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We’ve been bombarded by a barrage of low-cost smartphones recently and we’re pretty damn bored of them all. As a consumer, it’s a puzzling time to be rummaging through the smartphone marketplace, and as a first-adopter looking for that first handset, it’s even worse.
Although Android phones below the R1000 threshold are all unamusing and largely uninspiring, there are a few other devices out there that force us to sit up and take note.
On paper, the Edcon exclusive Verssed W1 seems like a predictable cookie-cuter budget device. There’s that familiar 4.0-inch screen with an even more tell-tale 800×480 resolution, a 5MP camera at the rear, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. Yawn, sure, but it’s slightly different once you look past its spec-book cover. Why? It runs on Windows Phone 8.1.
Read more: Unboxing the Verssed W1 smartphone [Video]
The often-maligned OS is really a beast on smaller, low-cost devices, and the Verssed W1 proves this. Pinnacle Africa, one of Africa’s chief hardware distributors has also outed a phone dubbed the Proline SP4, which also adopts the OS. That’s really its primary competition.
Nevertheless, back to the Verssed W1. The tiled UI looks great on the small screen, and the lack of pixel depth isn’t too noticeable, the settings screen (which is usually my least favourite part of the OS) looks spiffy and orderly on the Verssed W1.
The phone itself though is a deluge of cheap, fingerprint-loving plastic that’s incredibly easy to scratch, but “we’re trying to keep prices down,” would be the chorus here. Posh thoughts aside, the phone does feel fairly solid in hand and isn’t a burden to hold. Battery life isn’t awful from the tiny 1420mAh battery either, but you will need to charge the phone every night to keep the lights on.
What about imaging? Well, that 5MP snapper at the back earns its money in demanding situations, capturing pictures quickly and with brilliant detail at that. It’s definitely one of the best cameras we’ve seen in the sub-R1000 phone range.
Windows Phone’s camera app is also top notch, but the front facing VGA snapper leaves a lot to be desired. Video recording performance wanes a little bit too, and playing back said video also seems to increase the phone’s temperature rather quickly. There’s a quad-core CPU in the mix and glossing through menus or flicking through images never feels slow or laggy, but don’t expect to game with this phone. It is, however, a great multitasker.
Where Windows Phone 8.1 is also found wanting is the app options. The OS doesn’t quite enjoy the vast array of free apps that Android does, and many known apps are currently swimming around in beta form — like Instagram. Although to be quite fair, even a beta Instagram on Windows Phone feels more solid than the fully-launched Android app we’ve come to know.
There are also a few issues with the OS’s esoteric copy/paste system, the Bluetooth system and desktop interaction when tethered by USB cable. I’m not quite sure why I had these issues, but problem solving isn’t something consumers are keen to do when purchasing a R1000 handset.
Switch on. Stay on. Go. That should be the budget phone’s mantra.
So, with all this said, why would anyone looking for a budget phone consider the Windows Phone powered Verssed W1 over the multiple Android options available out there? It’s really simple.
Android does get rather complicated for the trained user and the uninitiated, and thanks to every company’s unfounded reason to tweak the UI, each manufacturer’s version of Android differs slightly. Windows Phone 8.1, by contrast, is a brilliant OS to learn in a day and is constant throughout all devices.
Melding a budget phone with a premium-feel but easy to learn OS is a great decision taken by Verssed. It sets the phone apart from the Android ho-hum, and to be honest, is probably the best budget smartphone I’ve used since the Vodacom Smart Kicka.
Verdict: The Verssed W1 is a breath of fresh air, powered by Windows Phone 8.1, the phone is slick, functional and not too drear. At R899, it’s affordable, dependable and largely adept at what a budget user will require of it. There are perhaps more complete phones for slightly more cash, but ultimately, it’s a great device that really should dominate its price range. Perhaps its only weakness is its strength — Windows Phone.