Last year saw Aussie e-tailer Kogan release its quad-core Agora phone, the first in Australia to retail for under AU$200, with equally low price tags in other markets: $189 in the US and £149 in the UK.
This year the new Agora still packs in the quad-core processor but slims the device down and adds 4G functionality, all while keeping the bargain-basement price.
The Agora 4G sports a BenQ logo on the back -- the Taiwanese company actually approached Kogan and offered to be the hardware partner on the phone as a way of bringing its smartphone range to the Australian market. The co-branding is a different model for Kogan, but may prove to be a smart move for BenQ.
Of course, the key selling point for the Agora is the price: in Australia you'll pay AU$229, while the US and the UK can grab it for $219 and £149 respectively. At that price it, undercuts most other 4G phones by a significant amount. Motorola's 4G version of the Moto G, which has just launched locally, retails for AU$299. (In the US and the UK the Moto G sells for the same price at the Kogan.)
While the Agora 4G is plastic, there's a good solidity to the overall build -- it feels quite like an older Nexus, and I mean that in the best possible way.
The touches of red on the front and rear speakers and around the camera lens are quite subtle, but very pleasant. They add a needed splash of colour, helping the Agora stand out from the other budget models. The back plate comes off for easy access to the SIM card and microSD slots, but the battery, sadly, cannot be removed.
The screen size and resolution are the same as the earlier Kogan -- a 5-inch IPS panel at 1,280x720 pixels -- but the 4G unit is a slim 135g (4.8 ounces, down from 153g, or 5.4 ounces) and measures 143 by 73 by 8.5mm (5.6 by 2.9 by 0.3 inches).
The quad-core CPU runs at 1.2GHz, the GPU is an Adreno 305, and there's 1GB of RAM. Memory is just 8GB, but the microSD slot can be expanded up to 64GB and the phone runs on Android KitKat. The rear camera is 8 megapixels, with the front camera coming in at 2 megapixels.
The Kogan offers about the most stock Android experience you'll see this side of a Google Play edition. The Android 4.4 OS has pretty much no overlay, with just some custom imaging and video editing software, along with an FM radio app.
Oddly, because most manufacturers do offer a customised Android experience, the Kogan's interface might seem initially unfamiliar to some users. Personally, I've started to become less and less enamoured of the likes of HTC Sense and TouchWiz. I found the Kogan refreshing in its lack of bloatware, even if I did miss some of the features I've become used too, such as my smart alarm.