The Tecno Camon 21 Smartphone Review

A new budget smartphone in South Africa

The Tecno range of smartphones was meant to launch in South Africa just before lock down hit, however the glitzy launch event had to be cancelled and, instead, I was sent one of their Camon 21 phones to review during lock down. It is really important to note, before you read this review, that if you’re looking at comparing the Camon to a top of the line LG or HiSense device… stop now. The Camon 21 is a budget option for someone wanting a smartphone that has all the tricks but won’t cost more than R4000.

Right, we’re on the same page? Let’s take a look at the Tecno Camon 21 smartphone.

Out the box


My first thought on unboxing this phone was “that’s big”. The Camon 21 has a 6.52″ display and is very long in your hand. I’m not a huge fan of bigger phones like this as I do have little hands and tend to drop them. It’s a substantial sized phone. In the box, along with the phone, you also get a Micro USB cable and charging plug, a set of earphones, a clear plastic case for the phone, a tempered glass film for the screen and a small pin to open the sim card and memory card slot.

First look


The phone itself, while long (as I mentioned) had a really funky ombre type colour gradient cover. The black went from gold to a sky blue and I actually really liked this colour choice. The phone itself is made from a plastic with metallic finish which I didn’t love. While it is a budget smartphone I’d have liked a brushed aluminium finish, which other phones in this glass offer. Regardless, once the clear cover is on you won’t notice that much. There is a finger print sensor at the back, a lifted camera nodule and a connection for the micro USB charging on the bottom of the phone. There is also a headphone jack on the bottom of the phone. The buttons all run along the right side of the phone.

Using the phone


The LED display is fine for the level of phone you’re purchasing. I really did like that it didn’t have an oversaturated colour palette which is sometimes the norm with phones in this price range – they tend to pump up saturation in a hope that it might hide what it is missing in resolution. The Camon 21 didn’t do that. There’s also a neat feature on the display called Eye Care – which cuts out blue light when you’re using the phone at night. This was a clever addition I liked – blue light is really bad for you before going to bed. This feature is available on an iPhone as well, that you can change. I like it. The Camon 21 offers 4GB RAM and 64GB storage with the option to add an SD card. The phone runs off Android with its own HiOS overlay… which I hate. I actually thought this phone was great until a few hours with HiOS, which immediately put me off. While the phone is loaded with all the usual Google favourites – HighOS supports adverts and the pre-loaded applications will force notifications at you. You’ll need to delete the apps to rid yourself of the notifications. The adverts I can’t forgive though. If you pay for a device I don’t understand why I should be forced to view adverts when I’m attempting to navigate my phone. It was really off putting and not something I enjoyed at all.

Where the Camon 21 shines.


Horrible evasive OS aside. The Camon 21’s camera is fab. It really is impressive for a phone in this price range. There is a 16MP selfie Cam and the phone itself has LED illuminating strips on the front of the phone to help you capture the perfect selfie. There is a 16MP triple camera as the primary camera and it does take great shots. You can do wide angle, Bokeh and a host of other photo options to impress. The AI and Beautification options on the selfie camera will turn you into a real living doll if that is your vibe. Overall there is no doubt that the camera sells this phone. If you live for the gram but are on a tight budget, you’ll love what the Camon 21 has to offer.

Overall thoughts?


The battery is decent, if you’re not heavy on the camera you’ll get a day’s use out of the phone. Overall it is a nice budget device that punches way above its weight with the camera. However, I cannot forgive the Tecno Camon 12 for that horrible OS. I don’t trust the system, the pre-loaded apps or any device that is forcing ads down my throat despite paying for it. It’s a really pity. The phone retails for roughly R3000 and if it wasn’t for HiOS and I’d suggest taking a look at it. However, because I just really don’t trust the OS or privacy settings on its own app store. The OS is bloated, confusing and just makes this phone seem cheap. Yes, cheaper than it is. Based purely on this software, I’d be wary of this one.

Disclosure: I was sent a Tecno Camon 12 smartphone to review and keep. 

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