Until very recently I didn’t even know Sri Lanka manufactured smartphones. When I heard that there was one such manufacturer, I was (as most people in Sri Lanka would I’d assume) sceptical to say the least. So when I was given the OCTA Nero to review, I opened the box with absolutely no expectations. And this phone is retailing at LKR 16,990/- in an age where the price of mobile phones easily hits six digits. At first, I couldn’t comprehend what the OCTA Nero could offer at such a small price point.
But there’s a reason why they say never to judge a book by its cover (or in this case, a phone by its price tag). What I found when I unboxed the device exceeded all my expectations.
The OCTA Nero is a powered by a MTK 6735P Quadcore processor and has a 2150 mAh removable battery. It has 16 GB of internal memory (expandable up to 32GB) and a 2GB RAM. The Display is a 5inch 720p resolution LCD screen and the device weighs about 280g. It has an 8MP rear camera and a 2MP selfie camera. In addition, it has all the connectivity options you’d expect in 2016, with 4G LTE (its also dual SIM compatible), Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi. And finally it runs Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box.
So all in all the specs are not the most high-end specs you’d see in today’s smartphones, but given the price point and that it’s competing in the mid-range market, the specs are decent and more than sufficient to get the job done.
There’s a lot to discuss on this section because almost everything on this phone is good.
Firstly, the look and feel of the phone is quite nice. When you pick up the device, it has a nice premium feel to it. It has a full plastic body with smooth curved edges that hug the palm of your hand nicely and therefore is easy to grip. And most importantly it doesn’t feel heavy in your hand, so that your hand doesn’t feel tired after holding it for a while. Secondly, the display is clean, responsive and again has a very premium feel to it.
Thirdly, performance-wise, I used this phone for about a week as my daily driver and it was able to keep up with all my day-to-day mobile needs (which is usually carried out by the spec-beast known as the Oneplus 2). The fact that the OCTA Nero could keep up with a phone which has much better specs was impressive. Multitasking worked well, and there was almost no uncomfortable heat when the processor was working at full capacity. But when there was heavy use especially when you run graphic-heavy games the phone would lag a bit, which I wouldn’t put down as a negative solely because the phone is not built for the heavy users. It’s intended for the average mobile phone consumers of Sri Lanka. And the average consumer would be able to use this phone quite comfortably without any lag.
Fourthly, the battery life of the phone was quite good, and with moderate use I was able to get through the day with the 2150 mAh battery on the phone. In case you’re a heavy user who may run out of juice before the end of the day you can always carry an extra battery, since its removable. (this is why all phones should have a removable battery)
Finally, with the software, it’s nice to see the device running Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, which is the version of Android many mobile phone manufactures world over are still using. (although Google is getting ready to release Android 7.0) Further the developers of the OCTA Nero have also included lots of personal software customisations/tweaks to the phone which is nice to see.
Now, when I say bad you have to understand that these concerns are all relative. We tend to compare phones to the high-end devices which is often unfair to mid-range devices. But these are some concerns I had using this phone.
Firstly, the biggest concern for me was the screen, because the contrast and colour balance of the display was completely off for me. It seemed too saturated and felt uncomfortable to the eye. Playing games was very difficult since the colours were off. But the device does come with special software called “MiraVision” built in to help change the display colours to your liking, but despite playing around with it I couldn’t get it to look like I wanted it to. (but hopefully this can be fixed with a future software update).
Secondly, it’s not that the rear camera is bad, but it could be better. It takes decent photos in good lighting but in anything less than perfect lighting the pictures become grainy and unpleasant. Again this is not meant to be a phone for a person who uses the phone more as a camera. So this isn’t a big deal. It definitely wasn’t for me. The selfie camera of course is quite poor, we wouldn’t expect much from it anyway considering that it’s a 2MP shooter. But you have to understand that when you create a budget phone you have to make cuts, and the manufacturer opted to make the cut on the camera department. Fair enough.
Finally, this isn’t really something bad, but simply throwing caution to the wind. The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, which is great. The question is, will the manufacturer continue to provide over the air updates and possibly even provide an update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Because if the manufacturer is not concerned with providing constant bug fixes and updates to the customer after the sale, then the phone may not be an investment which can serve you for at least two years (which is the life of a phone these days).
So in conclusion, the question I always ask myself is, “would I buy this phone?” On the one hand this phone provides an amazing set of features for the price point and is capable of keeping up with more high-end phones. But there are some issues (although minor) which may bother some people. For me, if the display saturation problem can be fixed (which it should be quite easy to do) and the manufacturer continues to back the phone with software updates, I would jump at this offer.
Besides if you can get a great phone and support a Sri Lankan company in doing so, why wouldn’t you! Be Sri Lankan, Buy Sri Lankan. Yes.
The OCTA Nero is manufactured by EWIS, Sri Lanka’s only Original Device Manufacturer (ODM).
The manufacturer says that during the one year warranty period, if there is any defect or repair to the phone, they will replace it with a brand new device.