itel A16 full review: The best affordable smartphone on the market

itel A16

The Idea behind the itel A16 is affordability. Period. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a world where everyone can afford and owns a smartphone. That is the world itel envisions. They have been at this for a while engineering quality and affordable smartphones for a while now.

At a time when smartphones are all about whistles and bells, going back to the basics of what smartphones did basically brings a nostalgic feeling.. Before we start all getting mushy, let’s dive in.

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Unboxing

The itel A16 comes in a white and red box with a photo of the device on top and the specs on the back. In the box is the usual;

  • The itel A16 + removable battery + Screen protector
  • A plastic jacket
  • 2-plug travel charger
  • USB cable
  • Earphones

Full Specs

Announced: 2018, December
Available: 2019, January
Model: itel A16
Colours: Champagne Gold, Midnight Black.
SIM: Dual Micro + Full SIM
OS: Android Oreo 8.1.0 GO edition
Network: GSM, WCDMA, GPRS, EDGE
Display: 5.0-inch 480 x 854px FWVGA (240 DPI)
CPU: 1.3 GHz Spreadtrum SC7731 quad-core processor
Memory: 8GB ROM, 512MB RAM, microSD, up to 32GB (dedicated slot)
Camera:  5MP (2592 x 1944) with flash + 2MP (1600 x 1200) selfie camera with front flash
Sensors: Accelerometer & Proximity.
Battery: Removable Li-Ion 2050 mAh battery

We have seen it all so what’s new?

What is new really depends on your smartphone history and experience. If you are new to Android GO, are buying your 2nd smartphone, the experience will be quite different as a couple of things may be unfamiliar but easy to adapt to. If we had to list though, this is what is new.

  • The A16 costs under $50
  • It’s a quad-core device
  • Runs Android GO

Our experience after 2 weeks with the itel A16

We were actually pleasantly surprised by the A16. At set up, we experienced a bit of lag which was not shocking since the specs do not command that much. However, that is not something that washes away the capabilities of the A16. Powered by Android Go and really lite apps, it performed beyond our expectations.

Android Go experience is something

Android Go is Google’s version of Android for smartphones with entry level specs. It is designed to stay snappy running on lite apps and optimizing data.

For the apps, the phone comes with Google Go, Files Go, YouTube Go, Maps Go and Gmail Go. The rest of the basic Android apps that come with the phone are Opera News, Facebook Lite, Carlcare, Boom Play, App freeze and Accelerate (device optimisers)

Most of the apps could actually be uninstalled if you didn’t want them. We love that ability to choose what takes our phone memory.

The Files Go app also has file sharing feature that enables you send or receive files to a compatible phone without using internet.

Imagine lite apps that consume less data. Most of the apps or the entire operating system has been re-engineered to be data efficient. We were watching 14 minute YouTube videos for 8MB or less. YouTube gives you options to choose what video resolution you want to stream videos in.

The Design

The A16 form factor reminds of smartphones before they metamorphosed into the fancy aspect ratios and different displays we see today.

When it comes to design, the A16 has capacitive buttons on the for navigation. Top center is the earpiece, speaker, front camera and flash. The USB charging port and headphone jack were placed at the top of the phone instead of the traditional bottom.

The volume and power buttons are placed at the right of the device. The back camera takes a vertical alignment with the back flash all on a textured back that is nice to touch.

The back cover was designed to come off revealing the removable battery, SIM card and memory slots

itel A16 Camera

With a 5MP (2592 x 1944) camera with flash and a 2MP (1600 x 1200) selfie shooter with front flash, the itel A16 takes good enough pictures.

It is important to note that the rear camera has Auto Focus, filters, a QR code scanner, burst mode and Manual that allows you to creatively control elements like ISO, white balance and exposure value.

It also has a beautification feature that can smooth, brighten, enlarge or slim your selfies.

To top it all up it has scenic modes like portrait, night and action when shooting in different environments.
Here are some of the shots we took with the itel A16

Battery Performance

The 2050 mAh battery is good enough to carry you 6 hours on light usage and will take about 1 1/2 hours for a full charge. With heavy usage however, expect 4 hours max.

What we liked

  • Android Go lite apps
  • Data efficiency
  • No bloatware
  • Minimalist design
  • Functional warranty with Carlcare
  • Little apps and tricks that improve experience
  • Expandable memory

What we didn’t Like

  • 512 MB RAM
  • 8GB Memory

Price and where to buy

The A16 is going for Ugx 180,000 (About $48) at itel stores and dealerships around the country. Below is a list of stores in Kampala Uganda where you can get the device.

  • itel VIP Shop at Ambassador House – Kampala Road
  • Banana Phone World- Boulevard Building Kampala Road
  • Banana Phone World – Lugogo
  • Banana Phone World – Mbarara
  • Micromax Phones – Kampala Road
  • Simba Telecom – Kampala Road
  • Karuni Phones – Kampala
  • Amir Phones – Johnson Street, Kampala
  • Deno Telcom Phones – Johnson Street, Kampala

Our Verdict

We really couldn’t ask for more than all the A16 offers at that price point. It is a good first smartphone, replacement phone and an all round functional device
We congratulate itel on the continued efforts in delivering affordable devices to increase smartphone access and affordability.