Aldi's most recent smartphone, the Bauhn Sphere B5, is billed in the catalog as as "premium at a budget price", and that's exactly what it is.
It's not designed to compete against the truly premium, high-end Galaxy S5 or LG G3 smartphones, but to offer a better, AUD $249 alternative to the even lower-cost sub-$200 Androids available in supermarkets and elsewhere.
Specs are on par with a mid-range phone: Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2-powered, dual-sim 3G/2G smartphone, with 5-inch IPS LCD screen, a 1.3GHz quad core processor, 16GB storage, 1GB RAM and microSD card slot.
While the 5-inch screen is a nice change from the sub 4-inch screens on budget Androids, it's no match for the brighter, sharper, clearer and more colourful screens on the S5 or G3, or those phone's 2.5GHz quad-core processors, but it's not supposed to be.
No-one looking for an S5 or G3 would be in the market for the Bauhn Sphere B5 unless they needed a spare handset.
So, who is the Sphere aimed at?
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It is for anyone who currently owns a budget Android from the past couple of years, with dual or single core processors and sub 4-inch screens, and who doesn't want to pay close to $1000 for a brand new phone.
When compared with those older Androids, Baunh's Sphere will be a welcome upgrade in speed, has the all-important larger screen and runs on a newer and more secure version of Android.
While the Sphere works on Telstra, Vodafone or Optus 3G networks using the 2100MHz 3G frequency, as well as anyone's 2G networks, it also operates on 850MHz, which Telstra uses for stronger in-building 3G coverage.
These are the frequencies that Aldi's Mobile network uses, which isn't surprising as the Aldi Mobile network is part of Telstra's Next G coverage footprint.
Running various apps such as Gmail, the browser, Tune In, games and more all work as expected, if not a little more slowly than on the S5 or G3, but with performance that's on par with the processor and the price range.
When the Sphere is held in portrait mode, and you're wearing polarised sunglasses, the screen turns black. Turn the Sphere horizontally when wearing polarised glasses, and you can see the screen clearly again - but it's not the way most people hold their phones by default when walking down the street.
Obviously, if you're not wearing polarised sunnies then you won't suffer this problem, but it's something I definitely noticed during phone testing when out and about with my polarised sunnies on.
Also, when you turn the phone on, it plays a little start up tune that I could only turn off by putting the phone in silent mode, which isn't always practical.
It's not that you will be turning the phone on and off all the time, but if you've forgotten to put your phone on silent before a battery change or before tuning it off for some reason, and then turning it on again, you'll hear the jingle - as will your colleagues or classmates - although many competing smartphones have the same issue.
The 5-inch screen also picks up fingerprints very easily, as though the screen lacks an "oleophobic" coating to repel oil and gunk from fingerprints.
One of the Sphere's tricks is dual-SIM slots. This lets you have a SIM for work and a personal SIM in your phone at the same time, which could save you from carrying two different phones.
Although dual SIMs are more popular in many parts of Asia, where there can be a lot more competition between carriers, it's definitely a useful capability for some people to have.
One SIM might have better value calling for certain numbers, such as overseas calls, while another SIM, like Aldi's own, can give you large call value to Australian numbers and a couple of gigs of data.
It's also interesting to note that the Sphere comes with Android OS 4.2.2 Jelly Bean.
This is in contrast to Kogan's new 4G quad-core Android with a 5-inch screen, with also comes with Android OS 4.4.2 KitKat - two versions newer and with 4G capability at AUD $229, albeit with only one SIM card slot.
If Bauhn ever wants to cultivate a new Bauhn identity, it could do this by ensuring its next Android handset comes with the latest Android 4.4 version, or perhaps Android 5.0 by then, as well as finally delivering a 4G-class model.
Even though the latest version of Android would have little meaning or relevance to the vast majority of "everyday" budget smartphone buyers, running Android 4.4.x would certainly appeal to at least some buyers, and would give Aldi the chance to market its phone as having the latest and greatest Android OS.
Still, that's what the high-end premium end of the Android smartphone market is all about, so there's no need to be too harsh on Aldi for delivering a mid-range Android smartphone designed for its existing price-aware customer base, keen for an upgrade from older Androids to something new and modern without breaking the bank.
This kind of mid-range, low-priced target is one that the Sphere B5 circles more than well enough, but with the smartphone market maturing even at at the low-end price range, Aldi's Android has plenty of similarly priced and sped'c competition, whether from Samsung, Kogan, Huawei, ZTE and others.
With new smartphones arriving on a regular basis, it always pays to do some research and shop around, so when you are ready to buy, you get the best deal for your money.
- 5-inch IPS LCD Display
- 1.3GHz Quad-core processor
- 1GB RAM
- 16GB Internal Storage
- microSD card slot
- Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
- Dual SIM slots, one 3G and one 2G, either slot can be set to 3G which switches the other to 2G
- 8MP rear camera with flash
- 2MP front facing camera
- Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
- 1 year warranty
- RRP $249
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