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Karbonn A5S review: The cheap and cheerful smartphone

At just £54.99, the Karbonn A5S is one of the cheapest smartphones out there, but what is the real cost?

Indian smartphone manufacturer Karbonn has been trying to carve a niche for itself as a low-cost mobile provider for people who just need something simple for basic tasks. The Karbonn A5S is currently available in the UK for the bargain price of just £54.99, but be aware that this really is a bargain basement phone.

The spec sheet makes for very average reading. It runs on Android KitKat 4.4.2, houses a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, has a 1,400mAh battery and its 4-inch screen measures just 480×800 pixels at 233ppi. The rear camera takes 5MP snaps while the front camera is a paltry 0.3MP. Sometimes phones with limited specs and a low price point have the ability to surprise you with hidden reserves of quality, like the Alcatel One Touch Idol Mini or Huawei Ascend Y300, but it is hard to find here.

Right from the off it’s sluggish, taking some time to transfer between pages and screens while managing just a single task. Trying to play a game or surf the web seems too much for the dual-core processor to handle at times, with performance rapidly becoming limited.

The photos taken by both cameras are shaky and don’t pick out features well. Focusing takes too long and you can forget about using HDR mode as the resulting blurry images aren’t good.

The design of the device is defi nitely lacking as well. The top and bottom bezels are pretty big and the side ones are a little on the large side too, making the screen look dwarfed. The backing is a scratchy leather-effect plastic and the power button feels like it’s going to fall out of the casing at any moment. It’s a simplistic design but unfortunately has little appeal.

The audio is pretty good but the speaker, placed right at the bottom on the back, is too easily covered up by your fingers when in-hand, spoiling the sound. Videos tend to play smoothly but the low pixel count really shows and the colours are very basic as well.

Around half of the device’s memory is available out of the box and that can be upgraded to 32GB, which should be plenty as we can’t imagine you’ll be saving lots of photos or videos.

One plus point is the dual-SIM capability, so you can switch to a new SIM card if you are travelling or just get low on credit. The second SIM can only access 2G signal, however. The battery life seems good but its design, specs and performance are mediocre.