You will probably never use a Tecno phone. Until this week, I had never heard of the Chinese brand or its Camon line of phones. Now you are unlikely to forget them.

The company recently held a stylish launch in New York for its new Tecno Camon Series 19 Pro Android 12 phones, though the products won't be on sale in the US (or the UK, for that matter). I honestly wondered what they were doing there and more importantly why I was there.

Tecno made a point of describing the phones as "designed for fashionistas." I couldn't tell you what that means, but I'll admit I'm intrigued by the design, the specs, and most importantly the price.

Key specifications include:

  • 6,8-inch FHD+ 120Hz edge-to-edge display
  • 32MP front camera
  • 64 MP and 50 MP rear cameras
  • 2X optical zoom
  • Optical image stabilization
  • 5000 mAh battery
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Face unlock
  • Some Clever AI-Infused Photo Tricks
  • a 3,5mm headphone jack (!)
  • A power supply, cable and headphones (!!)

It's also a surprisingly good-looking phone. There's a diamond-covered, fingerprint-repelling back that looks and feels great. The dual-ring camera array (housing three cameras, there's a 2MP bokeh assist lens), is large yet elegant, its premium look enhanced by its glass coating. The chassis is only slightly thicker than an iPhone 13 Pro Max, but the phone feels considerably lighter.

The Camon 19 Pro comes with all that (and more) for €280. It's a phone you could pay for in five or six months (if you pay around €50 a month). The Camon Series 19 Pro 5G starts at just €320. That is, on both phones, with 128 GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM.

To put that into perspective, the cheapest iPhone you can buy is the $429 Apple iPhone SE, which only has 64GB of storage.

(Image credit: Future/Lance Ulanoff)

There is a catch

There are, of course, big caveats, the biggest of which is global availability. These Tecno phones are available in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South Asia, but not, as I mentioned earlier, in the US or Europe. Prices can also vary and the €280 and €320 offered by Tecno is still just an “estimate” for my market.

There are many limitations often associated with budget phones, such as the lack of an under-display fingerprint reader. Instead, the power/wake button doubles as an efficient fingerprint reader. The screen is still LCD and not OLED. No IP rating reported (maybe keep it out of deep puddles). It does not offer wireless charging.

Then there's the mobile processor, a MediaTek Helio G96, which is probably equivalent to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G. Its benchmark numbers aren't even in the same neighborhood as, say, an Apple A15 Bionic or a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.

So when I walked out of the event unexpectedly with a review unit in hand and decided to spend a day or two with it, I tried to set my expectations.

For the most part, however, this budget device has outdone them.

Tecno Camon 19 Pro

(Image credit: Future/Lance Ulanoff)

It's not bad at all

Image 1 of 6

All photos taken with Tecno Camon 19 Pro.

As I mentioned, this is a handsome big-screen phone with a vibrant display that naturally looks great on the inside. Outside is something else. He struggled in bright light, but could still see well enough to use his camera and fairly rich settings to take a variety of photos. Everything from standard telephoto to 2x telephoto and slow motion portraits looked pretty good. Even night and low-light shots were decent (nothing would be considered remarkable). There's no wide-angle lens, let alone ultra-wide, but the included lenses capture crisp, colorful, sharp images.

Tecno Camon 19 Pro

(Image credit: Future/Lance Ulanoff)

The rear camera's portrait mode is good (the front camera had more artifacts), though you can't adjust the level of bokeh before or after the shot (how many people do that on their iPhone 13 or Samsung Galaxy, anyway? ?). There is an editing tool that allows you to add and adjust a bokeh effect on any image, but it's not directly related to portrait mode photography, which is a bit silly.

The AI-powered camera and its efforts to identify objects in a scene were entertaining. At one point, I pointed the phone at my hand and “Animal” came up.

There are so many image manipulation options that you may never find or use them all. The body manipulation set is problematic at best. It offers to refine the waist, head, shoulders, slender and elongated legs, "plump buttocks", as well as other cosmetic changes. Maybe that's what Techno meant by a phone for "fashionistas".

To be fair, these features were hard to find and the phone certainly doesn't push them. It's still rare for them to be there.

Punch above your weight

For a phone under €300, the Tecno Camon 19 Pro is quite capable. He played grueling games like Asphalt 9: Legends without missing a beat. I think it may have dropped a frame or two, and the audio could be richer, but it was still an enjoyable experience.

It's an efficient productivity platform for browsing and managing files, and I love the alphabetical list of apps (Apple, Samsung, please).

This 5.000 mAh battery is, by the way, an all-day champion.

Basically, this is an above average phone at a ridiculously good price.

Will it ever come to the US and UK? I don't know and Tecno didn't offer guidance. I'm not sure that matters. What the Tecno Camon 19 Pro shows me is that every phone manufacturer can do better when it comes to affordability. We pay up to €999 for big-screen powerful phones that probably do a lot more than we'll ever need (at least for most of us).

The Camon 19 Pro is a good example of economic possibilities. I think it's time for Apple, Samsung and others to respond in kind.

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