS screen is clear and crisp, if not quite as bright as my girlfriend's iPhone 4S.

All of the included functions (GPS, bluetooth, haptic feedback) work as expected.  The 12.6 and 5 mp cameras take serviceable pictures, though they are hindered by a weak LED flash and somewhat poor low-light performance.  The Tronsmart won't replace your point-and-shoot or SLR, but these camera phones sure are getting awful close.

Pop off the back and you'll find the battery compartment, dual sim slots (one micro, one regular), and a SD card reader, which accepts capacities up to 32 gig.

After several weeks of use, I must say that I am very impressed with the whole Tronsmart TS7 Glacier package.  It boggles the mind how manufacturers can include a HD screen, 2 cameras, a gps, Bluetooth, two batteries, and much, much more for so little money, ship it over here from China, and still make any kind of profit.  Any one of those parts would have cost more than the whole phone even just a few years ago.  We live in magical times folks!

Now, please excuse me while I make up for about 5 years worth of social networking and Angry Birds.


  1. We just finally transitioned to smart(ish) phones, too! I found a couple of slightly used Kyocera Rises on ebay for around $35 a piece that were compatible with our carrier, so no contract either. They have the latest Android OS and allows us to access the internet, etc., which does boggle my mind. I agree that this is a magical time. My kids have no idea. I'm enthralled with this tiny little computer in my hand and they think it's no big deal. I sound like my dad when I keep saying things like "back when we were young no one had cell phones" or "you don't know how lucky you are. Why when I was your age, I was still using a giant desktop in school and learning string programming so that the computer would automatically fill the screen with dollar signs".

    1. Contracts are for the birds! I think that I might end up going with pay-as-you-go because I hardly use any minutes.

  2. I don't do any research. I just use the most recently outdated iPhone that I can get free when it's time to re-up on my plan. I analytical mind astounds you. :)

    1. I wish I could afford an iPhone. They're so nice, but the data plan would really eat into my budget. Need to pinch those pennies till they scream.

  3. Great review. I actually ordered the phone after reading your review. I received the phone today and I too am quite impressed (I've been using outdated cell phones as well!)

    I had 2 quick questions that I needed some clarification on, if you don't mind.

    1. Are your bottom keys (Menu, Home and Back) very poorly back-lit?
    I can barely see mine (I only do in a dark room with no light in my surroundings)

    2. The supplied headset is rubbish, so I borrowed both a BlackBerry and an iPhone "headset" (Headphones with a built in mic and that has 4 contacts on the end of the 3.5mm jack) and used it with the phone. Unfortunately the headset is detected as a headphone only (i.e. With no mic; You see this on an icon near the Wifi signal) - spitting out terrible muffled sounds, unless I press and hold the button (Call / End) on the cord. If I plug in a regular headphones, without a mic, I'm fine, but I have this problem with premium headsets used with the TS7.Do you have a similar issue? I'm worried I got a half lemon.

    To be honest point 1is not a major concern, but point 2 is really bothering me. Would love to hear back from you.

    P.S. The supplied headset is detected / works fine - But they sound TERRIBLE!

    Thanks in advance,
    GP = Dubai

    1. Thanks for your vote of confidence. I'm still amazed by at how decent this for is for the price. Like you, I did notice that the back light on the capacitive buttons is somewhat uneven and dim and the buttons could be more sensitive, but for $150 I think that I can accept that. As far as the headset, I'm not entirely sure. I've never been a headset user and I gave the included ones to a friend. Like most OEM sets, they looked pretty terrible.