Review of Konka U3 phone

With the looming shutdown of the 2G mobile phone network in Australia, I needed to replace my old mobile phone, but…

  1. I want a flip phone.  They're easy to answer and hang-up without having to find the right buttons to press.  And you can't accidentally dial someone when you squash the phone in your pocket.  I've received many such calls from friends, and I'd found my original (non-flip phone) phone sitting with 000 (Australia's emergency number) displayed on the screen, just waiting for the dial button to get pressed, several times.  I understand that 000 gets a tremendous number of such false calls, and I don't want to contribute to that, nor get in trouble for it.

  2. I want a phone small enough to fit into my pocket without being annoying.

  3. I don't want a smart phone.  I don't want the expense of those phones, nor the expensive of their data usage, nor have to deal with their complexity (I hate tablets, they're such a horribly designed and implemented user-interface).  About the only things I do with my phone were phone calls, SMS text messaging, and the alarm clock.  Not to mention that smart phones are far larger phones than I want to carry around.

In the end, I managed to find a phone that fits my first and last points, the Konka U3.  But is a bit too big to fit in my pocket comfortably, although the larger size does mean that I can read the screen without needing reading glasses, and the buttons are big enough to press normally.  With my old phone, I had to use the corner of a fingernail to press them, because the buttons were so small and close together.  Using a fingernail was the only way to press any button (because the switches were recessed under the rubber buttons), and I had to use the corner of it so that I'd only press one button at a time.

I bought an unlocked Konka U3 phone for approx $100 from BigW (May 2017), which I consider overpriced for a very basic phone, but the only other alternative was a similarly priced Aspera (which had worse reviews than the Konka).

I'm using it with Vodaphone, and it seems to work fine on their network.  It accepts the full-size SIM that I originally bought with my first mobile phone, many years ago.

The sound quality leaves something to be desired, though my prior phone was much worse.  There's a quality to the audio that makes it sound like the speaker is too far away from the hole in the casing, and that the hole may be too small.  Under good listening conditions, I didn't have any problems hearing a conversation, but I had trouble hearing it in a noisy environment.  I did phone a friend and ask them how it sounded when I spoke, to be told that it's “loud and clear.”  But until I play swapsies with a friend's phone, I have no idea what it sounds like.  And I haven't tried out the speakerphone feature, yet.

It has a sound recording feature which sounded quite awful, though it's probably more than good enough for you to dictate a reminder to yourself.

There's some kind of music player software, but I've yet to try it out on anything than its own recordings.  What I did try, didn't look easy to use.  It has a convoluted looking GUI, and it gives no clue as to what buttons on the phone control what features of it.  It has a very limited number of supported file types (MP3, WAV, AMR).

There's a built-in camera, but it's a truly dreadful quality low-resolution camera, like phones had when cameraphones first came out.  I don't have a need for a camera on my phone, and I'd rather not have one at all.  If you don't have a camera, nobody can accuse you of taking unwanted photos, when they see you scrutinising the screen trying to read something difficult.

At last I have a phone that synchronises its clock with the phone network, so it should always be correct (none of my prior phones did, and they were all rather bad at keeping the time).  It's such a basic feature, all phones ought to do that.

The contact list does let you add quite a number of things to each contact (picture, ringtone, additional mobile phones, home number, office number, fax number, company name, caller video, birthday, job title, address, comment), though is unable to delete the first entry marked as a mobile phone.  Some contacts will not be a mobile phone, and it's annoying to have them misidentified.  Also, a feature phones could use, if they thought about it, would be to stop you accidentally sending a SMS to a non-mobile phone number (very few non-mobile services can receive them).  You can also group numbers under categories you create yourself, though I'm not really sure what you can do with groups, as a whole.  For example, I don't know if you can you send a message to all your “friends” inviting them to a party, I can't see a way of doing it.

There's a basic reminding features, that allows you to set appointments, with a separate alert time from the appointment (there's some preset 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes before the event, or you can set a time and date).

There's a task list that lets you set tasks that are not tied into the appointment diary.

It has the usual SMS texting features, including the annoying predictive text feature that cannot be turned off.  You can cycle between modes (first letter of sentence capitalised, all caps, predictive all lower-case, predictive first letter capitalised, predictive all-caps, numbers, all lower-case), but that's a tedious thing to do if you want to change modes in the middle of a message, such as to type someone's name properly, or to type some numbers.  Though it will let you enter numbers, for instance, just by holding a key down longer than normal.

There's an interesting SOS feature, that will call through a list of up to five numbers (on speakerphone), then send out a SMS if nobody answers, when you hold down the SOS button the back of the case.  Fortunately this feature can be switched off, but could be handy for accidents where someone can reach their phone but not manage to dial a number.  The button is recessed, slightly, and requires being held in for a few seconds before it triggers, but that could still be done by someone sitting on a phone in their pocket, or squashing it in a bag.  I think more thought needs to go into external buttons on phones, perhaps a switch that needs to be slid across by a significant amount, to prevent false triggering.

There are two other buttons on the outside, a green and red button, more or less like the connect and hang-up buttons on the inside.  For dealing with incoming call when the case is shut.  You need to hang onto the green button for a bit to unlock the buttons, then you can answer with the green button in hands-free speakerphone mode, or reject a call with the red button.

It has a slot for a MicroSD card, though you have to prise off the back and remove the battery to insert it.  The back is not going to survive a lot of that, and there's no way that you could hot-swap a card like you might want to.  Then what you can do with it is rather awful to use, there's a tedious amount of menu-wading to copy files from one spot to another, or to simply try and access things where they are, and a very limited list of file types that it can deal with (JPEG, MP3, WAV, and some AMR and AWB formats that are compressed audio formats used by various mobile phones).  And I wouldn't be surprised if it could only handle a small subset of those types (certain bit rates, etc).  It took some time to find out that the * and # keys control the volume, with a scary “loud volume damage” message popping up at full volume (not that it's loud enough to do that).

It supposedly has some USB connectivity, but I cannot do anything with it.  There's a mass storage mode, but my computer doesn't see the phone to be able to do anything with it.  There's a couple of modem kind of modes, but I have no way to test them, either.

It has some bluetooth features, but I can't test that at the moment, either.

It has some internet browsing ability using WAP (a crude and basic scheme that was around before smartphones existed).

It offers the ability to use inbuilt, or WAV or MP3 files for ringtones and alerts, for incoming calls, incoming SMSs.  And inbuilt sound effects for power on, power off, opening lid, and closing the lid, so you can't get it to make Star Trek communicator noises as you open the lid (a missed opportunity, there).  However, when trying to set it to use my own sound files, I struck a number of problems.

It didn't take long to find screw-ups with the phone, all I had to do was try loading personalised ringtones into some of the user profiles, and the phone goes into “No Reception Emergency Calls Only” status mode, and then it needs the phone switched off and on again to reset.  And then, on at least one of the profiles, it's forgotten the ringtones that I've loaded (that alert goes silent).  It does this with ordinary WAV or MP3 files that I've created, myself, and only a very small files (both filesize, and only lasting a for a few seconds).  Reselecting them goes back into “no signal” mode, again.  And I noticed that while trying to reselect them, that what was selected as a ringtone in one profile has altered the SMS alert in another, or vice versa.

Switch the phone off, on, try reloading, same thing.  Go through putting personalised ringtones into other profiles, some work fine, some cause the same problem (phone goes into “no signal” mode).

And while some will say, “If a feature fails, don't use it,” my response is that, ”I expect to be able to use every feature offered on a device, and it the device screws up, then the fault is with the manufacturer not the user.”

The supplied manual sucks.  It's not informative enough, and the English is really poor.

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