• April 24, 2024

If there was one mobile phone we coveted most in our youth, it would have to be the clamshell phone. Alas, most of us were either students or fresh graduates then with entry-level paychecks that could barely pay for even half the cost of the “it” phone. And then flip phones all but disappeared to make way for touchscreen smartphones—until recently.

It’s fortunate that now that we have better purchasing power, flip phones are making a huge comeback—this time as smartphones with outer and inner touchscreens. Several smartphone players have tossed their flip phone models in the ring, each one boasting impressive specs at increasingly affordable pricing. One of the newest ones and currently the most affordable is the TECNO Phantom V Flip 5G.

This phone retails at only P29,999—much cheaper than the coolest clamshell phones of our youth that didn’t even have half the features of the V Flip.

I have been roadtesting the Phantom V Flip 5G for a little over two weeks now—taking the review unit with me to nights out, two indoor playgrounds, three Halloween parties, and all over the metro. Below, I share the reasons why you’d want to have it—and a couple of reasons why you might not.

1. Its stylish, pocket-friendly design makes it a statement-making piece you can conveniently carry around everywhere.

The first thing that immediately drew me to the Phantom V Flip, apart from it being a clamshell phone, is the color of our review unit. Called Misty Dawn, it’s a subtle and soothing light bluish purple (periwinkle, to be precise) that has drawn “Oohs,” “The color suits you,” and “It’s so cute!” gushes from everyone who’s seen it for the first time—myself, my toddler, my senior mom, my girl friends, and even my husband. The protective case that comes in its box is in the same pretty shade as the phone.

The case is made of matte plastic that makes gripping easier, supports the folding design, and even has a metal ring holder connected by vegan leather for ease of use and so you can carry the phone on your finger. You may opt to personalize it with cute stickers included in the box.

The Phantom V Flip also comes in another sophisticated color, Haute Black, for those who want a more subtle and elegant look. While I have yet to see it in person, I can already see it matching any outfit and accessories. 

Whichever colorway you choose, the phone has a premium vegan leather rear panel with a lychee-pattern that makes it look ultra luxe. It feels nice to touch and definitely fingerprint-proof—which I can’t say for the cover and folding screens, but both are scratch-resistant, which is more important.

Once you get past how fashionable it looks, what will make you want to keep the Phantom V Flip is how functional it is. It’s that tiny phone that fits in our small handbags and can keep up with our on-the-go lifestyle.

With its slim form factor, especially when unfolded (at 6.95 x 171.72 x 74.05mm and folded at 14.95 x 88.77 x 74.05mm), it fits perfectly in our pocket or even a tiny trendy purse. It feels light at 194 grams, although it’s heavier compared to smartphone models in its price range. Still, it feels solid enough to assure you it’s sturdy, and TECNO says its made of aircraft-grade lightweight steel.

The Phantom V Flip was designed with effortless one-handed, one-thumb operation in mind. With the phone folded, you can use your thumb to navigate controls and access widgets on the circular outer screen without even having to flip open the device. And once you do open up the phone, you’ll notice how navigating the main screen with one hand is made easier by the device’s narrower screen that allows greater reach. Buttons for volume, power, and fingerprint scanner are located on the right side, where the thumb instinctively rests while holding the phone.

As for ease of use, it is possible to open the phone with just one hand but I find it too challenging, so I prefer to use both hands to minimize the risk of it dropping.

Among the many unique features of the Phantom V Flip not found in other folding phones is its self-designed, drop-shaped steel hinge that’s meant to minimize plastic deformation, resulting in lighter, non-distracting creases when used. The thin hinge also gives the phone a tight fit for seamless closing when folded and a shallower crease. It reportedly has a lifespan of over 200,000 cycles.

The crease at the folding point is barely noticeable when the screen is on and definitely not distracting when you’re taking selfies or reading articles on the internet. However, you will see the crease when the screen is black and feel how it’s somewhat hollow underneath when you touch it. Note that there’s a thin film over the main screen, and you shouldn’t try to peel it off as it keeps the screen safe.

One of the things that deterred me from getting a flip smartphone when they came around in recent years are horror stories of the folding screen being too sensitive and easily damaged. After over two weeks of frequently using and handling the Phantom V Flip, I can say those fears have abated, as the phone and its thinner screen feel durable. If you do an average of 100 folds per day, that means you’ll get approximately 6.8 years of lifetime on your Phantom V Flip.

2. It has clear, impressive displays.

Unlike other flip phones’ outer cover screens designed to maximize their square shape, the Phantom V Flip has a unique albeit relatively smaller 1.32-inch circular AMOLED outer display—similar to a round smartwatch display.

You don’t have to unfold the device to access information and notifications; simply double tap then swipe up, down, left, or right. The outer circular screen also works as a selfie viewfinder when you turn on Cover Screen Preview.

You can also easily customize the outer screen as you please by hard-pressing on it. I changed mine from a pretty purple blooming flower to a whale swimming into a cosmic sea, and then to a fluffy white virtual pet dog, all to the delight of my toddler.

Once unfolded, you’ll see the 6.9-inch FHD+ LTPO AMOLED edge-to-edge main screen, with a punch hole for the 32MP selfie shooter. It has a screen resolution of 1080 x 2640 pixels, 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, full DCI-P3 color gamut coverage, and up to 1,000 nits of peak brightness. I read articles and watched YouTube travel videos on it, and enjoyed its sharp and smooth visuals, crisp text, and vibrant colors. The video quality during a Zoom call I took on the phone was pretty impressive, too.

If you’re concerned about how it affects your eyes, you might want to know that it has 1440Hz High-Frequency PWM dimming that reduces the impact of screen flickering for less visual fatigue, thereby protecting your eyes while keeping display performance optimal.

3. It’s a must-have for selfies and travel photography.

If you like taking selfies, especially when you travel solo or simply have a habit of using your phone to check how you look, you’d know that not all phones are created equal where selfies are involved. While some phones may have a good back camera, not all of them boast the same quality for their front shooters. And while some have good selfie cameras, they’re not exactly built for ease of selfie-taking. 

Enter the Phantom V Flip, with rear and front cameras that are both great for taking selfies in terms of photo quality and ease of use, thanks to 64MP main, 13MP ultrawide, and 32MP selfie camera lenses paired with a palm-sized, 3D-curved body. You can opt to take selfies using either the rear or front camera by folding or unfolding it and adjusting its flexible hoverlock design to give you the angle you desire.

I was able to test both the 64MP main and 32MP front cameras in several low-light settings, like at bars and Halloween parties, and both managed to deliver clear, well-lighted photos. It helps that there’s four-LED flash in a ring-like arrangement on the main camera and a dual-LED front flash discreetly located near the earpiece.

Shot with main camera in low-light setting
Shot with main camera in low-light setting

Another cool camera feature is the automatic eye-focus, which apparently offers more precise subject tracking than traditional face focus. I took a photo at exactly the same time my eyes got distracted and looked down on a new message on my other phone. Thinking I probably had my eyes closed in that shot, I checked the photo and was surprised to find my eyes were open and looking directly at the camera. It’s a bit freaky, if you ask me, but this human eye-tracking ability is definitely useful in situations where you’re trying to capture selfies while you’re moving.

The Phantom V Flip 5G also maximizes its flip construction to let you discover new ways to take great photos using its advanced FreeCam System. Thanks to its hinge, it is stable mid-fold at any angle from 30 to 150 degrees (especially when you have the case’s metal ring supporting the back). I tried this with a low angle shot, which made my full-body photo have better proportions, like the one below:

Shot with front camera, low angle shot on timer

I like this particular feature for eliminating the need to carry around extra equipment like tripods or selfie sticks. When shooting videos, you can also fold and hold the phone like you would a pocket videocamera. The hover feature also made using the phone for a Zoom video call more convenient; I simply folded the phone and didn’t need to mount it on a phone stand.

What I find super cool and fun is its gesture- and voice-controlled capture, making it the ultimate hands-free phone for content creation. To turn on, open your camera, click settings (the hexagonal button) and go to shooting methods. Toggle Voice Shooting (auto-shoot when you say “Capture,” “Shoot,” or “Cheese”), Shooting Gestures (it takes a photo when a palm is recognized on the preview screen), and even Smile Shot (it auto-shoots when a smiley face is detected). Then put your phone down, tilt it to your preferred angle, and shooting photos by making a high-five gesture or voice commands! It works on both the selfie and main cameras—you don’t even have to unfold the phone to take a high-quality selfie. Just wake up the circular screen, swipe right for the camera, and swipe to access different modes—Video, AI Cam (the default photo setting), or Portrait.

Tecno designed Phantom V Flip’s RGWB camera with an extra white filter array to allow it to take in more light, even at night. Its 64MP RGBW Ultra Sensitive Sensor Main Camera is supposed to be responsible for 60% greater light intake, reduced noise, and improved color accuracy. It did show in images that mostly came out clear, with crisp detail, not over-sharpened, and look natural, even in low-light environments.

Shooting in Portrait mode using the main camera produced beautiful photos—the background blur and bokeh looked convincing, transitioning gradually from sharp to soft. Bokeh is even available when shooting videos, allowing the background to blur so the main subject of the video will be more highlighted.

4. Its battery charges fast—and lasts long.

Besides the camera, what really impressed me about the Phantom V Flip is its battery life, considering how fast it is to charge and how much I used it to take photos and videos.

The fully charged Phantom V Flip’s 4000mAh battery lasted me almost a week with regular use as a camera phone and for email and internet browsing with Wi-Fi on all day. It even survived a 1.5-hour long Zoom call before I had to charge the battery again. Note, however, that I didn’t use the Phantom V Flip for instant messaging and browsing social media—which takes up most of my mobile phone use. I didn’t try it on gaming or watching long videos either, which one would expect to sap power. That’s probably why the juice lasted days in my case.

I allowed the device’s battery reduce to empty twice—first, to drain the initial charge, and again before the second time I charged it—so I can time how long the 45W Flash Charging takes to charge the phone to 50% and 100%. The charger included in the box can supposedly take your Phantom V Flip from 0% to 50% in 15 minutes and fully charged in 45. In my experience it was at 30% after 15 minutes, 87% after 45 minutes, and fully charged after 55 minutes—which is still pretty fast. Alas, there’s no wireless charging option here.

5. It’s the most affordable flip phone.

Priced at P29,999, it’s currently the most affordable flip phone available in the market. It will be exclusively available on Shopee at a promo price of P23,999 from November 9 to 11 using special vouchers. It’s available for pre-order at select TECNO stores around the country, and in all of TECNO’s online and offline stores starting November 18.

You can’t compare it head-to-head with more expensive flip phones, but for what you get for that price, it’s a must-have if you really want to own a flip phone but are on a budget. The MediaTek Dimensity 8050 5G processor is considered midrange or average compared to that of its competitors, but it does allow users to run multiple applications and watch videos without any hiccups or lags. That’s good enough for me.

Two reasons to pass on the Phantom V Flip 5G

1. If you already have a trusty smartphone with a decent camera, you might want to stick with the one you already have.

The camera’s shutter speed is somewhat slow, which is most noticeable when shooting on Night Mode. I also noticed some lens flare in my night shots. If you’re looking for a good camera phone, especially one for shooting in low-light conditions, this might not be it.

It has 8GB RAM and 256GB non-expandable internal storage, which should be sufficient, unless you take lots of photos and videos for work, family trips, and of each and every one of your child’s milestones like I do. 

2. It doesn’t have a headphone jack. If you often take voice or video calls, or even if you just like listening to music on your mobile phone plugged to headphones, you’ll be disappointed to know the Phantom V Flip doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack. I sorely missed it when I was on a 1.5-hour Zoom meeting, while watching Facebook reels beside my sleeping toddler, and letting her watch videos on YouTube Kids at restaurants.

That said, you have options: You can use wireless headphones or earbuds, or you may just use the loudspeaker—which I did for my video conference. The sound was pretty clear and my meeting-mates could hear me loud and clear.

Speed says

The TECNO Phantom V Flip 5G is a power-packed device in a stylish pocket-friendly packaging, with decent photography capabilities, fast-charging and long-lasting battery, and gorgeous AMOLED screen. It’s also the most affordable option you have to get in on the flip smartphone trend.

While the device doesn’t make the most of its unique circular outer screen in terms of functionalities and its shutter speed in low-light settings may not beat that of other flip phones, the Phantom V Flip did make good use of its hinge for coming up with creative ways to shoot good quality photos, especially selfies.

Considering its unique design, great display, and premium features for a smartphone of its kind at such an affordable price, this would make a great gift to yourself if you have extra bonus money to splurge this holiday season.

Words and photos Trixie ReynaBenedicto

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