[su_dropcap style=”flat” size=”5″]L[/su_dropcap]ast week saw the introduction of what we hope is not the last local smartphone company with a name that ends in “Mobile.” We’re talking about Happy Mobile, of course, and yes, we’re being sarcastic. But hey, we’re just the messenger, so it would be best if we just get on with this (we think).
We met with Happy Mobile last week to discuss two of their newest Android handsets. One of these is called the Oracle, and after spending more than one week with it, we have prepared a fairly simply yet hopefully informative hands-on review. Read on if you’re interested.
Design & build quality
Our Happy Mobile Oracle review unit was decked out in white, so immediately it had something that distinguished it from many of the smartphones that we’ve tested over the past year. As a matter of fact, it gives a good first impression at first glance, and we think the shiny chrome lining surrounding the bezel has a lot to do with it.
The Oracle is slim and lightweight, with a profile that measures 6.6mm thick and a casing that’s made mainly out of plastic. The physical design follows the convention for phones nowadays, so it’s easy to become familiar with. Looks-wise, there’s nothing wrong with it. But since we’ve seen similar from other models literally dozens of times before, nothing here can be deemed commendable, much less impressive.
Meanwhile, build quality is on par with what you might expect out of an entry-level to mid-range handset. There are no apparent hardware defects or any issues with the capacitive keys whatsoever, although we think that the placement of the Home/Power button on the left side was a bit misguided. Pressing it becomes a bit of a chore especially if the phone is used with a flip cover, although the said cover makes up for the misplaced button by automatically turning on the screen upon being flipped open.
The flashing LED notification light beside the front cam was a nice touch.
Display and buttons
The Oracle uses a 5-inch IPS touchscreen display with a native resolution of 960×540 pixels. It looks fine in normal use, but it doesn’t quite jibe with the official specs we received from Happy Mobile, which says that the Oracle uses an HD resolution screen. HD is 1280×720, and what we have here is qHD. Miscommunication?
In any case, the display panel on the Oracle performs much like the casing. That is to say, it’s nowhere near exceptional but it gets the job done. When it comes to viewing angles and brightness, its performance is average at best. And we didn’t encounter any issues in terms of on-screen menu navigation and multi-touch features.
One thing we noticed when we tried watching HD videos on the Oracle was that the result wasn’t always pretty. In fact, our smooth, hi-res video content ended up looking somewhat distorted. The downscaling was terrible. That’s worth keeping in mind if you plan to watch any HD movies on the Oracle. It might be a good idea to transcode them first into something smaller, or simply load up made-for-mobile videos in the first place.
The Oracle has a total of three hardware buttons — all located on the left side — and traditional soft-touch Android menu keys are present below the screen.
Camera and speakers
There are two cameras on the Oracle: a 13MP cam at the back, and an 8MP cam on the front. Both cameras performed surprisingly well but it was the rear camera in particular that we liked the most. It was able to focus quickly on subjects and take pictures instantly, even without the aid of the zero shutter feature.
The rear camera also benefits from a built-in LED flash that can be used to illuminate subjects when there isn’t enough ambient light while taking photos (i.e. when you’re shooting indoors). It’s useful, but not always necessary. If you only plan to take photos outdoors or in well-lit environments, the flash will just be a convenient accessory.
Now as for audio, the Oracle blew us away. There’s really no other way to say it. We were unable to determine what type of DAC is present in Oracle, but we know for certain that it offers a stellar sonic performance.
[su_quote]Now as for audio, the Oracle blew us away. There’s really no other way to say it.[/su_quote]What’s interesting is that both the speaker and the 3.5mm audio jack rose up to the challenge of satisfying our auditory cravings. We fired up the speakers for Kanye West’s Gone, which uses a multitude of instruments including violins, violas, cellos, and a piano, all mixed in with a funky hip-hop beat, and the resulting sound was glorious and loud. When we connected our headphones to listen to Rebecca Pidgeon’s rendition of Spanish Harlem, we could almost remember the first time we fell in love.
We understand that’s a lot of hyperbole for such a simple smartphone, but the Oracle truly deserves praise for its wonderful audio performance. The built-in mic works well for sound recordings, too, by the way. And it’s a cinch to use during phone calls.
Software and apps
The Happy Mobile Oracle’s default OS is Android 4.4 KitKat. It comes with a custom theme, however, so it doesn’t look anything like stock Android. There are several different themes that you can choose from, actually, so you can customize it a fair bit.
The app drawer on the Oracle isn’t filled with a lot of bloatware but there are a handful of free pre-installed apps in it. For example, there’s a pre-installed torch light app, and you can use it to turn the LED flash at the back of the phone into a flashlight.
WPS Office is also pre-installed as a mobile office suite, and it will allow you to easily read and even edit documents on the go. It certainly helps if you want to remain productive while you’re outside of the office, but that’s about the extent of the Oracle’s business prowess.
Gaming, Web browsing and battery life
As a phone running Android 4.4 KitKat, the Oracle is compatible with practically all of the latest Android games. Even HD games present no problem, although it kind of earns a pass due to the fact that it only uses a sub-HD display.
In any case, titles like FIFA 14, Dead Trigger 1 and 2, and Asphalt 8 all worked without a hitch. Needless to say, casual side-scrollers like Hill Climb Racing and puzzle games like Candy Crush are very playable on it.
For Web browsing, the Oracle is held back by its qHD resolution screen. It’s okay for browsing the mobile Web, but for the many sites that are still mainly configured to be viewed on desktops, it’s not that great.
Powering the Happy Mobile Oracle is a beefy 2,100mAh battery. In our testing, it managed to last for more than two full days with a mix of medium and heavy usage (which means sending over a hundred messages, up to 30 minutes of calls, a few hours of music, a few hours of Web browsing, and about an hour of online video streaming).
If you’re wondering how the Oracle, which supposedly has an octa-core processor, manages to last so long on a barely impressive battery, you’re not the first person to do so. We’re actually unclear on whether there’s an 8-core chip inside this phone at all, because its synthetic benchmark performance just isn’t consistent with one.
When we tested the Oracle with AnTuTu benchmark for Android, it only logged a bit over 18,000 points. That’s almost half of the performance score we expected, and it’s way behind other octa-core phones that we’ve tested in the past. We don’t exactly know what the problem is, but a problem definitely exists. This might just be another bit of miscommunication on Happy Mobile’s part. We just don’t know for certain.
The Happy Mobile Oracle is the type of phone that might win you over only after you’ve already decided that it’s worth getting in the first place. But the thing is, nothing about it screams “Get me!” so that’s going to be a problem.
There’s nothing wrong with how it looks, and it works just as you might expect most any Android phone to. It even has USB OTG support, which is a nice extra, just like the free flip cover that comes in every retail package.
But despite having the ability to shine in some areas like daytime photography and music playback, the Oracle just comes off as an unfinished product. And it’s not easy to make a case for spending one’s hard-earned money for something that’s not done yet. So all we can say for now is that Happy Mobile, the company, has its work cut out for it.