Most of you might be needing an introduction here. Phicomm is yet another Chinese smartphone manufacturer, but it hasn’t got a name that Xiaomi, Gionee, ZTE, Meizu, and such brands have been able to. Phicomm has been into the smartphone market since the end of 2011. The company is not just into smartphones, but has a division in networking as well, and has been doing quite well in Shanghai, where it has its base.
So, is this a P660 or a 660? To end the confusion, the Phicomm Passion P660 is a name in China, while it is called Phicomm Passion 660 in India, and the “P” in chinese unit, is again the same – Passion.
The Passion 660 is the first smartphone to be brought to the Indian market, and it is kind of a good deal, given how well packed the phone is, under a refreshingly sharp design. A couple of years back, a Chinese smartphone was looked at, with a lot of doubt. Things have changed a lot, and now, there is a lot of expectations from a Chinese company entering a new market. Phicomm will surely face the heat, but the Passion 660 has got enough to show why it is not a bad choice.
Talking of the specs, the Phicomm Passion 660 has a 5-inch 1080p display, and it is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, along with 2GB of RAM. It has a 13-megapixel camera on the back, and a 5-megapixel shooter on the front. The same specs were seen on a recently popular device from Xiaomi, the Mi 4i. What is better here, is the fact that one of the two SIM card slots can be used as a MicroSD card slot for expandable storage, and that is missing on Xiaomi’s Mi 4i. But an area where the latter wins, is the battery, as the 660 has just 2300 mAh battery compared to the 3120 mAh battery on the Mi 4i.
Design, Form Factor
Design wise, as mentioned above, this is refreshingly different. We’d usually choose a curved body over the flat ones with sharp edges, for the comfort of holding. But for the size of 5-inch, this is a compact and good device, and the phone seems easy to hold, except for the corners that are sharp and digging into the palm. The phone is incredibly light for the size, at 110 gm. That, according to Phicomm, is because of the Aluminum – Magnesium alloy that makes the frame wrapping around the sides of the device.
The metallic frame is just on the two sides, while everything else is made of plastic and this is a unibody device having the two slots for SIM cards / MicroSD card on the right side, similar to how Samsung has given them on the Galaxy A series. The power button on the right, and the volume rocker on the left are tactile and located well to reach easily with the same hand holding the device.
On the back, plastic cover has a smooth matte finish, and it does retain fingerprints if sweaty, and smudges too remain but can be removed easily. Towards the top, a camera and LED flash are located alongside the secondary microphone, and the speaker grill is located towards the bottom.
Overall with the design, the Passion 660 is a well built device, and the side metallic frames make it feel rigid, even though the light weight is similar to the Elife S5.1, uniformity in distribution of weight.
The 5-inch 1080p combination is nothing new, and this seems like a perfect one with a good pixel density of 441 PPI. While the display seems a little under-suturated with the colors, it is not to an extent where we can complain a lot. It is not bad to the eyes, and the colors seem softer due to that saturation levels.
Viewing angles are good, and although a little reflective, the screen doesn’t make the reading experience any bad. The touch navigation buttons not being a part of the display, is just good as that helps getting advantage of the screen area while using apps that don’t take the full screen advantage. Touch response is quick and good on the smooth touchscreen.
Not a stock UI you’d see here, but the interface still feels much like it and the best part about it is, that it is not cluttered. A proper app drawer with alphabetically arranged icons, and a widgets tab to hold and drop them on the home screen. Nothing can be done about the number of home screens, which are five in total, and the only customization possible here is with the wallpaper.
The notification panel has two sections, one for notifications, and the other with quick settings that can be sorted, alongside a brightness toggle. Not many unnecessary apps are pre-installed, except for the Google play apps, and Barometer, FM Radio, Phicomm Backup, Sound Recorder, System updater, and shortcuts to some settings like Wi-Fi Direct, Wireless disk, and portable hotspot.
The lock screen is surely a great help to those who like shortcuts for few apps, because tapping on the network in the bottom, gives shortcuts for Phone, Messaging, Contacts, and Camera. Swiping anywhere else on the lock screen, gives information about the steps walked. Talking of the steps, there’s a Pedometer widget given in the device, which is nearly equal to useless, because it is very inaccurate. Once, while the device wasn’t moved around and it was just a lot of games played, the step count crossed over 35000, and the other day when there was some good activity, it showed lesser than what it showed on Galaxy S6, which I was using at the same time.
The settings are limited, and there is nothing deeply hidden, making the experience better for the user. What’s interesting, is the inclusion of wave gestures. A total of five gestures, all of them taking advantage of the front camera of the device, thus not a great help if you are concerned about the battery life, but for hands-free experience, these come handy to switch music, pictures, pull down notification interface, unlock the screen when the phone is lying flat. Though, more of a fun than a handy feature.
Phicomm Backup is company’s own app to create a backup of SMS, MMS, Contacts, and Calendar. It does allow the users to choose between internal storage and external storage to keep a backup, and restoring is as easy as backing up is.
The performance of the Snapdragon 615 chipset is well known already. It does well in almost every aspect, and at the same time, is seen to be heating up quite a bit on most of the device it was a part of. Being exactly the same on general usage, it isn’t the best of the gaming experience we’ve seen on the Phicomm Passion 660 running on Snapdragon 615.
The interface is smooth and responsive, and it never showed any lag. Out of the 2GB of RAM, about 1.3GB was available for the user after a fresh boot, and that helps a lot in multitasking. Just for an example, the game Dead Trigger 2 that I played the previous night, was resting well in the background while I used 6-7 other apps for some time and resumed the game from where it was paused earlier. How much ever RAM is free, it is good because the apps don’t get killed automatically.
On gaming, the graphics-loaded games did show frame drops occasionally, but only when it was at its extreme, and when some apps were active in the background. For everything else, we rarely noticed a lag and the phone is able to do quite well thanks to the light interface.
Camera, Capture Samples
The 13-megapixel rear camera on the back of the phone is a decent one, for the price you are paying. The only problem is with its unstable saturation, and that is the software to be blamed. Sometimes, a particular capture shows colors to be over-saturated, and sometimes undersaturated.
The camera app is quite good in focusing, with very rare inaccurate focusing, and quick in taking pictures and saving them, but the picture output should have been better to make it a competitive one against the likes of Xiaomi Redmi Note, Yu Yureka, Xiaomi Mi 4i and others in the range.
The app has a lot to offer directly on the main screen, as there are options for zero shutter, burst mode, sunset mode, Anti-shake, and a few color effects, apart form the toggle for photo and video capturing. Under the camera mode, there are options to toggle between 1080p and 720p video recording.
The camera isn’t impressive, as said. But on broad daylight if you can spend time taking a couple more captures than usual, you might get one totally right. Exposure control isn’t done very well, as the picture is too brightened on other areas when a darker area of the frame is focused on.
The 5-megapixel front-facing camera is just good enough for selfies, and it doesn’t carry along a lot of options except for the zero shutter capture and normal mode, and a few effects. No complains here, it does quite well in most of the light conditions.
The Phicomm Passion 660 supports 4G LTE connectivity, and the reception was as good as it would be on any other smartphone with 4G. We did compare this with Samsung Galaxy S6 and Gionee Elife S7, and it could get about 21 Mbps where 4G was available with limited network, and that was quite similar to what we got on the other two smartphones.
GPS locking wasn’t easy, and needed more than a minute sometimes to fix the location even when I wasn’t moving around. The signal reception otherwise for calling or data network was rarely messy. The smartphone doesn’t support USB OTG connectivity, or any other fancy high-end stuff like NFC. The OTG support should have been included though, given how easy it is to transfer files without having to mess around with options.
The battery is where a lot of questions would be raised, given the capacity for the specs included. Although the capacity isn’t really low, at 2300 mAh, it isn’t the best around with several options from competitors giving not just a higher capacity but also a great backup.
The Passion 660 does seem to drain the battery by about 6-7% on average, while on standby overnight on the 4G network. That is when there is no connectivity turned on, but the phone is resting on network standby. But if you aren’t going to keep the screen active for more than 2:30 hours, it will get you through the day. On average for the entire week, we noticed the screen-on time to be about 2 hour and 45 minutes.
As far as the device is concerned, for the price of Rs. 10999, the Phicomm Passion 660 has no reason to not sell, unless you are looking for something that gives a longer battery life, or a better performer with the camera. For someone looking at an alternative to the little costlier Xiaomi Mi 4i, this is packed with same processor and RAM, and has the same display resolution.
Still, the Passion 660 doesn’t come close to any of the competitors if, all the aspects are taken into consideration together. Not so heavy battery, not the best display, and not the best performer while gaming. Phicomm has played well with the pricing, though.