Aspera’s Jazz 2 entry-level smartphone might sound boring to you, but I think of the silicon ingot that was meticulously grown to provide the billions of transistors required to make it work, the talent of the engineers that designed the radios, display, sensors and cameras, the army of workers that constructed it, the boat that sailed it all the way to Australia and marvel at the fact a $99 smartphone even exists. It’s an amazing feat of globalism.
Despite the Aspera Jazz 2 being a modern capitalist miracle, it isn’t a good phone. The Aspera Jazz 2 is actually pretty rough. It runs Android Go 9 and will probably never see an update its entire life, the TN screen has horrible viewing angles making videos almost unwatchable, the slow graphics latency gets frustrating and the 5MP camera is the textbook definition of potato.
But it’s a ninety-fucking-nine dollar smartphone that lets you access a map of the entire goddamn world with your location down a 5-meter level of precision, it makes hundreds of thousands of albums available on-demand for you to listen to and you can chat or call to practically anyone, anywhere, at any time. All for $99. It’s hard to knock what would have been science fiction just 10 years ago because it has a few rough edges.
Aspera’s website has all the specs, so I won’t repeat them here. But what I will tell you is that whilst the Jazz 2’s performance is just about as low as a human can tolerate before throwing it against a wall, you can probably get that same level of usability with a cheaper phone. Woolworths and Coles often have phones of similar performance and specs on sale for under $60. Just look at this week’s catalog:
The Optus X start and Vodafone Smart E9 are often $59, have the same hardware and more or less work the same despite the different operating systems. The only catch is those phones are locked to the telco – but you can often use them with an MVNO of that same telco (e.g: an Optus locked phone will work with Catch Connect, or a Vodafone locked phone will work with a Kogan SIM) and they don’t usually come with two SIM slots like the Aspera Jazz 2.
It’s easy to write this phone off as a piece of garbage and tell you to buy something better, but not everyone can afford a $300 or $400 phone (the price point where phones get usable IMHO). Maybe all you want is something make phone calls and use WhatsApp to talk to your mates overseas. Maybe there’s an oddly specific Android app you want to run that will be fine on a $99 phone as a companion to your flagship phone. There’s heaps of uses for a $99 phone and I’m glad such a device exists for those that need it.