Tecno Phantom V Fold Review: Democratizing The Foldable Android Phone

  • Excellent screens
  • Solid performance
  • Great battery life
  • Solid value for money
  • Software needs work
  • Average camera performance
  • Only two OS upgrades promised

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Foldable phones have been touted as the next step in the evolution of smartphones, and there have been some really promising ones that have furthered that notion. However, they have mostly remained elusive to those on a tighter budget. While you can get a clamshell foldable phone around the $1,100 mark, book-type foldable phones have mostly stayed over $1,500, closer to the $2,000 mark. Enter the Tecno Phantom V Fold.

Tecno is a lesser-known brand in the U.S. and Europe markets, but it has consistently been one of the highest-selling smartphone brands in Africa and has also been making progress in the Indian market. The Tecno Phantom V Fold is a bold leap for the company. It's the company's first foldable phone and the cheapest book-type foldable phone on the market. While it's not going to be released for general sale in the U.S. yet — or maybe ever — the Tecno Phantom Fold V is the beginning of cheaper foldable phones. Tecno sent us a unit of the Phantom V Fold for the purpose of this review. 

Specs and basic features

The Tecno Phantom V Fold is a book-type foldable with two screens. The cover screen is a 6.42-inch LTPO AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1,080 x 2,550 pixels and a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. The main display is a 7.85-inch screen, also an LTPO AMOLED that goes up to 120Hz and runs at a resolution of 2,000 x 2,296 pixels. Both screens go up to 1,100 nits of brightness. The phone gets a waterdrop hinge and a side-mounted fingerprint sensor which is embedded into the power button.

The camera setup includes five cameras. On the back, there's a 50MP primary camera with a f/1.9 aperture, another 50MP f/2.0 telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom, and a 13MP f/2.2 ultrawide camera with a 120-degree field-of-view. There are two selfie cameras — a 16MP one on the main display and a 32MP one on the cover display, both with f/2.5 aperture.

Under the hood, you get a MediaTek Dimensity 9000+, an octa-core chip. The phone is available in two variants — 12GB RAM/256GB storage and 12GB RAM/512GB storage. A 5000mAh battery powers the phone, and a 45W fast charger is included in the box, along with a kickstand shell case. It currently sells on Amazon India at a price of INR 88,888, which is approximately $1,088.

Design and build quality

The Tecno Phantom V Fold is a book-style foldable, and it makes some interesting design choices, which mostly seem to work for it. To begin with, you have the cover display, which is a 2.36:1 aspect ratio. The phone is rather comfortable to hold due to its tall stance, despite being taller and wider than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. It also weighs a hefty 299g, which makes it one of the heaviest foldables you can buy. Despite that, Tecno has managed to make the phone quite nice for one-hand use.

A part of this comes from the fact that the outer edge of the cover display is curved, while the other edges are not. This asymmetric approach is reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy Edge, although the curve isn't as pronounced. 

The other reason is the choice of textures Tecno has chosen for the Phantom V Fold. The spine of this foldable has a ridged texture, which doesn't look very premium — but adds to the grip. The back of the phone isn't glass, but a nice textured soft plastic material. Tecno says it's silicone leather, but it doesn't feel like it. It's very good, though, and has a great feel, a nice look, and adds to the grip as well.

The phone looks pretty good when unfolded as well. The main display is recessed into the edges, as you would expect. The hinge itself is rather sturdy but the magnets keeping the phone shut are too strong. Unfolding the phone is quite the task, especially if you're attempting it without fingernails. However, using fingernails to unfold puts the main display at risk of getting a dent. Overall, though, the phone feels solid. It doesn't have an official IP rating, though.

Displays: Tecno gets it right

The cover display quality is right up there with those on other good foldables. It's sharp, has great colors, and gets sufficiently bright for outdoor use. The 120Hz refresh rate with LTPO technology on the cover display is a welcome addition. The screen curve didn't affect visibility much, but not everybody will like that the cover screen has different curvatures at the corners on both sides.

The main display is also an LTPO 120Hz panel and is rather smooth. The camera punch-hole can be distracting, but the display is still quite a get for the price. The crease is a massive improvement from what we've seen from Samsung as well. Tecno has used a waterdrop hinge, like the Oppo Find N2 Flip. That means that we get a much less bothersome crease on the main display here. It never felt like an annoyance while using this phone.

What hasn't really been an improvement is the screen protector layer on the main display. It catches a lot of fingerprints and grease, and the dirt and dust get trapped at the edges. It's tough to fault Tecno for this, especially given the relatively lower price of this foldable, and the fact that these issues are common across all foldables.

There's no flex mode on here, so you only get a 90-degree unfold in addition to the fully unfolded mode. Speaking of which — the Tecno Phantom V Fold doesn't unfold to be completely flat. The phone sits at a smidge under 180 degrees when fully unfolded. It does fold fully flat with no visible gap, though.

Software: Needs some work

The displays are great, but what about the software? Tecno is one of those companies that layers Android (13) with its own interface, calling it HiOS Fold 13. Like many others, for the most part, it's fine. There are some elements that could have been simpler, like the notification shade and quick toggles. There's Frankenstein's monster nature where Material You acts a bit glitchy with Google Apps, and none of Tecno's apps follow the theme colors. Luckily, replacing Tecno's versions of the default Phone and Messaging apps with Google's was rather easy.

The home launcher app is a different story. The Phantom V Fold wouldn't let me switch to a different home app and have it work fine. As such, you have to stick with the default Tecno launcher for now. It's a fine launcher and didn't give too many reasons to complain. It could have definitely used some more customizability, though.

The foldable feature set is decent. Tecno didn't mess around too much with that, since the cover screen works like a normal Android phone anyway. The multitasking experience on the main screen is also pretty solid.

I did have my fair share of issues with the software, though. The notification shade nearly always showed a persistent notification saying, "Micro Intelligence is running." The notification cannot be swiped away and shows up despite muting it, and there seems to be no way to get rid of it. There are a few annoying issues like this that deter the experience, but this is one of the departments where the "How is this foldable phone so affordable?" question gets answered.

It's definitely very usable, though, especially if you're fine with a few annoyances being the price for an affordable folding phone.

Camera: Strictly average

The camera performance is another department where the Tecno Phantom V Fold lands on strictly average. The cameras aren't bad, but they're nothing to write home about.

The cameras on the Tecno Phantom V Fold tend to have some exposure and color accuracy issues. More often than not, the cameras ended up getting the exposure noticeably wrong. The colors pretty much always landed a bit off compared to reality, along with the contrast. If you manage to tune the exposure before taking a shot, the Phantom V Fold will spit out an acceptable photo.

The portrait mode is not quite up to the mark, though. The edge detection was great, but it often ended up adding a lot of heavy contrast shadows to the faces, giving the portrait shots a weird look that was far from accurate. The Document mode is a nice addition, though, and worked really well.

The selfie cameras both suffer from the same exposure and color issues, but it's not tough to get a decent photo out of it. Video recording is again just average. The lack of optical image stabilization is especially apparent in video mode. 

The saving grace of the Tecno Phantom V Fold's cameras is the night mode. It performs surprisingly well and holds up rather well against the Oppo Find X6 Pro — a phone that has one of the best low-light cameras on the market right now.

The camera performance on foldable phones tends to be one of the areas that are sacrificed to keep the price and the size of the phone in check. Considering that, and the price of this phone, the camera performance is acceptable. 

Performance and battery life

The Tecno Phantom V Fold has some solid hardware on paper, and software annoyances aside, it performs pretty well. During day-to-day usage, the phone did quite well, and I didn't really face any major hiccups other than a couple of bugs. App launching is always breezy, and the phone doesn't stutter, thanks to the solid hardware.

Multitasking is a key aspect of a foldable phone, especially since all that extra screen real estate needs to be usable. The Phantom V Fold delivers on that front, and excellently. Even when pushed by keeping as many apps open as possible in split screen and floating windows, it handled all of it like a champ and never felt like a budget machine. 

Playing games like Fortnite and Genshin Impact was also a pretty solid experience on this phone. Performance wasn't an issue, and it did just as well as one would expect a Dimensity 9000+ powered phone to perform. I didn't feel any noticeable heating while playing these games, either, which is another point in the V Fold's favor.

The battery drain was also respectable. While playing Fortnite on the main screen, 20 minutes of gameplay drained about 6 percent of the battery, which is very good. Alternatively, playing a locally-stored 20-minute Full HD resolution video via VLC Media Player with the screen brightness set to 60% drained the battery only by only 4%.

The battery life on this phone was excellent the entire time. The Tecno Phantom V Fold can comfortably last through an entire day's workload, although your mileage may vary depending upon the ratio of usage of the cover display and the main display. The 45W charging also got the phone charged from 0-100 in about an hour.

Verdict: Should you buy the Tecno Phantom V Fold?

The Tecno Phantom V Fold is the most affordable book-type foldable you can buy right now. It's a full-format foldable phone at the price of a clamshell flip phone. The phone isn't getting a U.S. launch, but it's going to be sold in India and Africa, which are fast-growing smartphone markets. 

The Tecno Phantom V Fold is definitely worth buying. It's a well-rounded foldable phone and makes the right sacrifices to get to the price point. In India, Tecno is also including a one-time screen replacement within the first six months with pickup and drop service and 1-year extended warranty to add to the assurance. The software update guarantee is rather weak, though, with two major OS upgrades promised.

For the price, the Tecno Phantom V Fold makes a decent proposition: would you buy a foldable phone for the same price as the average flagship phone if it means sacrificing the camera and software experience? If your answer is yes, then the Tecno Phantom V Fold is the phone for you.

If the novelty and practicality of a foldable phone aren't worth all that much to you, you might want to look at a different $1,100 phone. There are plenty of good options out there, and although the Phantom V Fold is affordable for a foldable phone, $1,100 is quite a lot of money for a phone.

The Tecno Phantom V Fold is bringing a mass appeal to foldable phones, and although there are a few sacrifices, it's a good enough proposition to make one hopeful about foldable phone prices falling to levels the average person might consider affordable.