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Phicomm Energy 653 unboxing and first impressions: redefining the entry-level smartphone

|August 13 2015 |Mobiles, Android Phones, First impressions, Unboxing, Phicomm

"We take a look at Phicomm's recently launched budget smartphone, the Energy 653."

Phicomm Energy 653_10

We’re eight months into 2015, and we’ve seen a nearly equal number of new smartphone brands enter the Indian market this year. Potential customers are inundated with choices, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Most new budget smartphones we’ve been seeing offer identical specs, and often, a similar design too. Chinese brand Phicomm was one of the many to start operations in India this year, debuting in June with the Phicomm Passion P660, an affordable 4G LTE smartphone with specs that rivalled the capable Xiaomi Mi 4i (review). Two months later, the company is back with a brand new device, this time targeted at the entry-level segment. The Phicomm Energy 653 is aimed at first-time smartphone users, and manages to pack in some commendable specs for its asking price of Rs 4,999. We have the device in our labs, and we’re going to take a look at the smartphone and the retail box it ships in.    

Phicomm Energy 653_12

The Phicomm Energy 653 comes packed in a white cardboard box with a few key specs listed on the back. Pop open the lid and you’ll find the smartphone cradled in a tray at the top. Underneath you’ll find the remaining contents – the 2,300mAh user-replaceable battery, a micro-USB cable, a two-pin wall charger, warranty, quick start guide and a screen protector.

Phicomm Energy 653_1

The smartphone itself is pretty unremarkable in terms of design, but that’s to be expected, considering its price. Our two-tone variant has a black facade and white back panel, but the device is also available with a black rear panel. The device is quite lightweight at 125g, and at just 8mm, is very slim too, ideal for one-handed use. At the front of the smartphone you’ll find the 5-inch display bearing HD resolution, a rare feature at this price point. The IPS display offers decent viewing angles and adequate brightness levels, and in our brief usage touch response seemed to be smooth.

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Above the screen lies the front 2MP camera, earpiece and sensors. On the chin you’ll find the trio of capacitive Android navigation keys, but these aren’t backlit. The right spine is where the plastic power button and volume rocker are located, while the top edge is home to the micro-USB port and 3.5mm audio jack. The primary microphone sits at the bottom, while a secondary noise-cancelling microphone is placed on the back panel.

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Speaking of the rear shell, it’s made of a glossy plastic that’s liable to get scratched and smudged easily. There’s an 8MP primary camera and LED flash at the top left, a loudspeaker grill at the bottom left and Phicomm branding in the centre. The panel can be opened quite easily, and inside you’ll see the cavity for the battery, two micro-SIM card slots and a microSD card slot. 

Phicomm Energy 653_about phone Phicomm Energy 653_storage

One of the most attractive features of the Energy 653 is its software, since it runs Android Lollipop 5.1 out of the box. The OS is layered with Phicomm’s Expect 5.0 UI, which apart from redesigned icons, doesn’t interfere much with the stock Android experience. Powering the device is a 1.1GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor, paired with 1GB of RAM. There’s 8GB of internal storage, out of which approximately 4.5GB is user available. The microSD card slot supports expansion by an additional 64GB. The Energy 653 supports both LTE bands in India (only on the first SIM card slot though), making it one of the most affordable 4G-enabled devices you can currently buy. The remaining connectivity features include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. 

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Phicomm has tied up with Amazon as an exclusive retail partner for the Energy 653. On paper, the smartphone seems like one of the most loaded options you can get your hands on if you’re on a tight budget. Its real life performance though will need to be gauged over a longer period, and we’ll have our verdict for you in the coming week.



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