I went to Latvia on a stag do, had a few shandies and left my Samsung Galaxy S3 in a taxi – my bad. My trusty Samsung had been put through its paces by my active and at times wreckless lifestyle for 18 months, succeeding two iPhones but this was just one European capital too far.
On returning to British soil I was faced with a dilemma, pay good money for a proven winner – something like the Motorola Moto G or the HTC One M7 or take a gamble with a cheaper emerging force in the Chinese markets, the Cubot X6.
As you may or may not have guessed from the title of this post, the latter was triumphant, and I didn’t have to go into my overdraft for a third month in a row.
The Cubot bridges the expansive gap between budget smartphone and high end android and it does it incredibly well. It has a host of high specs that will make iPhone users wince that little bit more when their latest model is due for expensive upgrade (how much for that new 5″ iPhone 6+?!).
Firstly, it’s massive. 5″ is an excellent size for someone like me, I’m on my phone a lot and I have hands that resemble toilet seats. I expect a lesser sized human may struggle with this, in fact, I know that Strawberry Squeeze’s Sam jibbed out of writing this review partly because of the sheer size of it in her microscopic palms.
Second of all, the brightness and colours really are impressive for a phone in this price range. The screen is so bright that it’s often best to turn the brightness down to about 3/4 (I had the brightness at full on my S3). The colour range of the Cubot is noticeably limited compared to the high end smart phones and overall the screen is slightly duller than those I have become accustom to. It is still very usable and after a few days you will only notice the difference when you go back to use a high end phone.
Lastly, an area that I have found rather disappointing, and quite frankly annoying, is the screen accuracy. Whilst tapping a message or quickly clicking on an app to open it sometimes nothing will happen. My workaround for this over the last weeks has been to turn on ‘show touches’ in developer tools and start noticing the consistency in the inaccuracies – it’s starting to work for me but quite a peeve!
… Or should I say cameras. The Cubot punches 13 mega pixels of optical clout, 5 on the front mounted lense and 8 on the back. Don’t let that be enough to sell it to you though, as us techies are all too aware (and often reassure each other), it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it. The main camera has a lacklustre auto focus functionality which means you can kiss goodbye to easily getting those quick snaps or shots of moving targets.
Low and high light exposures is also a struggle for the Cubot but this is something that I haven’t seen done well by any phone apart from the iPhone 5S. The front camera on the other hand is a surprise victor for this Chinese beast.
The 5 pixel camera provides a perfect high quality picture for using services like Skype or recording a vlog or how-to video. I have added some pictures to this post that were all taken on the Cubot – you can take good photos… you just have to try harder… and use more Instagram filters…
The operating system
It should definitely be mentioned that this is a massive advantage over picking many other smartphones on the market – lack of bloatware. The Cubot overlay for Android 4.2.2 (KitKat is not yet supported and may never be) is excellent, apps launch quickly and there is no clunkiness.
I recommend adding a couple of things to make it even better. Google launcher works very well on the device and sorts out all the aesthetic niggles as well as adding the brilliant Google Cards and ‘OK Google’ feature which rivals Siri.
A quick install of Quickmessage was also a great solution for me as I didn’t like the stock SMS app. I would also get SwiftKey keyboard as it recently been made free by its developers and it’s a lot more powerful than Android basic keyboard. The operating system and moreover the hardware support dual SIMs meaning that you can make the most out of two phone packages or be able to seamlessly use the phone across two countries.
The phone performs well against modern premium smartphones. Under light-medium use I have found that you can squeeze out 1.5 days of life which with such a big screen I thought was very reasonable. Medium-heavy use will see you charging it once a day, which is to be expected until the next generation of batteries of smartphone batteries is developed (not soon enough!)”
The phone is not perfect, these are the main things that have grinded my gears:
• App Caching – there is a problem on the phone with caching of apps and there has been many occasions where I cannot update or download an app without clearing the cache of the device with an app such as CCleaner. A workaround that I have used is to buy a Micro SD card (about a tenner from Mymemory.com) and install as many apps as possible to it.
• No notification light – OK, so I have nostalgia for my Samsung, but I miss it and it should be mentioned!
• Headphone jack – bizarrely the headphone jack is extremely temperamental and doesn’t seem to be compatible with some headphones. It doesn’t work with my old Samsung ones but does work with my audio in on my stereo. It is also worth noting that the phone does not come with headphones.
I took a complete punt on this phone and I’m extremely glad I did. For a determined nerd like me (not determined to be a nerd, a nerd that is determined) I have really enjoyed getting used to the challenges and nuances of the device. The phone represents great value, and you get so much of it for your money, or more specifically, lack of.
A 5” responsive screen, modern Android, dual SIM, many megapixels for less than 20 foot long Subway sandwiches. Yes sometimes you can’t install an app, yes sometimes it will take you about 10 seconds to get a photo but yes it did cost you less than £100!
Jon writes this article as a favour to the lovely Sammy. As you may have guessed, he wasn’t troubled too much as he is a total geek. Jon owns his own blog, Jonzerblog, where he talks about his travels all over the world and occasionally writes about tech that helps him along the way. He also co-owns Bee Outdoors where he and his partner in crime Rozzy like to talk about their love of the great outdoors.