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Hands On with the Coolpad Conjr

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Jan 5, 2017, 12:28 AM   by Rich Brome & Eric M. Zeman

Coolpad debuted the Conjr, a budget Android smartphone, at CES this week. The handset includes a 5-inch screen, MediaTek processor, 13-megapixel camera, and Android 6 Marshmallow. Here are our first impressions.

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Coolpad is back with another low-cost Android phone called the Conjr. Odd spelling aside, the Conjr is a fairly straight-forward smartphone that targets cost-conscious buyers. Conjr expects to sell the phone online, most likely via Amazon, but may eventually offer it through carriers such as MetroPCS.

The phone has a 5-inch screen and is fairly compact. The size will work for most people who like "average" handsets, rather than phablets or over-sized phones. The Conjr features a metal rear panel, a 2.5D glass front, and an attractive metallic frame holding everything together. The rear surface is curved gently to help with hand fit.

Coolpad didn't do much to give the Conjr's face a personality. It's rather plain and simplistic, with broad corners and an all-black visage. Coolpad carved a slit in the glass for the earpiece speaker, which is covered by a fine mesh. The selfie flash is easily the most visible aspect of the front, as the white bulb stands out from the black glass. The user-facing camera is less visible. Three capacitive buttons (back, home, app-switcher) are positioned below the display. Three buttons worked well.

Coolpad Conjr  

I wasn't bowled over by the display. At 5 inches, the 720p HD resolution is the bare minimum number of pixels for a good experience. On-screen elements are sharp enough. The screen is bright, too, but I didn't care for the color representation overmuch.

Coolpad could have done a better job with the metallic frame. The glass face fits into it snugly, but the rear metal panel doesn't. There's a sharp ridge along the rear seam that catches your skin. At least it looks good. The screen lock button is placed in the right edge, about midway. It's small, but still no trouble to find or use. The volume toggle is on the left. It's larger size makes it easier to find. Travel and feedback is good. The headphone jack is on top and the microUSB port is on the bottom.

The metal panel covers most of the rear surface, but two plastic sections serve as end-caps at the top and the bottom, ostensibly to accommodate the antenna design. The rear panel and caps are rimmed in their own chrome accent to match the outer frame.

You'll find the camera module and fingerprint sensor on the back surface. The camera is close to the top; it's small and rimmed in chrome so it stands out visually. The fingerprint sensor is indented somewhat, which helps your finger find it effortlessly even when not looking.

The phone runs Android 6 Marshmallow (boo) with a pretty heavy-handed UI skin from Coolpad. The skin has its own notification shade treatment and a slide-up control panel that is very similar to that of iOS. The screen icons are unique to Coolpad, and, like many Chinese phones, the Conjr forgoes an app drawer. That means all the app icons are loaded up on the home screens.

The camera UI is fairly involved and it has advanced controls for dressing up selfies. This goes hand-in-hand with the flash and 8-megapixel sensor. The unit on hand delivered smooth performance. I didn't see any issues with the software.

Interface  

Coolpad says the Conjr will be available for preorder starting Jan. 5.

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