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Hands-on review: The Blackview A20 smartphone - a surprising entry-level phone

06 Sep 2018

Blackview may a new brand for most of us, but if you hail from Asia, you may already be one of millions of users. The A20 is an Android-based phone with a 5.5” screen. For an “entry-level” phone, it has some options that will surprise you. Priced on AliExpress at USD$49, (NZ price will be a tad over $100) it has features that will leave some of the opposition quaking. 

Unpacking the A20 

The out-of-the-box experience was straightforward, consisting of connecting to WiFi, researching how to insert the SIM card (you can insert two if you wish) and then deciding on a plan with my chosen provider. If you don’t need dual SIMs, you have the option of using one slot for a micro data card.

The charger is a European model so I plugged the USB cable into my trusty hub. The user guide in the box will help you get through the set-up process and will show you how to customise your home screen.

But here is where I ran into a few minor issues - luckily none of them related to phone performance. The home page appears to have a couple of glitches. When I tried to contact the company using their online system, I got an error message, saying - well - I don’t know because it was in Chinese.

With no email address listed, the only other option was to engage in a live chat. I mentioned the European charger, but the other lack was that of a product manual. Usually my first action is to download one, but I couldn’t find any for any of Blackview’s phones. I was struggling to figure out how to insert the SIM card. 

My extensive investigations revealed that there’s a difference between a normal SIM, a Micro, and a Nano. The Blackview takes Nano SIMs. I was lucky enough to find a YouTube video that walks you through the installation process and shows also how to insert your micro data card.

Performance

Blackview claims the A20's performance with Android GO is 15% faster than regular Android phones, thanks to the operating system requiring less memory and storage consumption. When connected to a WiFi network, browsing was just as quick as it is on my iPhone. Playing a video was a surprisingly pleasant experience.

The internal speaker is very good (once I moved my finger off it, the clarity was excellent). Plugging in a headphone allows you to tune into your FM radio, with the cable acting as the radio aerial. Using the camera reminded me just how far we’ve come since digital cameras came on the scene back in the 1990s.

The A20 may have relatively modest sensors, but even when using the front-facing 2.0 MP camera, I was producing good clear images, even in murky light. Switching from still shots to video, the camera was good enough to pick up my two-day-old stubble and every temporizer I used as I “ummed” and “ahhed” my way through two minutes of filming.

I was worried about the lack of 4G connectivity, until I remembered that most of my time is spent on WiFi networks. If you rely on mobile networking, you’ll most likely be hanging out for the introduction of 5G and be in the market for something that looks like the A20 but with a heftier price tag. 

The Blackview A20 has lived up to the claims of the manufacturer. After a day of intensive use, the 3000 mAh battery is currently at 87% at the end of the work day. If you’re a parent with a hoard of young learners needing a BYOD device with access to Google Apps, the A20 is a powerful and low-cost alternative to a tablet or Chromebook.

Maybe you’re someone like me who needs a reliable Android phone, so that I can appear knowledgeable when straying from my Apple lifestyle.  Whatever your needs, the Blackview A20 promises to change what our expectations of “entry-level” will be from now on.  

Click here for more details and pricing.

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