Mobicel Air phone is cheap but stylish - review

Cape Town - The first impression you get from the South African designed Mobicel Air is that is a pretty phone.

Even when placed alongside such top-range devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Sony Xperia Z3, the Mobicel holds its own in terms of design.

The name is also no mistake: The handset feels lighter and easier to hold than even top end premium smartphones.

The Air is a definitive play from Mobicel to grab market share in the hot selling mid tier price point with a decent device featuring a 12.1cm display and battery that goes more than one day on a charge.

Robust design

While the Mobicel Air does look suspiciously like the Hisense iPhone lookalike, it is not simple a cheap imitation.

Despite having a glass front and back, the thin (5.1mm) handset felt surprisingly robust, even with this particular reviewer who has clumsy hands.

The Mobicel Air bears some resemblance to the iPhone. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

This reviewer also found that a number of people mistook the Air for devices in a far more expensive category, cementing the view that this device has the ability to deliver stylish points.

The Mobicel Air packs a more than adequate 1.7GHz octa core processor mated to a healthy if slightly below par 1GB of RAM.

That delivers enough punch to run intense games such as Beach Buggy Racing and Batman. If it's got enough grunt for that, chatting apps and video are no problem.

The main camera is rated at 8 megapixels. That is also slightly below the par of 13 megapixels with some of the top-of-the-line phones on the market (Samsung's latest Galaxy is up at 16; Sony's Xperia is at 20).

However, despite that limitation, the Mobicel didn't do too badly with sharply lit outdoor shots. Under low-light conditions, there is a struggle.

Overall though the camera can best be described as good enough for most of those impromptu images and will be acceptable for when you need to snap something quickly.

'Pure' Android

The device is powered by Android and unlike Samsung, Sony, LG and HTC, you don't have a separate apps page.

All the apps live on the home screens and you can organise them in folders that make sense to you. You can even change the animation of the home screens, making the software feel like "pure" Android.

The Mobicel Air comes with a glass on the back and a protective cover. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Mobicel has also followed manufacturers such as Huawei and built in a number of app functionalities into the smartphone.

You no longer have to download apps to manage RAM, apps, temp files and moving apps to memory cards - all of that can be done natively.

Should you buy the Mobicel Air? If you have your heart set on a South Korean, Japanese or Californian brand, this device may not be a fit for you. But by buying the Air, you not only get a truly value for money smartphone, you can also say that it's proudly South African.

The Mobicel Air retails for R3 500 from MTN, Edgars and Foschini stores and comes with a cover in the box.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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