The Coolpad Conjr is a pretty low-end phone, with impressive build quality.
Coolpad is a company that many in the US probably haven't heard of before. They make smartphones that are unlocked, but they haven't made many that are available in the US, and they are mostly a mid-range to low-end offerings. The company came to CES last month and showed off their latest smartphone, the Coolpad Conjr. This is a smartphone that is being sold for under $200, making it a rather interesting device, due to the price point. But are you getting what you pay for here? Or a bit more?
What we are looking at here is a 5-inch 1280x720 resolution IPS LCD display, that gives users about 294 pixels per inch. The display takes up only about 66.9% of the front of the device, which has led to the Conjr sporting some rather large bezels, unfortunately. Running the show is the MediaTek MT6735CP which is a quad-core 1GHz Cortex-A53 chipset, and that is paired with the Mali-T720MP2 GPU. There is also 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. For additional storage, there is a micro SD card slot available, which Coolpad says can only handle 32GB.
When it comes to cameras, there is a 13-megapixel camera around back which has an aperture of f/2.2. It does also have OIS, autofocus and an LED flash. Around front there is a 8-megapixel camera which also has a f/2.2 aperture and LED flash. As far as connectivity goes, there's a micro USB port for charging, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, but there is no NFC, which means Android Pay is out of the question. Coolpad has a fingerprint sensor on the backside of the Conjr, and the device is powered by a 2500mAh battery. The Conjr has Android 6.0 Marshmallow on board, along with their own customized skin.
In the Box
The usual goodies come in the box with the Coolpad Conjr. These include the SIM ejection tool, micro USB to USB-A cable and a wall adapter. It's just a normal wall adapter, since there is no Quick Charge functionality here. Given the price point that Coolpad has hit with the Conjr, it's a bit surprising to see this smartphone come with a wall charger. That is usually one of the areas that companies try to cut out to cut costs. Hidden in the packet of paperwork is a TPU case for the Conjr. Which is nice to see, largely because most smartphones like this don't get a whole lot of support from case makers, so it's good to get one in the box.
The Conjr actually looks like a pretty good phone. We have the black model here, but it will be available in gold at some point in the near future. It appears to be using an aluminum build, which in all honesty, really isn't a bad thing. The Conjr looks great and actually feels really nice in the hand. You'll notice a few strips of shiny plastic on the back, which are the antenna lines. They are pretty tastefully done, in our opinion, and don't distract from the design all that much. On the backside of the Conjr, you'll find that 13-megapixel camera with the flash to the right of it, below that is the fingerprint sensor which appears to be slightly larger than the camera, that likely won't bother many people though. At the bottom you'll find a Coolpad logo as well as the speaker.
On the left side of the Conjr, there is the volume rocker and that's it. The right side houses the power button as well as the SIM tray (the micro SD card lives in there too). At the top, you'll find that 3.5mm headphone jack, the bottom has the micro USB port. Now on the front, you'll notice that there are three capacitive buttons on the Conjr. They look a lot like the softkeys found on Lollipop and Marshmallow, but they are a bit backwards. So you have recents on the left, home in the middle and back on the right side. Not necessarily a huge deal, but it does take a bit of getting used too.
The Conjr actually feels rather comfortable in the hand, although it is worth mentioning that it does feel rather small, despite it having rather large bezels for a 5-inch device. The top and bottom bezels are fairly large, but that doesn't make the Conjr feel that big. That might be a good thing, depending on if you want a larger device or a smaller one. The back is slightly curved, so it fits in the hand nicely, but not so curved that when it's sitting on a table or another flat surface, and you tap on the display, that it starts to rock back and forth. This is something that the Nexus 6 used to do, and many hated it.
The Conjr has a pretty small display, by today's standards. With it measuring in at 5-inches diagonally. Which means we don't need a Quad HD display here, heck even a 1080p display would be a bit surprising. Instead, Coolpad has given us a 720p display, which is still pretty good, on paper. That gives us just below 300 pixels per inch, not bad at all. But does the display look that great in person? In short, it's a decent display, but not the reason you would buy this phone. Let's explain.
The display here looks decent, it's not going to win any awards, or blow you away, but it looks decent. The panel seems to be a bit cool, and unlike other phones, you are unable to adjust the color temperature on this one. So you're stuck with a tad cool display. Not the end of the world, and actually most people probably won't even notice. Now on the bright side (pun intended), the display does get very bright. It gets bright enough to where you can see the display easily outdoors without even needing to turn up the brightness all the way (depending on how sunny it is outside).
The real issue with the display actually lays beneath the glass. It's the digitizer. This is the part of the display that translates your touches to the OS. It's what lets the OS know that you pressed a button on the display, and it's not that great, unfortunately. It's not slow, it's just inconsistent. In apps, like Instagram, where the buttons are at the bottom of the display, you sometimes have to press at the very bottom of the button to actually get it to register. Which leads me to having to press the home or search button in the Instagram app, multiple times before it actually works. It's something you can get used to pretty easily, but it is a bit annoying at first.
Inside the Conjr is the MediaTek MT6735CP which is a 1GHz processor. To put it in laymans terms, it's slow. Seeing as most processors are around 2GHz or higher and their slower cores are around 1.5GHz, this is a slow processor, and you can definitely tell when using the phone. Opening apps is sometimes a bit slow, depending on the app you open (for instance, Chrome opens much faster than say Snapchat) and this is due to the resources the phone needs to open the particular app. It's a bit sad that Coolpad went with such a low-end processor, especially when other phones in this price range use the Snapdragon 430 or even the Snapdragon 617, which are much more capable. This isn't a knock on MediaTek, as they do build very capable processors, but this was not the right choice for the Conjr unfortunately.
What's weird and maybe even a bit frustrating, is the fact that this 1GHz processor is paired with 3GB of RAM. While the processor is underwhelming, Coolpad has thrown in plenty, and I do mean plenty, of RAM with this smartphone. 3GB is plenty of RAM for most things, and even some high-end gaming. So needless to say, our experience on the RAM side of things was pretty good. There weren't really any issues, as far as memory goes and the OS needing to redraw apps that are in memory.
Overall, performance was hit or miss. It was a bit inconsistent during our review period. Now we do have to remember that this phone is under $200, but it's a bit tough to recommend a phone that is just slow, at any price point. Hopefully Coolpad can push out an update or two that will fix this performance, but as of right now, it's not great. If you are looking for a phone that only does a few things like Tweeting, emailing, messaging, etc., then the performance will likely be perfectly fine.
The fingerprint sensor is probably the best part about this phone actually. It's pretty incredible that we're talking about a fingerprint sensor on a smartphone that has a retail price of $179, and it doesn't suck. The fingerprint sensor works well, it's accurate and it's fast. That's basically all you could ask for, when it comes to a fingerprint sensor on a smartphone. This is because if you put a fingerprint sensor on the device that is slow or not accurate, then users won't use it and thus it's wasted money. As expected, there are no fingerprint gestures available here, but that's not necessarily a deal breaker.
Coolpad has the speaker on the backside of the Conjr, which isn't the best placement. Just below the bottom antenna line, there is a small nipple that is used to prop the phone up a bit while sitting on a surface. This is here so that the sound doesn't come out muffled, and let's just say it does its job. The sound isn't the best, but it is loud, and it's not as tinny as I had expected it to be. Now it's not going to compete with something like the HTC 10, Moto G4 Plus or the Huawei Mate 9 (number one, those have two speakers, this phone does not), but it does definitely hold its own.
This smartphone is being sold unlocked here in the US, which means that it does indeed work on AT&T and T-Mobile (as well as their MVNO's like Straight Talk, MetroPCS, Cricket, etc). We tested the Conjr on the T-Mobile network during our review period, so everything in this section is in regards to T-Mobile's network, but it should be similar to AT&T's.
We were able to get LTE connectivity on the Conjr, as we mentioned, it does support T-Mobile's network completely, even with band 12 included. The speeds we got were pretty similar to what we get with other phones on the magenta network. So no issues there. Unfortunately, WiFi Calling and VoLTE are not supported by the Conjr, however HD Voice is and it's enabled by default. This is actually pretty common with unlocked phones. There are very few unlocked smartphones that support any or all of these technologies on networks like T-Mobile and AT&T.
Below are the bands that the Conjr supports. It does support the necessary GSM bands for the US, but if you are planning to travel with this phone, you won't have much luck using it in Asia and Europe.
GSM 900, 1800, 1900
HSDPA 850, 1700, 1900, 2100
LTE band 2, 4, 5, 7, 12
With the Conjr, we ran three benchmarks - AnTuTu, 3D Mark and Geekbench 4. You can see the scores in the gallery below. Over on Geekbench 4 it got a 513 in the single-core test and a 1409 in the multi-score test, that's pretty low, but also expected given the internals. AnTuTu also gave it a pretty low score, around 30,554 that was low enough for last place - but it's also worth noting that almost all the devices on the ranking are flagships like the Meizu Pro 5, Galaxy S7 Edge, etc. Finally, we ran 3D Mark which gave it a score of 120. These scores are all pretty low, but they do reflect the hardware that's inside, so there's no funny business going on here really.
Despite having a pretty small 2500mAh battery inside, the Conjr has pretty decent battery life. Of course the screen size, quality and the processor all factor into this. Having a 1GHz quad-core SoC is much more energy efficient, which means that the small 2500mAh battery is going to last you all day, and in our testing, it did just that. The battery typically lasted us around 2 days on a charge, and then some. That was when using it on LTE and WiFi, which is pretty good and respectable.
Charging the Conjr is a bit of a hassle, in the world of Quick Charge. The Conjr does still use a micro USB connector - likely to save on costs a bit - and there's no form of Quick Charge of fast charging available here. So we're looking at conventional charging, but luckily the Conjr does have a small battery, so we aren't looking at crazy-long charge times, typically right around 2 hours.
The software here is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, you do have the latest (at the time it was released) security update, which it is running the January 5th, 2017 release - remember this actually went on sale in January. But then we have an old, outdated version of Android. It's Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Now, I did speak to Coolpad at CES, where they announced the Conjr. It is going to be getting Android 7.0 Nougat, but there was no ETA given. So you may see Nougat come out in the next month, or at the end of 2017. It's tough to really say. Coolpad does also have their own skin here on top of Marshmallow, CoolUI v8.0.
Coolpad's skin is actually fairly minimal. There's not a lot of changes for functionality, mostly changes to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Which is something all manufacturers are doing with their own skins or overlays. There's no app drawer here, so everything is on your home screens. Of course, this is also easy to fix, simply download your favorite launcher from Google Play and you're good to go. The notification shade is a bit different, and actually reminds me of some custom ROMs. It's black, but also a bit transparent. At the top you'll see a trash can for clearing notifications, a shortcut for notification settings and then a settings shortcut. Now the notifications settings allow you to choose which apps can send you notifications and what the notifications will look like. You can also opt to keep notification icons out of the status bar if you wish. You'll notice I said nothing about quick settings, and thats because they aren't there. Instead, you'll need to swipe up from the bottom of the display to show those. And it looks a whole lot like iOS. You also get a few shortcuts to utilities like the camera, recorder, calculator and flashlight.
There hasn't been a whole lot of changes added into CoolUI, they've kept it mostly simple which is a good thing. They have included Dual App, and that is something we've been seeing more and more lately. It allows you to use two Facebook or WhatsApp accounts at the same time, without logging out of each one. Unfortunately, those are the only two apps that are available for Dual Apps right now.
Coolpad does really need to update the Conjr to Nougat. It's tough to say anything good about a phone's software when it launches nearly four months after the latest version of Android was made available to them. That should be plenty of time to get Nougat on the Conjr, hopefully they do keep their word and push out Nougat in the very near future. But at least they are keeping the security patches up to date, which is arguably more important.
The camera experience is pretty good. Now we went into this review not expecting the Conjr to really outshine some of the flagships out there, but hoped it would at least give us some good pictures, and it definitely did that. Before we jump into the picture quality, though, let's talk about the actual camera app and experience. The app is fairly minimal. You have toggles for HDR, flash and the front camera on the left side or at the top depending on how you're holding the device. One of the features I liked about this camera (and it's not exclusive to this phone) is the fact that you can set the volume key to work as a shutter button. Making it easier to take photos, especially if you're using the back camera for a selfie. As far as modes go, we have Night, Vidoe, Photo, Beauty and Pro. It's great to see a Pro mode available on such a cheap smartphone, and it does allow you to adjust all the usual suspects like white balance, ISO, exposure, etc.
Picture quality here was actually really good, for what you're paying for. It was actually a bit impressive. There were some pictures that came out with the background being a bit blown out, but that is to be expected sometimes with cheaper sensors. For the most part, the pictures came out clear and with very little noise. Of course, with plenty of light, that is to be expected. It doesn't fair as well in low-light, which again is to be expected. But for those Instagram pictures, this smartphone should work out pretty well for most people.
Large chin and forehead bezels
Limited LTE bands for international traveling
The Coolpad Conjr isn't a smartphone that is meant for everyone, that is definitely clear, but it is meant for those that are not heavy users, those that don't want to pay a fortune and really just want their phone to last all day long and work. The Conjr does those things quite well. It does also come with 16GB of storage, which is actually quite a bit for something in this price range. Sure the outdated software isn't great, and the digitizer issues with the display (which can be fixed with software, actually) aren't ideal, but it's still not a terrible phone.
Should you buy the Coolpad Conjr?
If you're reading this review, probably not for yourself. But for someone like a child or even a parent or grandparent, this phone will be a great choice. It's not meant for heavy users, but those that just need a phone that can make phone calls, send text messages, browse the web, send email and simple tasks like that.