Hailing from China, the Coolpad Conjr hits the U.S. budget-priced smartphone market fresh off its encouraging CES 2017 preview with plenty of competition but only a limited set of fellow alternatives to high-end devices that stack up convincingly with its total package.
We can’t say 2016 exactly overwhelmed us with affordable-yet-appealing options for straying from Apple and Samsung’s ongoing “anything you can do…” rivalry. Between Apple deciding that everyone secretly really hated USB ports and headphone jacks and Samsung vowing to follow suit as soon as they finished explaining why the Samsung Note 7 doubled as a cleverly disguised hand grenade, we certainly searched. High and low. Far and wide. Among the feature-rich devices that leaped to the front of the line with frugal value propositions hoping to stand apart from more costly top-shelf models, we largely found flimsy designs that clearly skimped on both comfort and an easy user experience to meet their tantalizing price points.
That’s where it was love at first sight between us and the Conjr: it might not eclipse the ultra-powerful processing of most premium devices, but not every factory-unlocked phone at this moderate, crowded price point stacks up to the performance it presents for a modest buck or the quite favorable way it aesthetically compares to more pricey tiers.
Handsome, Hardy Hardware
Without a connoisseur’s discerning eye for superior smartphones, the Coolpad Conjr could pass easily for a device saddled with several times its actual price tag. The five-inch 2.5D curved Corning glass display flows seamlessly without a gap to be found into a pleasingly lightweight, deceptively durable aluminum-magnesium alloy body tastefully embellished with sleek chrome accents and bezels. For a phone with average all-around dimensions, its gentle curves and smooth design fit it easily into virtually any pocket with no struggle whatsoever. In use, the entire display fits neatly inside a thumb’s reach with three capacitive buttons arranged along the bottom in painted-on chrome with convenient backlighting and haptic feedback. The entire layout navigates with intuitive fluency in any context, a truly thoughtful use of space.
At least one port or button breaks up the frame on each side without any space ever feeling cluttered. The volume toggle’s excellent profile provides nice travel and feedback on the Conjr’s left edge, as does the smaller screen-lock button in the middle of the handset’s right side. On the right edge, you will find the dual SIM card tray, which accommodates either a single SIM and up to a 64GB Micro SD memory expansion to its 16GB of internal ROM or a pair of SIM cards enabling two swappable phone numbers for international travel or toggling between separate business and personal services. Finally, you’ll find a 2.5mm headphone jack and microUSB port along the bottom, exactly where you would expect to find them on any Android phone.
Superb & Software
The tandem of a Quad-Core 1.0 GHz processor and generous 3GB of RAM infuse the Conjr’s Android 6.0 OS and Cool UI 8.0 with the muscle to multitask, render, and volley between everyday tasks running simultaneously in the background and foreground like an absolute champ with minimal lag. Even with all radios on all day long and under the strain of constant Spotify and YouTube streaming, The 2,500 mAh battery easily lasts until somewhere between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. at 50-percent display brightness before hitting 15-percent capacity.
Cool UI 8.0 instills compelling depth off customization within the Conjr’s overall user experience. Its easy-to-use Smart Gestures instantly open apps from standby through personally programmed haptic inputs such as drawing a “C” to call up the dialpad, an “M” to transition straight to browsing music, and so forth. Multi-Finger Unlock registers up to five fingerprints and reads future inputs using 3D pixel-sensing technology to accurately verify scans regardless of dry, dusty, wet, or even feather-light touches. The hand Call Recorder does exactly what its name suggests: records conversations in their entirety for later review in pristine fidelity. Scrolling Screen Shot captures images too big to fit a single page as a multi-screen still instead and one-touch Screen Recording documents everything you see and do on the display at 60 fps in real time.
A Complete Visual Media Experience
Speaking of photography and videography, it would be difficult to say enough in praise of the Conjr’s uncommon-for-its-price-point media tools.
For starters, few moderately priced phones of Conjr’s profile offer separate LED flashes for both front-facing 8MP and rear-facing 13MP cameras. As an added bonus, Coolpad slightly raised the back camera module and subtly recessed the fingerprint reader for foolproof differentiation. In terms of performance, innovative optical stabilization and noise reduction produce incredibly crisp, sharp images easily on par with smartphones priced several times higher. Adding microfocus from as close as three inches away from any subject, a dynamic beauty filter, and the entertaining Age-Guesser analysis app refines already admirable shots to superlative, eye-catching memories.
Taking photos virtually as vivid and clear as an iPhone or Note at less than half the price should already turn heads among the throngs of economical phones crammed with impactful features. The Conjr goes a step further by making outstanding snapshots that much easier for anyone to take, thanks to C Button navigation. Often, taking a perfect picture demands a degree of coordination between the hand steadying the phone and another manipulating the touchscreen. With a single click, C Button generates a complete operational menu you can move anywhere on the screen you choose to take precise shots one-handed when necessary. When you’ve gotten the snap you need, the menu fades right unobtrusively into the background.
Finally, there isn’t much you could want from a phone’s video capabilities that the Conjr won’t deliver. Its 720p resolution may be a middle-of-the-road benchmark for most current smartphones, but Cool UI takes recording and streaming so much deeper. Keep watching whatever movie or viral you’ve been enjoying while keeping up your chatter with friends, thanks to picture-in-picture formatting. Cast Screen will broadcast your viewing selection directly to your TV with just a touch of your finger, allowing you to share the joy with an audience of friends and family. Automatically generated subtitles add just one more stroke of considerate convenience to an already relatively robust media suite.
The Coolpad Conjr launched in the United States on Jan. 19 and arrives compatible right out of the box with any wireless provider except Sprint and Verizon.