Tag: aspera

Let’s get this out of the way now – the Aspera Gem is not a fancy phone. It doesn’t have NFC, wireless or fast charging, face unlock, uses micro USB, is gonna be slow, there’s not gonna be many updates if any and the camera is a potato – but let’s keep that in perspective considering it’s just $149 down at Big W or Amazon AU with a full Australian warranty.

What the Aspera Gem does have however, is a very acceptable quality screen, dual SIM capability, a goddamn 3.5mm headphone jack, a fingerprint reader and a removable battery. It runs Android 9 (albeit with security patches only up to September 2019) and has access to the full Google Play Store.

After a few hours tooling around with the Gem, it’s obviously not a phone I’d be comfortable with using day-to-day. Apps are slow to load, running too many at once (e.g: swapping between Twitter, Facebook, Slack, OneDrive and a few tabs open in Chrome) grinds things to a halt and the camera is very average.

Aspera Gem camera sample.

But if all you do on your smartphone is make calls & SMS, watch a bit of YouTube, drive around with Google Maps, chat to your mates with whatever messaging platform takes your fancy and you’re on a budget – the Gem will be good enough. Slow, but with its 2GB of RAM it’ll be better than basically every sub-$99 phone that only packs 1GB and is totally unsuitable for anything besides a glorified calculator.

The real question is how does it compare to what else is on the market for around the same price?

There’s heaps of no-name Chinese phones with better specs either via eBay or Gearbest/Banggood/DealExtreme that are alluring but they’ve got suspicious firmware, don’t have the Google Play store enabled and won’t have any warranty if they die (and they do).

Right now Coles is selling the Telstra Evoke Plus for $129 or the Optus X Wave 4G for $119. Deals like this pop up often and they’ve got similar specs to the Aspera Gem with the bonus of coming with some credit, but they’re locked to that telco, usually have bloated firmwares and don’t have dual SIM capability.

Officeworks, JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys and Harvey Norman are the least hassle places to buy an unlocked smartphone from. In this $150 price range there’s not much that has 2GB of RAM is dual-SIM. The Alcatel 1X and Nokia 1 Plus hang around here and they’re definetly not as usable as the Aspera Gem. Kick the price up to around $200 and the Nokia 2.3 is a little snappier than the Aspera Gem and will get regular updates, but costs more.

My usual recommendation for most people on a budget that want a smartphone that doesn’t suck is a Xiaomi Mi A3. It’s just $295 from Xiaomi’s official Amazon AU store (so if it goes tits up, it’s easy to return), has double the RAM, will get updates for a while because it’s an Android One phone, is wayyyy faster and the camera is pretty good. The Mi A3 is basically the cheapest phone I’d use day to day with no complaints.

However, if $300 is still reaching too far for you and your needs are extremely basic, the Aspera Gem is a way better option than basically everything else brand new in the $150 price range unless the $199 Nokia 2.3 goes on sale at some point in the near future.

The Aspera F40 probably isn’t a mobile phone the average Reckoner reader would buy for themselves. However, the average Reckoner reader likely has someone in their life who needs a mobile phone but a smartphone isn’t suitable and that’s where the Aspera F40 becomes interesting.

If you’ve stumbled across this review via Google whilst researching a dumbphone with big numbers for an elderly relative, then I don’t need to explain to you why someone might not want a giant glass fronted rectangle running Android or iOS. The good news is that you’ve come to the right review, as that’s exactly what the Aspera F40 is – the antithesis of an iPhone.

Flip it open, dial a number using the big keypad and the call begins. Close the phone to end the call. That’s probably 90% of what this phone will do and it does it well. Don’t want to remember numbers? Train the phone’s user to press the person button, select the person they want to call from a big grid of 6 people and press the green telephone. You’re now talking to them.

Phone call volume can be adjusted from the buttons on the side, as can the ringer volume. As expected for this phone, the ringer is loud and the earpiece speaker is loud, way louder than my iPhone. There’s a 4G radio inside, so even when the 3G network starts shutting down in 3-4 years time, the Aspera F40 will keep on working. Perfect for those resistant to change oldies.

Of course you can send SMS on the Aspera F40, just like you did back in 2004 with a numeric keyboard. There’s T9 predictive text, but it’s still really slow going compared to a QWERTY keyboard. Good enough to belt out “OK” or “I’m lost” or something like that. Also fine to receive messages on to keep someone up to date with what’s happening.

Speaking of getting lost, the other important feature is the SOS button on the back. Hold it down for about 5 seconds and it will play an ambulance siren sound, then send an SMS to each number you’ve entered into the SOS setting (the message is customisable) and call each person on that list on speakerphone from 1 to 6 if the first caller doesn’t answer. Pretty handy if you’re giving this to someone that’s prone to wandering and confusion or injury.

Feature wise, the Aspera F40 doesn’t do much. Sure it can take photos, but they look crap, see:

It can browse the web, but it’s a total waste of time. Check out at Reckoner on it:

There’s a few other features like an FM radio (needs headphones plugged in), a music player if you load up some MP3s (there’s a microSD card slot), a video player if you like watching videos on the 2.8″ screen, a calendar and even a torch, but they’re all secondary to the “open phone, make call, close phone, end call” ability.

Not everyone can manage to use a smartphone, nor do they want one. I know for some of my relatives, physically locking and unlocking the smartphone (swiping up or holding a button down for a fingerprint) is confusing or difficult. If all you need is a phone to make calls on and maybe take the occasional SMS, the Aspera F40 is perfect. At $99 it’s even well priced for a phone in this category with large buttons.

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. Continue reading