Posh Mobile is a great example of how hard it is to build a good budget phone. The company's Orion Pro is an unlocked, dual-SIM phone with a 5-inch screen, 1.3GHz processor, and 5-megapixel camera that's plagued by poor performance, a cheap feel and an unremarkable screen.
For a little background, Posh Mobile is a new cell phone company aiming its devices at the developing smartphone market in Latin America and at budget-conscious Americans. It joins the ranks of other low-cost, global-compatible smartphone manufacturers such as VeryKool.
The Orion Pro's manufacturer price is $140, but you can find it for a bit cheaper on Amazon and other online retailers. For that price, it's cheaper than most unlocked dual-SIM phones you'll find. However, because the phone underperforms in most areas, cheaper is not better here.
Measuring 5.66 inches tall, 2.87 inches wide and 0.40 inch thick (144 x 73 x 10.3 mm), the Orion Pro is big and a bit bulky. For my smaller hands, it's just at the threshold of being too big to use one-handed: I can just barely get my whole hand around it and use the screen at the same time. Like most larger and phablet-size phones, it was easier for me to use it with two hands. The phone is hefty too, weighing 6.4 ounces (181.43 grams), which also makes it uncomfortable to hold with one hand.
The Orion Pro has an all-polycarbonate body and a pleasant soft-touch finish on the back. Many phones with similar finishes pick up fingerprints and smudges easily, but fortunately, this one stayed looking nice. The phone comes in four colors: white, black, blue and red. I reviewed the blue version, which is a nice deep navy that has a slight hint of shimmer, giving the phone's design some personality.
The Orion Pro's back cover pops off to reveal the battery, dual-SIM slots and microSD card slot. However, taking off that cover requires a lot of force, and I sacrificed a few fingernails to do it. There's a small notch on the bottom-left corner and you'll want to use a tool, like a small screwdriver, to pry it up. I also struggled with inserting a SIM card, in either slot. I don't usually have trouble with that on any phone, so it stood out to me.
The Orion Pro has a 5-inch IPS LED screen with a paltry 980 x 540 resolution that looks fuzzy at best. My biggest complaint is that text just doesn't look sharp, making it harder to read at the "normal" size. I needed to crank it up to "large" in settings to compensate.
Also, colors look oversaturated and unnatural, adding to the overall poor display quality. The final issue with the screen is that it doesn't always feel that responsive and often didn't pick up my taps.
Below the screen are the phone's capacitive menu, home and back buttons. They have a very dim backlight that stays on for a few seconds after you tap them, but otherwise they blend into the black screen bezel. Unlike other Android phones, you'll need to tap and hold the home button, not the menu button, to bring up your recent apps.
You won't find the latest and greatest of Android in the Orion Pro. The phone is running Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2, a nearly two-year old version of the operating system that's several steps behind the latest 5.0 Lollipop release. Despite the fact that Google designed Android 4.4 KitKat to run on lower-end devices, many phones still ship with outdated versions of the OS, which is a shame.
The phone doesn't have many extra software features, though it does have a custom design from Posh Mobile. You can choose from one of six themes called "Styles" and change the accent color for menus. Each theme has unique icon packs that look dated. The rest of the phone has the typical stock Android look, with a horizontal-scrolling app drawer, swipe-down notification shade and simple lock screen.
Many of Google's apps are included, such as Gmail, Calendar and Maps. Posh Mobile also includes a file manager, the Opera Mini browser, a sound recorder, and Posh Apps, an app that promises free apps from the company, but really just shows you links to a few select titles from Google Play. There's no need to bother with Posh Apps, when the Play Store app offers the same features and a much better experience.
Some notable extras include audio profiles, which let you quickly change the volume and sound settings for the appropriate environment, such as a meeting or night time. You can also schedule the phone to shut off and turn on at a particular time, a feature that I've not seen on other Android smartphones.
Camera and video
Don't expect to take stunning photos with the Orion Pro's camera, because the 5-megapixel main camera is a letdown. Overwhelmingly the photos I took with the camera looked hazy, washed out and often out of focus, despite my attempts to focus the shot. Check out my test shots below and click each image to enlarge.
There's a VGA front-facing camera that also unfortunately produces blown-out, fuzzy images.
The camera can also record video, though neither Posh Mobile nor the camera's settings indicate at what resolution. The videos I shot while testing phone came out clear, especially when comparing it with still shots, which is a plus.
One feature worth mentioning is the helpful camera tutorial that helps you learn about the different features, scene modes, and settings when you first open the app.
The Orion Pro runs on GSM networks using the following bands: 850/900/1800/1900. I tested the phone over T-Mobile's network in San Francisco and I was not at all impressed with what I heard. During my tests, my calling partner said I sounded unnatural with some echo, while she sounded harsh, tinny and distorted even at a low in-call volume. My partner also complained that there was a lot of background noise that sounded like a loud fan on the call, even while I was standing in a quiet spot indoors.
Speakerphone was a bit better for my calling partner; she said I sounded clearer with almost no background noise and I that it was easier to hear what I was saying. However on my end, she sounded even worse than using the earpiece. I could hear her words without much issue, but her voice was crackly and overly loud, even at the middle volume setting.
Keep in mind that call quality can vary by network and the phone's internal speakers and microphones. However, the Orion Pro was one of the worst offenders of poor call audio I've tested.
Performance: Processor, data and battery
Posh Mobile went with a Mediatek 1.3GHz quad-core processor, which is capable, but sluggish. Moving through menus was usually snappy, but I noticed lag often, especially when opening apps. In the graphics-rich racing game Angry Birds Go, I noticed the occasional dropped frame, but otherwise, there wasn't much lag.
The phone is also equipped with 1GB of RAM, which is standard these days for many budget devices. The Quadrant score for this phone is 5837 and the Linpack results were 234.91 MFLOPS in 0.72 second.
The Orion Pro gets 4GB of storage, with the option to add up to 32GB of storage with a microSD card. That's enough for a few hundred photos and many apps, but I'd advise adding an SD card if you think you'll need more space.
When it comes to data, this phone doesn't support LTE, but you can get 4G HSPA+ speeds, where available. In San Francisco, I was able to get a 4G connection with T-Mobile and the speeds were great, averaging 3.29Mbps up and 6.78Mbps down using the Speedtest app.
One major disadvantage for the Orion Pro is the 1,800mAh battery which won't get you much talk or standby time. Posh Mobile actually doesn't have any data on standby or talk time, but in my testing the phone didn't last more than a day of light use before needing to be charged.
Other features include Wi-Fi, a VPN and Bluetooth, which is oddly called WHT in settings. According to FCC radiation measurements, the device has a head SAR rating of 0.90W/kg.
Posh Mobile Orion Pro performance testing
|Average 4G download speed||6.78Mbps|
|Average 4G upload speed||3.29Mbps|
|App download (Angry Birds)||47.27MB in 3 minutes and 37 seconds|
|CNET mobile site load||14.82 seconds|
|CNET desktop site load||19.87 seconds|
|Restart time||32.7 seconds|
|Camera boot time||2.23 seconds|
Should you buy it?
To put it bluntly, no. The Posh Mobile Orion Pro isn't worth picking up because across the board, the phone is disappointing, with a dull screen, sluggish performance, abysmal camera, and spotty call quality. The only two positive features of the Orion Pro are the price and the dual-SIM capability, but even those aren't enough to redeem the phone.
What you should buy instead depends on your needs. If a dual-SIM phone is a must, check out the VeryKool Spark s505 , which is $60 more, but has a much better camera and display.
If you're seeking an unlocked phone, the Motorola Moto G 2014 edition is a worthy choice. For $180, you don't get any LTE but you still get a fast processor, solid camera and premium build.
Finally, if you're simply looking for an inexpensive phone and don't mind being tied to one carrier without a contract, the LG Tribute is a good buy. It's $80 from Virgin Mobile, has a high-end design and runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat.