2014 saw the launch of South Africa’s own take on the budget smartphone. Early in the year (January 2014), MTN released their Steppa, while Vodacom released the Smart Kicka sometime in August. The units has a recommended retail price of R499 and R549, respectively, both claiming great market success with their entry level Android smartphones. Since then, however, MTN have stopped selling the Steppa, and replaced it with the R999 Steppa 2 in November. With the success of these smartphones amongst South Africans, it indicated that there is a market for low-cost options to the numerous high-end flagships there are out there.
Not to be left behind from this potential, Edcon, more known for its retail chains stores such as Edgars, Jet and CAN, also launched their own, sub-R1000 smartphone in South Africa, along with a few others across different categories. Unlike the previously mentioned devices, which ran the Android firmware, most of Edcon’s Verssed range are operated using Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 OS. We take a look at the Verssed W.1, the first to be released from the new catalogue.
Build and Design
The first characteristic we have to take into account is that this is a budget handset, so users should not expect top of the line build quality, looks, and performance. With that in mind, the build quality of the unit isn’t what you’d consider as bad, but rather limited to the low-cost design. The front of the W.1 consists of a screen fitted with a single glass piece. The bezel, however, is quite large around the display. At the bottom there are three capacitive buttons (TFT capacitive touchscreen), the back key on the left, the search key on the right, and the Windows key in the middle. On the top you’ll find the front-facing camera, the proximity sensor, and the earpiece in the centre. All in all, when viewing the unit face on, it doesn’t have the look of something on a budget. The only trouble arises once you’ve started using it, with the screen susceptible to an awful amount of fingerprint smudge. It doesn’t help either that a simple wipe from your tshirt requires additional force to remove these smudges.
The sides and rear are made up of a single plastic cover, which has a smooth finish. It would have been more pleasing had there been some level of textured finish on the plastic for a more premium feel, but instead it feels underwhelming. The port and button position are similar to what you’d find on most Windows Phone devices, so nothing to report on that front. Removing the cover reveals the battery, SIM and SD card slots. The battery will have to be removed when inserting and removing the SIM.
Display and Performance
The W.1 has a 4” screen with an 800x480px resolution display. From a viewing perspective, the unit doesn’t do all that much to please the eye. In fact, although it has the same resolution as the first generation Samsung Galaxy S, it does not have the same brightness and colour depth. Instead, colours often appear slightly washed and not as crisp as one would hope, even when viewing more simple text. The remaining hardware consists of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 chipset, powered by a Dual-core 1.2GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage, 1400mAh battery, a 5MP rear facing camera, 0.3MP camera. The specs reasonably fall within the budget range, but if you do a comparison on the earlier Nokia Windows Phones devices, you’ll find it to be almost on par with the likes of the Nokia Lumia 800. Having conducted a number of performance tests, the unit held up with little to no lag. In addition, the battery tests also held up for periods of time, and under normal usage, users can easily achieve a full day’s charge. On occasion, I managed to reach two full days, but given that no real stress from heavy usage occurred during this two day period, there may be some bias.
It was reported earlier that the unit would support dual-SIM, but this was quickly squashed at the launch. Instead of, then, having two impressive aspects to look forward to, there remains just one. That being that the unit includes an HSPA+ radio, which is capable of up 42Mbps connectivity. This is quite ideal when browsing, watching videos, and the likes, as users should not expect any lag due to a poor connection. While the dual-SIM capability is missing, there has been an increased desire for dual-SIM smartphones, which has become very popular among users of low-budget devices, and it would have been great to have seen it fitted to the W.1. The unit on sale exclusively at any Edcon Store, that being Edgars, Edgars Active, Jet and CNA. In addition, the W.1 will be sold alongside a Vodacom SIM that is said to include a preloaded, once-off data bundle with the Starter Pack.
When considering the Verssed W.1 it is not a great phone. That being said, it is great for its price bracket, and has already found some traction in today’s market. Compared against the Nokia Lumia 800, although it itself was released in late 2011, and which sold at a price range between R4,000 and R5,000 at the time, the W.1 is a tempting offer. Seeing as many Edcon customers already enjoy the benefits of having an account with the group, it seems almost a certainty that the allure created for any Verssed device would be even greater. Without considering the hardware and specifications, the use and full integration of Windows Phone 8.1 makes this a very practical device. While all the tests conducted passed, one can only hope that over an extended period of time the same level of operations is maintained.
We are hoping to get our hands on the Verssed PLATINUM VP.1, which sells for the same R899.90 price. At first glance and comparisons, the VP.1 appears to be the same phone, with the same hardware, just a different operating system, Android 4.3.