What’s to like and other things to hate on the Itel S16

The iTel S16 is a budget android smartphone from iTel. At 30,000 Naira, it’s what I call a ‘budget budget’ smartphone. There’s a lot going on with the S16 and if you’re looking to buy the phone here’s a brief rundown of its good and not so good features.

If you prefer to read the full review of the iTel S16 catch that here.

Starting with the good – what’s to like

The Price

The iTel S16 cost just 30,000 Naira. I’d say this is its major value proposition. In today’s market, you’ll be hard for choice finding another 2020 Android smartphone in the 30,000 Naira range with similar specifications.

The build quality

picture showing front build quality of the iTel S16
All round the iTel s16 looks and feels very well built. Not bad for a 30,000 Naira phone

30,000 Naira gets you what’s a simple and effortlessly elegant build. It’s an all-plastic phone with a 5.99-inch screen and a teardrop notch. There’s a visible camera bump out back, thick bezels and a chin too. But everything seems to come together with the phone’s subtle curves and soft-textured back.

Biometric validation

The iTel S16 comes equipped with face unlock technology, and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. For the time I’ve used the phone both work quite well, with the face unlock still doing its job even in dark conditions.

An impressive battery

screenshot showing battery performance of the iTel S16
The iTel S16 has some very impressive numbers on the battery department

I used the iTel S16 for almost a day and recorded about four hours of on-screen time and the rest spent on standby. That drained only 33% of the phone’s battery, leaving 67% after exactly 20 hours of usage. This is all thanks to its 4000mAh battery. With mild to moderate use, this phone is guaranteed to go more than a day.

That’s where the good for iTel S16 stops, and in place of the good lets now move to the less pleasant features of the phone.  

What’s not to like

The Specifications

I get it, 30,000 Naira is a very low price to ask for an Android phone, but come on, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, that’s just incredulous in 2020. And it’s well reflected on the phone’s usability and performance.

For every time you attempt to do anything out of the ordinary, there’s a visible lag and stutter. By anything out of the ordinary, I’m talking launching a mobile game or running multiple apps at the same time. The S16 wasn’t built to handle even the slightest bit of mobile heavy lifting.

There’s a a lot of bloatware

Screenshot showing performance intensive nature of bloatware on the iTel S16
Bloatware consistently use phone resources and battery power in the background.

I count over 10, and you’d think with the phones limited specifications iTel would have thought to keep everything light. There’s no arguing the fact that these unnecessary apps slow the phone down. I keep getting a notification that the third-party app store is consuming CPU power and battery and found no joy with trying to uninstall them.

The Camera

picture of the Triple AI camera of the iTel S16
The iTel S16 shoots good pictures but only in well-lit conditions

The iTel s16 camera is only good in one use case scenario – when light is abundant, as would be on a hot summer afternoon. Anything else and you get a blurry, very noisy picture with no depth or vibrance.

None of those cool features you love

Aside from face unlock the iTel S16 doesn’t come with any of those other now common brag-worthy features. There’s no USB C, no fast charging, no led notification light, or any of that stuff you see on the typical 2020 android smartphone.

It lacks 4G

With the iTel S16, you have to make do with 3G network speeds which is just as odd as the 1GB RAM specification. This is a major drawback, especially considering the fact that 3G network speeds in Nigeria went from good to abysmal following the introduction of 4G.

It runs on Android Go

If you’re new to this, Android Go is the stripped-down version of Android specifically designed for budget smartphones with budget specifications. Regular Android requires a lot of resources to run smoothly and I reckon it’d probably crash the iTel S16 with it’s 1GB of RAM and 1.3GHz processor.

Anyways, stripped-down means you get GO editions of your favourite android apps (Gmail, Google Assistant) whilst shaving off several functionalities. For instance, USB On The Go (OTG) is incompatible with Android GO Edition.

The verdict

That’s a lot of negatives for a smartphone, and by now you’re probably wondering if it still makes sense to buy the iTel S16.

Well, that’s dependent on what your needs are. If you’re in the market for a daily driver that’ll do all the smartphone stuff with ease and fluidity then steer clear of the S16.

This phone won’t do any heavy lifting, won’t run mobile games smoothly or multitask without lagging as you switch through apps.

If you need a small, handy phone that’s okay with handling the basics, then yeah, the iTel S16 is a good buy. I mean, it costs only 30,000 Naira, and there’s probably not another phone for 30,000 Naira with a better build and screen.