- Eye-catching and distinctive design
- More usable outer Cover Screen
- Great value for its price
- Large and fast-charging battery
- Hinge doesn't support intermediate angles
- Limited global availability
- Missing features like HDR, IP rating, and wireless charging
You know that foldable phones have really hit mainstream when even relatively lesser-known brands start launching one. Although it has been serving markets like Africa for years now, TECNO has only recently started to spread its wings globally. This year, it made its most ambitious move yet, launching a phone in a market that is still considered niche and a luxury that few could afford. The TECNO PHANTOM V Fold, however, has a trump card that almost no other of its kind dares to use: a significantly lower price tag. But at what cost does that price cut come, and is it enough to give the PHANTOM V Fold the upper hand? We give the latest foldable phone a spin to find out.
The TECNO PHANTOM V Fold immediately stands out among its peers the moment you lay your eyes on it. Its large internal screen is nearly crease-free (we’ll get back to that later), and its external cover display is along normal aspect ratios in contrast to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4’s uncomfortably tall and narrow version. What really catches the eye, however, is the rear design, including the camera bump, which is thankfully more than just a pretty face.
Like a breath of fresh air amid the sparkling or frosted glass of most of today’s smartphones, foldables included, the PHANTOM V Fold adopts a textured back panel similar to faux leather but with a more fibrous appearance reminiscent of craft paper or felt. It’s plastic, yes, but recycled plastic, at least, making you feel good about it in more ways than one.
Although circular camera bumps are no longer unique, TECNO puts a rather interesting spin on it by having the main 50MP camera raised a bit higher and off to the side of the enclosure, visually counterbalanced by the other two circular lenses on the opposite side. It’s an asymmetrical design that quickly calls your attention in a pleasing way, and it might remind you of the moon or, for some Star Wars fans, a certain planet-sized planet-killing machine.
Thanks to the use of that now famed “water drop” hinge, the PHANTOM V Fold can boast of a flatter internal display and a tighter fold. That said, it’s not as invisible as the OPPO Find N2, especially at certain angles, and the fold isn’t completely flat either. It’s still a lot better than the Galaxy Z Fold 4, though, which is quite impressive for a first attempt compared to Samsung’s four generations.
While the TECNO PHANTOM V Fold might be a joy to look at, you might be taken aback a bit when you finally hold it in your hand. At 299g, it is easily one of the heaviest foldable phones on the market, even among the “horizontal” foldable kind. Thankfully, the textured plastic back helps give it a bit of a grip, but it’s something you should take into account when trying to use the phone for long periods of time.
Unlike most foldables, the PHANTOM V Fold’s outer Cover Display curves down on the right side, similar to the curved edge displays of past flagship phones. Unfortunately, it doesn’t add much to the experience except for a slight visual flair. Some might even find it to be a drawback because of accidental triggers when part of the palm or finger brushes that sloped side. Fortunately, its wider aspect ratio makes it a lot more usable than the narrow and tall oddity of the Galaxy Z Fold 4, but you would still prefer to use it with both hands anyway.
One of the neat tricks of foldable phones is to be able to use them in a half-folded state. It’s a novelty that only works if the apps support what some companies have branded as “Flex Mode,” and that’s sometimes the case with apps like YouTube or the camera. Unfortunately, none of that is possible with the PHANTOM V Fold because it can’t really stay still at any angle except completely opened or closed. It will stay open a bit at an angle but will eventually either open flat or close down. It’s not a deal-breaker considering the relatively small number of uses for Flex Mode, but it’s still a disappointing absence for a foldable.
Given its price tag, you might presume the PHANTOM V Fold to be the first mid-range foldable phone, and you’d be shocked that it isn’t the case. Granted, it’s not exactly the fastest or the best in class, but it’s far from being the last in the race. The phone is powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 9000+, which can definitely pull its weight and handle almost anything you throw at it, including games. In terms of benchmarks, it’s on par with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, which was the flagship chipset last year. In practice, you’d be hard-pressed to find something that will make it choke, especially with the 12GB of RAM that can be expanded up to 21GB.
The displays are nothing to scoff at either, both using AMOLED LTPO technology, which gives it a range of 10Hz to 120Hz refresh rates. Images are sharp and colors are vibrant, especially with the internal foldable panel’s higher pixel density. Neither are the brightest in the market, and the larger screen also takes a larger hit in brightness, but they’re usable enough even under bright sunlight. The display isn’t rated for any HDR support, which is quite a bummer in this day and age. Some streaming services might still attempt to play HDR content, though most likely through software processing.
The PHANTOM V Fold rightly has stereo speakers, with grilles located on opposite halves of the phone. The output is loud and serviceable but totally unremarkable in any aspect. You’d be better served by connecting wireless earphones, but the speakers will still do well enough when you really want to blast music out loud.
The theme of “decent but unremarkable” continues with the triple camera setup, led by a 50MP main shooter. Under bright light, shots are actually good with a fair amount of detail, though the colors look a bit washed and dull. The camera falters a bit at night unless you enable the dedicated Night Mode, at which point it actually comes out with impressive output. The 50MP 2x “telephoto” camera does reasonably well, though its zoom level can be considered to be the bare minimum. Jumping from 2x optical to 3x digital zoom immediately reveals a dive in quality. The 13MP ultra-wide is what you’d expect, though it thankfully still comes out with OK shots. None of the cameras advertise OIS, but the ultra-wide camera does have autofocus, which is actually a rarity.
The internal front-facing camera uses a 13MP sensor and is easily outclassed by the 32MP selfie shooter on the outer display. Just like with most smartphones coming from the region, the PHANTOM V Fold applies aggressive “beautification” post-processing to the point of becoming a tad unrealistic. That’s especially true for Portrait Mode, which may misidentify people and start embellishing facial features and tones.
For its first-ever foldable phone, TECNO modified its custom Android experience with plenty of multi-window and multitasking features. Unfortunately, the HiOS 13 Fold user experience also comes with plenty of bloatware, some of which might be completely unfamiliar to most people. There are also some areas that feel rough around the edges, unoptimized, or even downright buggy. This is, fortunately, also the easiest part of the experience to fix, presuming TECNO puts in the work to push out updates quickly and regularly.
This entire experience runs on a 5,000mAh battery, which is admittedly one of, if not the largest for a foldable phone. Given its specs and its two 120Hz displays, however, the uptime practically evens out at the end of the day. The PHANTOM V Fold’s 45W charging speed isn’t exactly the fastest, but it’s almost twice what Samsung has to offer. There’s no wireless charging, though, but that’s also something that only the Galaxy Z Fold has anyway.
Just like any other smartphone these days, the TECNO PHANTOM V Fold doesn’t really score that high in this category. It deserves props for using recycled plastics for its back cover, but that’s a comparatively small part of the whole. The phone, however, takes the biggest hit when it comes to its longevity because it almost feels as if this phone isn’t built to last.
For example, there is no IP rating, not even an assurance beyond something along the lines of using a “splash-proof” coating. The hinge type might be at fault here, but anything that would give consumers some confidence is definitely welcome. Official IP certification definitely costs a lot, but given how fragile these foldable phones already are, it could be something buyers will be willing to pay for.
TECNO also doesn’t have a track record of software updates, at least not yet, and it’s only offering the barest of bare minimum for the PHANTOM V Fold, just two years, in this case. That can and will hopefully change now that the company is trying to play in the big leagues, where Google’s three-year commitment was almost laughed out of the room.
If it hasn’t been apparent yet, the TECNO PHANTOM V Fold seems to have many of these small nitpicks and paper cuts, minor flaws that keep it from getting a perfect score. Granted, no phone is really perfect, even those from much bigger brands than TECNO, but are these drawbacks enough to ruin the overall value of this foldable phone? Fortunately, no.
When looking at the bigger picture, the PHANTOM V Fold offers what market watchers and fans have been asking for for years, an affordable foldable phone that doesn’t come in a clamshell form factor. The $1,100 price tag alone, which is nearly half that of the Galaxy Z Fold 4, is enough to turn heads, but that figure doesn’t mean that the product isn’t up to snuff. It’s less about cutting corners and more about providing the best set of features for that cost. From that perspective, TECNO managed to pull off a miracle and might be the first one to really come out with a flagship foldable phone for the masses. Unfortunately, only those in India will be able to get their hands on this wonder device, at least for now.
A lot of smartphone manufacturers are trying to make foldable phones more normal, but filling the market with such devices solves only one part of the problem. By now, many people are already aware of the benefits of such a device, and almost everyone definitely wants to have a larger screen to watch or play on. The only problem left is an affordable option that lowers the risk when buying a comparatively less durable phone.
The TECNO PHANTOM V Fold is the first to really take a step in that direction. In some ways, it is better than the standard that Samsung set, and in other ways, it is at least on par. It is far from being perfect, and there’s a laundry list of flaws to nitpick. In the grand scheme of things, however, the PHANTOM V Fold delivers a solid foldable phone experience that’s well worth the $1,100, presuming you can get your hands on one.