Android Central Verdict
The Phantom X2 Pro gets a lot right on the hardware side of things. I like the vibrant orange hue and the fact that the back is made out of recycled ocean plastic, and the Dimensity 9000 is great in daily use. The 50MP camera takes good photos, there's a retractable portrait lens, and the battery lasts all days. However, the software lacks refinement and misses out on basic features, and the phone will not get platform updates on time. Ultimately, the lackluster software detracts from what is a good hardware package.
Unique design that reuses plastic waste
Vibrant 120Hz AMOLED screen
Reliable MediaTek hardware
Launching with Android 12
Heavily-skinned software lacks refinement
Lot of bloatware out of the box
No water resistance
Will not get timely updates
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Tecno isn’t a brand that will be familiar to may in the west, but the Chinese manufacturer is a major player in Africa, where it edged out Samsung last year to become the largest phone brand. Tecno is a part of Transsion Holdings and follows a similar structure as BBK, counting other phone brands Itel and Infinix as siblings.
While BBK focused on key Asian markets and is now making inroads in the west, Tecno turned to Africa to drive momentum outside its home market. Tecno has a large retail network in key countries in the African region, and the brand is now targeting other emerging markets. It already has a foothold in India and the Middle East, and is looking to gain market share in these countries with its latest devices.
I haven't covered Tecno much, but that's changing with the Phantom X2 Pro. The Phantom series covers the high-end category in Tecno's portfolio, and the latest model has a lot to offer: the Phantom X2 Pro is the first phone to feature a retractable portrait lens, and it has a unique back made out of recycled ocean plastic. With Tecno gearing up for a global launch for the Phantom X2 Pro, let's take a look at what you're getting with the device, and whether it can go up against more established brands.
Tecno Phantom X2 Pro: Pricing and availability
Tecno unveiled the Phantom X2 Pro at a launch event in Dubai on December 7, 2022, and the device is going on sale in a few weeks. There are two variants in the Phantom X2 series: a standard model and a Pro version. The Pro model gets the retractable lens and uses the Dimensity 9000, and you get a back made out of ocean plastic, 50MP Samsung camera, and 5160mAh battery. The standard Phantom X2 has the same internal hardware but comes with a 64MP camera instead of the 50MP lens.
The Phantom X2 comes in Stardust Grey and Moonlight Silver color variants, and includes 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage as standard, with Tecno following in the heels of Xiaomi and other Chinese brands in rolling out 256GB as the base storage tier. The Pro model is available in Stardust Grey and Mars Orange variants, and features 12GB of RAM along with the same 256GB of storage.
The Phantom X2 series is launching in over 60 countries, but it will not be coming to Europe or North America. As stated earlier, Tecno's key focus is emerging markets, and the Phantom X2 Pro will be available starting in India, Nigeria, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Turkey, and the Philippines.
In Saudi Arabia, the standard Phantom X2 will start off at 2,699 Saudi Riyal ($717), with the Phantom X2 Pro going on sale for 3,499 Saudi Riyal ($930). Tecno says those figures are in line with what the devices will cost in other markets.
Tecno Phantom X2 Pro: Design and screen
The obvious talking point with the design is the camera housing at the back. I've seen a lot of interesting designs over the course of 2022, and Tecno's ridiculously large rings for the camera modules is one of the most striking yet. It is similar to what ASUS did with the Zenfone 9, but the modules are even larger here. That said, the oversized design works really well here, and it gives the device a bit more of a distinctive design.
Tecno is going up against the likes of Xiaomi, Vivo, and Samsung, so it needs to do something a little different to stand out. The camera housing is a great starting point, and the brand followed that up with a unique Mars Orange color variant that's made out of recycled ocean plastic sourced in the Indian Ocean. This isn't a regular plastic finish like the Galaxy S21 FE, but has a gritty texture that's more in line with the vegan leather back of the Find X2 Pro.
This texture gives the phone a lot of character, and having used a lot of devices with glass and polycarbonate backs this year, the Phantom X2 Pro stands out thanks to the vibrant hue and the materials used. Tecno says it was able to cut down on carbon emissions by 38% by using recycled materials, with individual back covers producing 2.4g fewer emissions on average. That's a pittance when you factor in the global manufacturing industry, but every little bit makes a difference, and I like the fact that Tecno went this route for the Phantom X2 Pro.
The rest of the design is just as interesting: the aluminum mid-frame has the same orange hue as the back, and the subtle curves at the front and back make holding and using the phone a delight. The build quality and fit and finish are on par with the best Android phones, and there are absolutely no issues in this area. Coming in at 195g, it isn't too heavy either.
Like most brands, Tecno has forgotten about the 3.5mm jack and MicroSD slot, but you do get a dual-SIM tray here, and the package includes a charger and USB-C earbuds. What's a more egregious omission is ingress protection; with other devices offering this feature as standard nowadays, the Phantom X2 Pro is on the backfoot.
Overall, Tecno did a great job reusing plastic waste for the back cover, and the bright orange hue makes the Phantom X2 Pro that much more interesting. I would have liked to see ingress protection of some sort, but other than that, the Phantom X2 Pro nails the basics.
The Phantom X2 Pro has a large 6.8-inch AMOLED panel with FHD+ (2400 x 1080) resolution and 120Hz refresh, and there is a lot to like here. The panel has good colors and is vibrant in outdoors use, and there is a decent amount of customizability in tweaking the color balance.
You also get an always-on mode, and similar to ColorOS and MIUI, you have a good selection of clock styles available. Tecno uses smart refresh rate switching out of the box, but it's easy enough to select the 120Hz mode as default in the settings. The interface feels smooth to navigate, and the high refresh works well in Chrome and social media.
Tecno Phantom X2 Pro: Hardware and battery
The Phantom X2 Pro is powered by MediaTek's 4nm Dimensity 9000. With the Dimensity 9200 now official, it would have been nice to see the phone feature MediaTek's latest platform, but the Dimensity 9000 has a lot to offer as we head into 2023. I used a few phones with the Dimensity 9000 in recent months, and it does a great job at intensive workloads while still managing to deliver good efficiency figures.
I'm not going to talk about the hardware too much as the Dimensity 9000 is a known quantity at this point. I didn't see any slowdowns whatsoever in the week that I used the X2 Pro, and the 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage is more than adequate for most users. The phone has Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3, and I didn't see any issues in this area. There's a decent selection of 5G bands as well — 1/3/8/28/38/40/41/77/78/79 — along with global 4G connectivity.
The phone is fluid in daily use, and does a good job with visually-intensive titles. The one issue I have is with the vibration motor; it doesn't deliver good feedback and comes across a bit flat when using gesture navigation and the keyboard. I haven't run into this particular problem with most devices in 2022, and this is an area that Tecno needs to address with subsequent launches.
Switching over to the battery side of things, the Phantom X2 Pro has a large 5160mAh battery that lasts all day without any issues. Even with heavy use, you should have no issues getting the phone to the end of the day. Tecno doesn't use the USB PD standard, instead relying on its own 45W charging tech. The bundled charger does a good job charging the device fully in over an hour, but you miss out on wireless charging.
Tecno Phantom X2 Pro: Cameras
Tecno isn't particularly well-known for its camera tuning, but the brand is aiming to change that with the Phantom X2 Pro. A good starting point in doing that is the hardware, and the device has plenty to offer in this area. There's a 50MP Samsung GNV 1/1.3-inch module with large 1.2 micron pixels — the same as the Vivo X80 Pro — and that's joined by a 13MP wide-angle lens that also doubles up for macro shots, and a new 50MP portrait module with a retractable lens.
The 50MP module is highlighted with an orange accent, and it is pretty cool to see the lens jut out of the chassis when portrait mode is activated. You can manually retract the lens, and the camera will close as a result. The lens switches to 2.5x mode when extended, and in the standard 1x mode it stays inside the chassis.
Using a phone with a retractable lens is just as interesting as devices from three years ago that had motorized front camera modules, and the novelty doesn't wear off. That said, I'm not sure the retractable motor is as durable here. The camera interface itself is standard fare, with the shooting modes laid out in a ribbon and the filters for AI scene recognition, timer, full-res 50MP mode, and settings easily accessible.
Having never used a Tecno phone before, I wasn't sure about the quality of the images. I was pleasantly astonished in this regard; the Phantom X2 Pro delivers vibrant photos with great dynamic range and color accuracy in daylight conditions, and while the hardware on offer is among the best available, there is a lot of tuning work needed to get consistent photos.
The phone did a great job in low-light situations as well, producing shots with good colors and little to no visible noise. Highlights are managed well, and while the phone tends to shoot at lower ISO levels to minimize noise, you don't miss out on too much detail. The portrait lens is fantastic as well, offering creamy bokeh and doing a great job with background segmentation. The default shooting mode uses AI for scene recognition, and it did a decent job locking in on subjects and identifying various scenes.
The wide-angle lens isn't quite up to the mark, but it manages to deliver usable shots most of the time. The dedicated night mode makes a huge difference for low-light shots, and it automatically kicks in if the camera detects the ambient lighting to be too low.
Overall, the Phantom X2 Pro does a great job in this area. You get good photos in any lighting situation, and the retractable lens at the back is a fun inclusion that makes a difference.
Tecno Phantom X2 Pro: Software
This is the first time I’ve used a Tecno phone, and I was interested in seeing what the software has to offer. The Phantom X2 Pro runs HiOS 12 based on Android 12, and it is a heavily customized skin that looks very different to other brands. Setting up the phone is straightforward; Google mandates all manufacturers to use a similar flow, so transferring data to the device was familiar.
That said, there are a few translation errors when configuring the in-screen reader, and it feels like the interface is designed for a Chinese audience with the global version getting direct translations to English. The home screen looks familiar, but the notification shade is split into a Control Center-esque toggles section and a pane that only surfaces notifications.
I'm not a fan of this layout, and while other interfaces follow a similar structure — MIUI comes to mind — there is a way to switch back to the standard Android notification pane with both toggles and notifications in the same view. That isn't possible here.
What's more annoying is that there's no way to customize the pull-down gesture to surface the notification pane. I use this gesture a few dozen times a day to see incoming notifications, but in HiOS 12 the gesture pulls up the search bar. There's no way to change this behavior, and the interface makes it harder than necessary to access notifications. Other frustrations include not being able to arrange the home screen easily; you can't delete icons en masse. There's no Google dialer either, with Tecno bundling its own alternative.
There's a lot of stuff baked into HiOS, including floating windows similar to MIUI, edge panels, and the ability to run two instances of a service (limited to messaging services). The app drawer looks cluttered because of the alphabetized listing, and it isn't possible to switch this layout. You'll find a lot of bloatware installed out of the box here, and while most of it can be disabled, that isn't the case for Tecno's own utilities.
The most egregious of these is a digital assistant called Ella. It's limited in its usability and is frustrating to use, and the fact that you cannot disable it is irksome — even Samsung lets you disable Bixby on its devices.
Using the interface reminded me a lot of the initial days of MIUI, ColorOS, and EMUI, when these interfaces lacked polish and were tailored for the Chinese market. HiOS has some way to go in this area, and while it gets a few things right, it's clear that Tecno has a long way to go. And on that subject, there's no mention of how many platform updates the Phantom X2 Pro will get.
The phone is launching with Android 12 in December 2022 — three months after Google officially released the latest version of Android — and looking at Tecno's history, it looks like a long wait before Android 13 makes its way to the device. While Tecno didn't reveal a timeline for when the Phantom X2 Pro will get Android 13, the brand stated that the rollout will be sometime in the second or third quarter of 2023, and that just doesn't cut it for a device in this category.
Tecno Phantom X2 Pro: The competition
There's no shortage of choice if you're looking for a device with high-end hardware. I'm a big fan of the Xiaomi 12 series; Xiaomi nailed the design and in-hand feel with this generation, and the device has exciting hardware combined with a stellar camera, useful software features, and fast wired and wireless charging tech.
Realme's GT 2 Pro is also an underrated device that gets a lot right. It has an interesting design at the back, reliable hardware, same great screen as the rest of BBK's high-end portfolio, and a good set of software features. The GT 2 Pro is now selling in India for ₹49,999 ($605), and that's a great value for what you're getting.
Tecno Phantom X2 Pro: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if:
- You're looking for a phone with a unique back
- You want reliable hardware
- You need cameras that take good photos
- You want a phone that lasts all day with heavy use
You shouldn't buy this if:
- You want a phone with uncluttered software
- You need ingress protection or wireless charging
- You're looking for timely software updates
Tecno got a lot of things right on the hardware front with the Phantom X2 Pro, but that is the case with most phones these days. It's the software that is the bigger differentiator, and Tecno is significantly lagging behind its Chinese rivals in this area. HiOS 12 is heavily customized, has a lot of unnecessary features that don't have a lot of utility, and the interface lacks refinement. Combine that with a lackadaisical attitude toward updates and you have a phone that doesn't measure up to the likes of the Xiaomi 12, Find X5, and Vivo X90.
Ultimately, it doesn't make much sense to pick up the Phantom X2 Pro considering other brands deliver refined software with a better feature-set and timely updates. Countries like India and Saudi Arabia have a varied selection of devices from leading manufacturers, but in other markets — African and South American countries — there's significantly less choice, and the Phantom X2 Pro is likely to do better in those regions.
As it stands, the Phantom X2 Pro has a lot of hardware potential thanks to the vibrant screen, MediaTek Dimensity 9000 platform, 50MP camera, and large 5160mAh battery. But the software needs an overhaul if Tecno wants to play in the big leagues.
Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.
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